Published September 18, 2012 - 4:00pm
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The Matchup: Kentucky at #14 Florida
When: Saturday, September 22nd
Where: Gainesville, Florida
Game Time: 12:21 PM ET
TV: SEC Network
What you need to know about Kentucky: Kentucky has really struggled this season and is currently 1-2 after losing to WKU last week in overtime. Head coach Joker Phillips is really starting to feel the heat in Lexington from his slow start.
Kentucky is just not a very good football team, but the passing offense is tops in the SEC. Quarterback Max Smith has been one of the few bright spots for the Wildcats through three weeks. Smith has thrown for 966 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 322 yards per game through the air. The sophomore really gives this program hope for the future in the way he can sling the rock. Likewise, senior receiver La’Rod King is tied for the league lead in receptions with 23 for 214 yards and two touchdowns.
Kentucky’s run defense has just been putrid. They are giving up 188 yards on the ground per game, and they haven’t had any answer to the running game thus far. Guys are missing assignments in their gaps and haven’t tackled well. The defense lacks veteran leaders with experience to fall back on. The defensive line with Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph need to step up and stop the Gators’ running game first.
There is very little energy or excitement within the Cats’ program right now, but they will try to get something going against the Gators.
What you need to know about Florida: Florida is the most improved of any team in the SEC. To see where this team has come from against Bowling Green to last week against Tennessee is night and day. Will Muschamp is learning how to coach, and Jeff Driskel is the biggest under-the-radar player in the SEC.
Florida has outscored its opponents 27-0 in the fourth quarter this season, a far cry from a year ago that saw Florida -26 in fourth quarters. There is a physical and mental toughness to this team, and they’ve taken on the persona of their head coach.
Quarterback Jeff Driskel hasn’t turned the ball over one time yet this season. He’s very efficient with the football and effective in the passing game. He’s completed over 71 percent of his passes and thrown for three touchdowns. It’s not about the stats; it’s about his poise in big SEC road games. He has ice water in his veins.
Running back Mike Gillislee is leading the SEC in rushing with 346 yards and four touchdowns. He’s been hobbled by a groin injury the last two weeks, but even that hasn’t slowed him down.
Florida’s defense hasn’t been as good as advertised. But they did slow down the vaunted passing game against Tennessee and forced two Tyler Bray interceptions. Maybe Florida’s front four hasn’t had as many sacks as they would like, but they are getting to the quarterback better. Safety Josh Evans leads the team in tackles with 21.
Florida is +3 in turnover margin, after finishing last in the SEC at -8 in ‘11. This group is playing better collectively as a team, and when they smell blood in the water, they turn it on. They own the fourth quarter right now.
What you need to watch: Florida has scored over 40 points against Kentucky the last five years, averaging 49 points per game, and they have the nation’s longest series winning streak against Kentucky at 25 straight. On paper this is a massive blowout, but noon starts are always tough, as teams can be a little sluggish to get rolling. If Kentucky has energy at all, they will need to get off to a fast start.
I look for Florida to come out and really take control of the game early by running the football. The Gators ran for 336 yards last week, and they will try and duplicate that against the Wildcats. That’s Muschamp’s 2012 MO.
Look for Florida to rest some banged up guys if things go as expected. After Kentucky, Florida will be entering the bye week, a much-needed week to heal and rest before LSU.