The No. 13 Kentucky Wildcats travel to Texas in prime time on Saturday to take on Texas A&M in College Station. The 3-2 Aggies only losses of the season have come to the current No. 1 (Alabama) and No. 4 (Clemson) teams in the country, so this is going to be the biggest test yet of the Wildcats season.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
Win the rushing battle
Benny Snell and the Kentucky rushing attack have been unreal in 2018, but they now face a defense that has been eating opposition running backs alive.
The Aggies rank sixth nationally and are No. 1 in the SEC in rushing defense, giving up a measly 85 yards per game on the ground. They have also allowed just five rushing touchdowns in five weeks. While some of this can be put down to playing bad teams, they also gave up just 224 yards on 60 carries to the combination of Alabama and Clemson.
Those two squads rush for an average of over 217 yards per game, but they averaged just 112 against Texas A&M.
Jimbo Fisher has said Snell reminds him of Emmett Smith. He averaged 127.8 yards per game, but odds are he will have to go for 150 or more to help Kentucky win this game.
The defense has to dominate
Kentucky knows exactly what it is. This is not a team that is going to light up the scoreboard or one that is going to pass for 300+ yards and four scores a game. For Kentucky it all comes down to the running game and the ability of the defense to keep an offense in check.
The Wildcats allow just 12.6 points per game and they rank 12th in the country as they allow just 289 yards of offense to the opposition per outing. While the whole defense deserves credit, it is the play of future All-American linebacker Josh Allen that stands out.
Allen has made 33 tackles, six sacks, and 10.5 tackles for a loss, and he always seems to be in the right position to make a big play at a big time. Allen will have to be at his best on Saturday and it is likely that a defensive score – or at least turnovers creating positive field position – will be required for the offense to get in the end zone.
Win the time of possession
It feels like Kentucky will have to dominate tempo to win here. That is going to be easier said than done against a Texas A&M squad that leads the entire SEC in time of possession.
The main reason for this is because the Aggies defense is the best in the conference – and the third best in the country – at getting off of the field on third down. The rushing defense is so good that teams are often forced into third and long situations, situations that the Wildcats aren’t built to succeed in.
Quarterback Terry Wilson is going to have to make some key throws to keep the chains moving and keep the Kentucky defense off of the field to rest.