Here’s a couple quick thoughts on the Gators’ win over the Wildcats.
What it means: Florida moves to 3-0 in SEC play, and they are in the driver’s seat early this season. It necessarily doesn’t mean the Gators are the favorite to win the SEC East, but starting 3-0 in the conference and winning two big conference games on the road will put you in talks to be the favorites. Beating Kentucky doesn’t necessarily mean much, but Florida is a different 4-0 team than a year ago.
What I liked: The Gators’ defense forced three turnovers. Florida finished last in the SEC at -8 in turnover margin last season, and they are at +5 early on this year. The Gators also finished better on third-down conversions. They entered 13th in the SEC, but they were 12-17 on the day, ultimately helping that margin.
What I didn’t like: The Gators started sluggishly on the day, as did Jeff Driskel. Noon games are always tough to play. The crowd isn’t into it, and it’s usually a lowly opponent. However, as the game progressed, the Gators got better as a team and moved the football. The Gators will need to get started earlier in football games. Florida again had too many penalties. Against a team like Kentucky, you can overcome penalties. But against better teams – like LSU in two weeks – Florida can’t afford to commit penalties and shoot down drives.
UK quarterback Morgan Newton just played really badly today. He was filling in for the injured starter Max Smith, who sat out due to a shoulder injury. Newton was yanked in the fourth quarter for freshman Jalen Whitlow. Newton finished eight of 23 for 60 yards with three interceptions. Kentucky is in trouble when Max Smith doesn’t play. Hopefully he gets healthy moving forward. The Cats just could not move the football.
Who’s the man: Jeff Driskel was clearly the man on the field again for Florida. Although he started slowly in the first half, he settled in nicely later in the game. He finished 18-27 for 203 yards and one passing touchdown and one rushing. Driskel is rapidly rising to become one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC. But we have to remember he’s just a sophomore, and we have likely not seen his worst yet. With that being said, he’s played outstandingly and is a big reason the Gators are 4-0 on the year.
Key Play: With Florida starting a little sluggishly on offense, DB Jaylen Watkins had a pick-six in the first half for 26 yards for a touchdown to make it 17-0. Florida never looked back.
What’s next: Florida has a bye week next week in preparation for a huge showdown with #2 LSU at home. Kentucky returns to host South Carolina next week in Lexington.