JOE COX: Kentucky Has One Final Curse To Break
The last time Kentucky met Texas A&M, the Wildcats suffered a tough season-opening loss to the Aggies. Nine games later, the Wildcats suffered a bigger loss when the Aggies hired Kentucky’s up-and-coming young defensive minded head coach. Bear Bryant, it’s safe to say, was kind of a big deal. Sixty-five years on from that tough pair of losses to the Aggies, maybe it’s safe to say that Kentucky is on the verge of reclaiming its lost football destiny.
The Wildcats are 5-0, and ranked 13th in the latest AP poll, heights they have rarely reached since The Bear headed to College Station. In a season in which Kentucky has slayed its historical bugaboo with the Florida Gators and with mobile quarterbacks, maybe revenge against A&M will kill off “The Curse of the Bear.”
Kentucky has played more like a throwback team than a cursed team in 2018. The Wildcats lead the SEC in rushing, and are in the top 15 in the nation in defense. A&M is 3-2, with a pair of losses to CFP contenders Alabama and Clemson. If Kentucky can pull a mild upset on Saturday night, the Wildcats will hit their bye week at 6-0 and could claim a spot in the nation’s top 10. But first…
Learn About A&M
The Aggies had a brutal Week 2 loss to Clemson in which they narrowly missed a potential two-point conversion to tie the game in the final seconds. They are led by QB Kellen Mond, who passed for over 400 yards in that game. On the season, Mond is completing 60 percent of his passes for 1,221 yards and seven touchdowns. He has also rushed for 215 yards and four scores on the ground. The main rusher for A&M is sophomore Trayveon Williams, who has 582 rushing yards and six touchdowns, only a tick behind the production of Benny Snell with Kentucky. A&M’s passing game has four receivers with between 13 and 19 catches so far, although wideout Jhamon Ausbon, who has 15 grabs, will miss the UK game due to injury.
Defensively, A&M hold opponents to just 80.6 yards per game and 3.1 yards per carry. Linebacker Otaro Alaka leads the team in tackles with 29 stops, and his 4.5 tackles for loss is second on the team. Passrushers Landis Durham and Kingsley Keke each have three sacks. A&M has been gashed in the air, allowing 272 passing yards per game, and having only two interceptions.
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While nobody can probably STOP Benny Snell, A&M has the personnel to at least slow him down to a fairly mediocre game. QB Terry Wilson needs to have a good game on Saturday, and there’s reason to be optimistic on that front. Kentucky can’t hope for 300 yards rushing in College Station, so they could use 180-200 yards passing from Wilson, and some big plays via the pass on third down.
At the same time, Josh Allen will bring heat on Mond, who is a good passer, but who has been sacked 17 times this season. A&M has a terrible turnover margin and Kentucky might be able to create some short fields with their defense.
Before the season, this game looked like a loss. It’s still going to take a nice game from Wilson. After Week 1, THAT looked impossible. But Terry Touchdown is growing into his job, and it looks increasingly like he comes up big for the Wildcats.
UK 28, Texas A&M 24
The SEC’s other matchups could go like this:
Alabama 49, Arkansas 10
South Carolina 34, Missouri 21
LSU 31, Florida 21
Ole Miss 52, UL-Monroe 27
Georgia 49, Vanderbilt 3
Mississippi State 22, Auburn 21
Joe Cox is contributing editor for KySportsStyle.com Magazine. He grew up in Letcher County and Bell County, and has written seven books, with the eighth to come in 2019. His most recent, "The Immaculate Inning," was released in February 2018 and can be ordered on Amazon or at many local bookstores. Joe is an attorney and lives in Logan County with his wife and children. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.