Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher and Kentucky counterpart Mark Stoops have history. One with closer ties than the football series between the schools.
The Aggies and Wildcats have met just twice on the gridiron — the last time was 65 years ago.
The series resumes Saturday night in College Station, Texas, the football programs' first meeting since 1953. The No. 13 Wildcats (5-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) will try to remain unbeaten when they renew acquaintances; the Aggies (3-2, 1-1) are looking for their second consecutive victory after holding off Arkansas 24-17 .
Kentucky has been dominant in many phases of the game, especially on defense; the Wildcats have allowed just 33 points in SEC play and rank third with 286.8 yards per contest. Fisher certainly isn't surprised the Wildcats defense is thriving under Stoops, his former defensive coordinator at Florida State from 2010-12.
Fisher believes Stoops' philosophy has expanded since leaving Tallahassee. The trick for the Aggies will be solving Kentucky's different looks installed by coordinator Matt House.
"From the 3-4 look, they'll bring the edge guys, they'll bring the inside guys," Fisher said, noting Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen (six sacks) in particular.
"Even if they only bring four guys on a play, you have to account for seven and eight constantly. ... They do a fantastic job in how they isolate guys when they rush them and the things they do."
Kentucky is coming off a 24-10 victory over South Carolina featuring three interceptions and four sacks. The Wildcats also held Carolina to 128 yards rushing, stinginess they'll need for perhaps their toughest defensive challenge to date.
Texas A&M is averaging 511.3 yards per game on offense and boasts running back Trayveon Williams, whose 582 yards rushing are just 57 behind SEC leader and Kentucky counterpart Benny Snell Jr. Quarterback Kellen Mond — who's fourth in SEC passing — has completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,221 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Aggies' progress under first-year coach Fisher reminds Stoops of his good times at FSU. That should make things interesting when the schools and coaches get reacquainted.
"He's not one of those guys that just calls plays," Stoops said of Fisher. "He has a rhyme and a reason for everything he does, and you'd better hold on because he's going to attack you and set you up to take his shots. He does a very good job at that. It's going to be a real challenge."
Some other things to watch as the No. 13 Wildcats visits the Aggies:
Opponents have found getting the ball tough against Texas A&M, which averages 35:52 in time of possession. That leads the SEC and is the best among Power 5 conference schools.
Kentucky's defense will play the first half without junior linebacker Kash Daniel as discipline for his targeting penalty and ejection last week against South Carolina. Freshman Chris Oats, had four tackles after Daniel's departure, will start in his place.
The game pits the SEC's top two teams in punting. Texas A&M is averaging 53.6 yards per kick behind junior Braden Mann with Kentucky next at 45.67 thanks to sophomore Max Duffy 45.67.
BRING THE NOISE
Kentucky will enter its second hostile environment in a month at A&M's Kyle Field, where nearly 103,000 present a formidable challenge known as the "12th Man." But having beaten Florida in the Swamp to end a 31-game losing streak to the Gators, the Wildcats look forward to another charged atmosphere. "We know it's loud and it's going to be rocking," linebacker Jamar "Boogie" Watson said. "A lot of us haven't played there, but we're ready for the moment."
The schools claim a piece of college football history with the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant having guided both before becoming one of the sport's most successful coaches at Alabama. Bryant coached the Wildcats from 1946-53 before spending the next four seasons with the Aggies, going a combined 85-37-7.
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