By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky came into the season unranked and basically unloved nationally — and even had skeptics among the Big Blue Nation.
Now Kentucky is 5-0 for the first time since 1997, 3-0 in Southeastern Conference play for the first time since 1977 and ranked 13th in the Associated Press poll.
Coach Mark Stoops’ team has played with a chip on its shoulder so far because of its lack of respect. Stoops said the team doesn’t “need that” going into this week’s game at unranked Texas A&M.
“We didn’t need it last week. We knew South Carolina was going to be a hungry football team. They’re a good, well-coached team that we had beaten for several years. You knew they were going to come in with an attitude and an edge, and we didn’t need any extra motivation last week,” Stoops said Monday.
“We needed to play a little bit cleaner football and we could have put that game away a lot earlier than we did. It’s going to be the same way this week. We have great respect for A&M and Jimbo (Fisher) and playing in that environment. It’s gonna be a real challenge for our players, but we don’t need any extra motivation.”
Maybe not, but Kentucky has it again. The Cats were an underdog at Florida and won. They were an underdog at home against Mississippi State and won. They were an underdog last week against South Carolina, a team UK had defeated four straight times, and won. Kentucky won all three games by double digits.
But guess what? Unranked Texas A&M, which has lost only to Clemson and Alabama, opened as a 6 1/2 point favorite over UK. If UK wins, Stoops should send a game ball to the Las Vegas oddsmakers.
“We want to try to get a win. We’ve got to be able to handle that situation, handle that environment, handle the fact that it’s a big game on national TV and then we’ve got to get down to executing and playing good football,” Stoops said.