1. Benny Snell vs. Texas A&M’s Rush Defense
It’s a clash of titans in the trenches. This is what happens when an indomitable force meets an immoveable object. (I’ve always wanted to use that cliche in a post.)
Benny Snell is the SEC’s best back, leading the way for the SEC’s best rushing offense (254.2 ypg). The Aggies have a MASSIVE front seven. No one in the SEC is better at stopping the run (allowing 85 ypg) than Tyrel Dodson and Co. Kentucky’s offensive line has been impressive all year, but moving these guys might be their toughest task to date. After an undisciplined outing against South Carolina, hearing the snap count at Kyle Field will only make their jobs more difficult Saturday night.
2. Josh Allen vs. Texas A&M’s Pass Protection
Texas A&M’s offensive line is huge, but not great at protecting Kellen Mond. He’s been sacked 17 times, more than any other quarterback in the SEC.
UK outside linebacker coach Brad White brushed it off as a statistical anomaly earlier this week. Teams have lived dangerously, bringing the heat with blitzes. Kentucky can create a natural pass rush without having to blitz. The trick is forcing the Aggies’ offense into obvious passing situations.
3. Kentucky vs. Third Down
Speaking of obvious passing situations, Kentucky is actually very bad at playing defense on third down. After Miss. State and South Carolina milked long second half drives, Kentucky is ranked at the bottom of the SEC on third down defense at just 43.1 percent.
At the top of that statistical category sits A&M. Their opponents convert on third down just 24.5 percent of the time. South Carolina held the title “SEC’s Best Third Down Defense” entering last Saturday and UK converted on just 3-of-12 attempts. Playing against a team that loves to control the ball with long slow drives, Kentucky’s defense has to be able to get off the field with third down stops or fatigue will play a factor in a close game late in the fourth quarter at Kyle Field.
4. Jimbo Fisher vs. Mark Stoops & Eddie Gran
They’ve never faced each other in a sanctioned college football game, but at SEC Media Days Mark Stoops recalled the many battles he had with his former boss at practice during their days at Florida State.
“I am a defensive coach. He’s an offensive coach,” Stoops said. “You talk about the fun we’ve had competing against each other, it’s kind of what it’s all about. He’s a very hard-nosed, tough football coach. And I am as well, but those were fond memories. Not always day-to-day, they weren’t always a lot of fun.”
Fisher considers Stoops and Gran friends. That will all be put aside when the whistle blows.
“You hate coaching against friends,” Fisher told Houston’s KFNC radio earlier this week. “I really do. From that standpoint, it’s not the most fun thing in the world. But hey, you’re in the business long enough, you have a lot of friends. That’s going to happen.”