LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky players know what they'll get Saturday from No. 20 Mississippi State — defensive pressure.
The Bulldogs (4-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) rank in the top 15 in several defensive categories, including first in turnover margin (plus 13). They are physical up front, and senior cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay (seven combined interceptions) lead a veteran secondary.
Mississippi State just doesn't know which Kentucky quarterback it'll be defending.
Freshmen QB Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles will rotate under center for the Wildcats (1-4, 0-2) with starter Maxwell Smith sidelined due to an ankle injury. Towles will make his debut while Whitlow makes his first start, and Kentucky coaches aren't sure how they'll respond to the unusual situation.
"It's going to be exciting," Bulldogs senior strong safety Corey Broomfield said. "The Kentucky coaches will do a good job of protecting them and making the game simple for them, so we've got to make sure we're always in the right place, making the right reads.
"Hopefully, they give us a lot of chances to make plays on the ball."
Both Kentucky quarterbacks were shielded from the media this week as they studied game film and the playbook just to master the basics of the Wildcats offense. The only certainty is that they will run no-huddle sets to avoid thinking too much while trying to end a three-game losing streak.
"It's really easier for them to operate in the no-huddle because a lot of times the hardest thing for a young guy is getting the play called right in the huddle," Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. "Anything you can eliminate, make it easier for them, that's what you try to do."
Whitlow has a bit more experience after taking 65 snaps in relief of Smith, who was injured two plays into last week's loss to South Carolina. He led Kentucky to a 17-7 halftime lead before the Gamecocks adjusted to outgain the Wildcats 240-70 and intercept him twice during a 31-point second half.
Towles is considered more of a pocket passer but like Whitlow, he can and will run if necessary. Once headed for a redshirt season after losing a preseason competition to Whitlow, he's now set to alternate plays with him as the Wildcats search for ways to generate offense.
Bloomfield said the Bulldogs aren't fooled by the QB's youth, pointing out both received scholarships for a reason.