The Kentucky Wildcats open SEC play Saturday night as the No. 9 Florida Gators make a visit to Kroger Field. Kickoff is set for 7:00 pm. The game can be seen locally on ESPN. SEC Nation will also be in Lexington for the showdown. Currently, the Gators are an 8.5-point betting favorite.
For the Gators (2-0), it’s an opportunity to avenge a 27-18 loss to the Cats last season at the Swamp in Gainesville. For the Wildcats (2-0), it’s an opportunity to continue to climb in the rankings and become a probable Top 25 team next week.
Last week, Florida throttled UT-Martin 45-0 at home, while UK defeated Eastern Michigan 38-17 at Kroger Field.
This week's big news story before the matchup was the season-ending knee injury to UK junior quarterback Terry Wilson. On a scramble in the third quarter against Eastern Michigan, Wilson was tackled from behind and caught his foot in the stadium turf, tearing his patella tendon.
The Cats will turn to Troy transfer Sawyer Smith to direct the UK offense. The 6-3, 219-pound junior was 5-2 last season as the Trojans starter after the starting quarterback went down to injury and led the team to a victory in the Dollar General Bowl where he passed for 320 yards and was named the game MVP.
Let’s look first at the tale of the tape between the two teams:
Points Per Game- UF 34.5, UK 38.0
Points Allowed Per Game- UF 10.0, UK 20.5
Total Yards- UF 423.5, UK 441.5
Yards Passing- UF 283.0, UK 234.0
Yards Rushing- UF 140.5, UK 207.5
Yards Allowed- UF 247.5, UK 366.5
Pass Yards Allowed- UF 177.0, UK 251.5
Rush Yards Allowed- UF 70.5, UK 115.0
Record Last 5 Games- UF 5-0, UK 5-0
Next, let’s look at the Gators’ leaders:
Passing- Feleipe Franks- 520 Yards, 4 Touchdowns, 2 Interceptions.
Rushing- Lamical Perine- 20 Carries, 93 Yards, TD.
Receptions- Perine- 9 Catches, 40 Yards, TD; Josh Hammond- 8 Catches, 115 Yards.
Tackles- Kyree Campbell- 10 Total.
Interceptions- Kaiir Elam- 1 Int.
Tackles For Loss/Sacks- Jabari Zuniga- 4.5 TFL and 3 Sacks.
Last, let’s take a peek at Five Things You Need To Know about the Gators:
--The Gators have won six consecutive games for the first time since 2015.
--Their loss to UK ended a 31-game winning streak over the Cats that started in 1986, a 10-3 victory in Lexington.
--The Gators haven’t lost consecutive games to UK since 1976-1977.
--The Gators' defense leads the country in Sacks (15) and Tackles For Loss (26.)
--In four of its last six games, the Florida offense has produced 500-plus Yards of Total Offense.
Now let’s take a good look at Kentucky's team leaders:
Passing- Terry Wilson- 360 Yards, 2 TD, 0 Int.
Rushing- Kavoisey Smoke- 18 Carries, 170 Yards, 2 TD and AJ Rose- 33 Carries, 146 Yards, 2 TD.
Receptions- Lynn Bowden Jr.- 13 Catches, 131 Yards, TD.
Tackles- DeAndre Square- 16 Total.
Interceptions- Kash Daniel and Jordan Griffin- 1 each.
Tackles For Loss/Sacks- Josh Paschal- 3. Paschal and Jordan Wright- 1 each.
And now here are Five Things You Need To Know About Kentucky:
--The Cats are 12-3 in their last 15 games, second-best in the SEC to Alabama’s 14-1 mark.
--The Cats return 41 letter-winners and 10 starters from last year’s team.
--UK will also benefit from the immediate eligibility of linebacker Xavier Peters, a Florida State transfer and Under Armour All-American in high school.
--To offset the Gators' defensive pressure, the Cats return four starters along the offensive line including tackle Landon Young, the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week.
--With a victory, the Cats would improve to 4-1 in their last five games with ranked opponents.
Finally, here are the Three Keys To A Wildcat Victory:
Keep Smith Clean: If the UK offensive line can continue its dominance in the run game and allow Smith time to make plays in the passing game, the better the chances for a victory.
Clean Up Penalties and Turnovers: In the first two games, the Cats have been hamstrung by costly penalties at bad times and a couple of bad turnovers at bad times too. There will be little room for error Saturday night against the Gators.
Contain Florida’s Speed: The Cats defensive backs spent much of the time in zone contain against the Eastern Michigan receivers in preparation for this game. If the Cats allow the Gators to bust contain, it could be a long night for BBN.
Prediction: I expect a dogfight Saturday night. Florida is much better than last season when the Cats faced them in Gainesville, but the Cats aren’t the same team that was there either. If Smith makes a couple of plays and the offense can move the ball on the ground and shorten the game, I like the Cats to go to 3-0.
Kentucky 24, Florida 20.