Five games into Jimbo Fisher's tenure as Texas A&M head coach and it’s the defense that's making more of an early impact compared to the offense. The Aggies are 3-2 entering October, but those two losses came against the top two teams in the country.
Texas A&M lost 45-22 to No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa two weeks ago and fell 28-25 to No. 2 Clemson at home back on Sept. 8. Outside of that, the Aggies have defeated FCS opponent Northwestern State, Sun Belt member ULM, and SEC West rival Arkansas by a combined score of 131-34.
While these victories may not seem that impressive, one thing worth noting is that while Fisher has a reputation for being an offensive-minded coach; it's the defense under coordinator Mike Elko that has opened some eyes in the early going. Texas A&M's defensive rankings may not jump off of the page on first glance, but there's one area in which the Aggies have done well in — regardless of the competition.
Texas A&M currently ranks sixth nationally and first in the SEC in rushing defense. The Aggies are giving up 85 yards per game on the ground and have surrendered a total of five rushing touchdowns in five games. Yes, this includes games against the aforementioned Demons from the FCS ranks and a pair of teams in the Warhawks and Razorbacks that have combined to beat one FBS team (ULM over Southern Miss) thus far. But don't forget about those two losses.
Against Clemson and Alabama, Texas A&M gave up a total of 224 yards on 60 carries (3.7 yards per carry) and four rushing touchdowns. That's an average of 112 yards per game against teams that are currently No. 20 (Clemson) and 29 (Alabama, tied for) in the country in rushing offense with both averaging more than 217 yards per game. Also worth noting: the Aggies have given up just one run that's gone for 30 or more yards this season.
As good as Texas A&M has been against the run, a new challenge awaits on Saturday when No. 13 Kentucky comes to College Station. The Wildcats are 5-0 for the first time since 2007 and 3-0 in the SEC for the first time since 1977 thanks in large part to their running game.
Kentucky leads the SEC and is 11th nationally with 259.2 rushing yards per game. The Wildcats are led by running back Benny Snell Jr.'s 664 yards, which trails only Memphis' Darrell Henderson and Oregon State's Jermar Jefferson for the FBS lead. Snell has scored eight touchdowns on the ground and is averaging 5.8 yards per carry.
In SEC games alone, Snell has already gashed Florida, Mississippi State and South Carolina to the tune of 464 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Not to be left out, quarterback Terry Wilson and running back Asim Rose also have chipped in with 531 rushing yards and seven touchdowns combined this season.
There's no secret to Kentucky's game plan — run, run and run some more with Snell getting plenty of carries. Now Texas A&M's defense has a chance to be the first team to slow down Snell and the Wildcats on the ground.
Fisher was hired by Texas A&M for his offensive pedigree, yet it may be his defense that proves to be the difference in him getting the first signature victory as the Aggies' head coach.