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  • Kentucky looks like the second-best team in the SEC East—and may be the league's biggest surprise—after taking down a trendy contender.
By Ross Dellenger
September 22, 2018

Here’s a crazy piece of information for you: Kentucky appears to be the second best team in the SEC East. Not Florida. Not Tennessee. Not Missouri or South Carolina. Kentucky.

The Wildcats looked the part on Saturday in a 28–7 upset of No. 14 Mississippi State, pounding the Bulldogs at their own game with a physical brand of power running led by record-setting tailback Benny Snell Jr. Snell ran for 165 yards and scored four touchdowns to put a damper on next weekend’s Mullen Bowl, when Florida coach Dan Mullen returns to take on the Mississippi State program he led for nine seasons. It’ll be the 3–1 Bulldogs against the 3–1 Gators, while the 4–0 Wildcats host 2–1 South Carolina, which handled Vanderbilt without much trouble, in a battle for the jump on second place in the SEC East behind Georgia.

Mark Stoops might have his best squad of any of his six years in Lexington, and the Wildcats seem destined for a third consecutive bowl trip. They’re doing it with an aggressive front seven (three sacks of Bulldogs QB Nick Fitzgerald) and a relentless ground attack (229 rushing yards against Mississippi State two weeks after racking up 303 at Florida). The Wildcats are doing things in 2018 they haven’t done since Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were president. They beat the Gators for the first time in 31 years and are now 2–0 in the SEC for the first time in 41 years after knocking off the 10-point favorite Bulldogs. “We’re tying to knock a door down every seven days,” Stoops told reporters afterward.

Mississippi State was a trendy pick to challenge Alabama this season in the SEC West, with a squad that Mullen left stacked with talent for new head coach Joe Moorhead. Fitzgerald completed just half of his 32 attempts, with a pick and zero TDs. The most unsettling stat for the Bulldogs: their 56 yards rushing. The Wildcats controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides, especially during a 14-point fourth quarter, and the result was a waxing few saw coming. Snell wasn’t shy in postgame comments about how dominant Kentucky was. “It means we run it down their throat over and over and over and over again,” he said.

Just a month into the season, the SEC’s two divisions are beginning to sort themselves out. LSU and Alabama are the only unbeaten teams left in the West, and Georgia seems to be head and shoulders above the East’s other six teams, but Kentucky—Kentucky!—is climbing the ladder fast.

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