Gators, Bulldogs out to stay alive in SEC race

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Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead talks to an official during the second half of the game against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 15 in Starkville, Miss. Mississippi State won 56-10. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle)

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Florida (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) and Mississippi State (3-1, 0-1) have already stumbled once during league play — both against Kentucky — and now face a game that could eliminate one program from being a surprise contender for an SEC title.

Florida lost to Kentucky on Sept. 8, but has bounced back with two straight wins over Colorado State and Tennessee. Quarterback Feleipe Franks threw for 172 yards and three touchdowns in the road win against the Volunteers.

Mississippi State’s first-year coach Joe Moorhead said Saturday’s game will certainly be emotional for many of his players and that it’s their job to channel that emotion into positive energy and bounce back from last week’s 28-7 loss to Kentucky.

“I don’t think you can discount the emotional part of it, but you have to manage that,” Moorhead said. “People use different things for motivation, and that’s not for me to tell them what to use for their individual motivation.

“I know it’s not going to have a bearing or factor in the outcome of the game once the ball gets kicked off.”

Here are some other things to watch when the Bulldogs host the Gators on Saturday:

HAVE TO RUN

Mississippi State’s strength over the past few seasons has been a top-notch running game, but Kentucky shut it down last weekend. The Bulldogs managed just 56 yards on 28 carries. Even after the bad game against Kentucky, Mississippi State is averaging 247.8 yards rushing per game, which ranks third in the SEC and 18th nationally.

TFL TANDEM

Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons have combined for 14½ tackles for a loss in four games this season. In the 17 career games they’ve played together, they have a combined 42 tackles for a loss.

THE SERIES

Florida has a 33-19-2 record against Mississippi State in the all-time series, but the two programs have split the last six meetings dating back to 2000. Mississippi State has a 7-4 record against the Gators in Starkville.

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