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Cats might not need extra motivation but they have it again by being underdog to Texas A&M

Kentucky is tied for first in the SEC East but for the fourth straight SEC game will be an underdog at Texas A&M. (Wade Upchurch Photo)

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.

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  1. Last week, Vegas had USC by 2 1/2 points at game time, and UK won by 14 points, a swing of 16 points. I had UK by 10.

    This morning, Vegas’ opening line of 6 has closed to 5 1/2 points in TAMU”s favor. I have it UK by 9, a difference of 14 1/2 points.

    I don’t know who will win this game, but IMO UK is the better team, and I have them favored. If they don’t win, I will regard the outcome an upset, and move along.

    I don’t know why Vegas is so resistant to UK’s performance levels, but they clearly are.

    I think we can all agree that there are many intangible factors that are real. I do not discount their significance or contribution, but I believe those factors are incorporated in the numbers. For example, do you believe Texas A&M was more fired up to play at Alabama or against Clemson than they were to play against Northwestern State, or Arkansas? I suppose that is likely. How do you measure those factors directly? I don’t know of a way, but nevertheless, those factors are incorporated in the overall results, and those factors are part of their team’s statistical profile.

    Clearly, if Texas A&M comes out loaded for bear and UK comes out with an inflated ego, the game could get ugly in a way we don’t want to see. However, if UK comes out with a goal of 6-0 and winning at a place where no UK team has ever played before, and nearly all of college football presumed 5 weeks ago UK could never leave with a W, and Texas A&M comes out with an attitude based on the same factors, then it could get ugly in a way that we all will enjoy.

    There is no way to predict how those things will play out. That is why upsets occur. That is why teams usually win 1 or 2 that they probably should lose and vice versa. That is why if UK leaves College Station with a loss Saturday, it will be an upset in my opinion, and will not change my view moving forward in a radical way.

  2. UK must stay focused, but play loose. Run the football down A&M’s throat if UK can, but if not, Gran has to trust his QB and open his offense up. Play too win with reckless abandon. They have the athletes to do just that. I believe the key to a win though is on Terry Wilson’s play, and I believe he will deliver. If the UK offense goes timid, like in the second half of the game against South Carolina, they have no chance. They must beat A&M with both the run and the pass. The UK defense will do their part for sure.

  3. Well stated Professor. I can understand A&M being favored if I factor in the conceptual bias shown toward Kentucky football. They do have some star power in their starting lineups. I’m not so sure about their depth, and that only means I’m not knowledgeable other than watching Arkansas come back on them. Playing Alabama and Clemson took a physical toll on them. They could be a 3 loss team. Our team doesn’t shrink on away games. We didn’t in the Swamp. I recall we didn’t when we played between the hedges with far less talent. A&M has a new coach. A good one but still he brought new schemes on both sides of the ball. It takes time and a few recruiting cycles to load up with players for those schemes before they will hit their stride. I’m not sure they are as good as the Florida or South Carolina teams we played. I think we’ve got this one.

    1. Go watch highlights of their Clemson game and this will give you a real good idea of how dangerous this A&M team is, especially at home. They can run it and throw it. UK better open up their offense is all I can say. Gran has to take more chances down the field. GO Cats!!!

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