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Jamie Vaught: UK home game against Mississippi State — and head coach Mike Leach — should be fun

Unlike last season, when Kentucky featured three glamour football schools – Florida, Tennessee and Louisville – at Kroger Field, the 2020 Wildcats will see their seven-game home schedule somewhat lacking in the allure department.

Since Kentucky will face the Gators, the Volunteers and the Cardinals on the road this time, UK’s most attractive opponents at home are South Carolina (Sept. 26), Mississippi State (Nov. 14) and Georgia (Nov. 21).

Offensive genius Mike Leach is now the head coach at Mississippi State.

Of these three home games, the most intriguing foe is Mississippi State, which has a new head coach by the name of Mike Leach, a 59-year-old offensive genius who can win.

He comes to Starkville after successful stints at Washington State and Texas Tech, producing an overall mark of 139-90 with 16 bowl trips. Leach’s passing attack also led the FBS 10 times during his 18-year tenure at WSU and Texas Tech.

And the two-time national coach of the year is returning to the Southeastern Conference for the first time since his UK days over 20 years ago. The Bulldogs will be entertaining to watch as Leach is expected to add explosive scoring attack to Mississippi State’s offense.

As you may remember, Leach – who has a law degree from Pepperdine University – served as offensive coordinator at UK under coach Hal Mumme for two years during the late 1990s. While at Kentucky, his offensive teams established a whole bunch of NCAA, SEC and school records.

While the well-respected Street & Smith’s College Football Yearbook, which recently hit the newsstands, has placed Mississippi State at preseason No. 5 in the very tough SEC West Division with a projected trip to the Texas Bowl, Leach will make Bulldogs very competitive again in the next few years. Just like when Dan Mullen, now the head coach at Florida, was in Starkville.

Leach, along with new Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin, are also the subjects of a two-page article in Street & Smith’s annual publication, which is loaded with stories, predictions and colorful graphics.

Needless to say, Leach and the Bulldogs will be fun to watch this fall.

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Two Wildcats, meanwhile, have been chosen as a preseason All-Americans by Street & Smith’s. They are senior offensive lineman Drake Jackson (second team) and senior punter Max Duffy (first team).

The yearbook, which has five SEC teams in its preseason Top 10, has picked coach Mark Stoops’ Kentucky club to finish fourth in the SEC East, ahead of South Carolina, Missouri and Vanderbilt. Tennessee is ranked third, behind No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Georgia.

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Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime sports columnist in Kentucky, is the author of five books about UK basketball, including “Chasing the Cats: A Kentucky Basketball Journey.” He is the editor and founder of KySportsStyle.com Magazine, and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College.

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