Florida vs Kentucky
9.8.18 / 7:30 PM
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
It has been 31 years since the Gators have been defeated by the Kentucky Wildcats. This is a familiar storyline whenever these teams face each other with only the number of years in the streak and the names on the rosters, changing. On Saturday night, the Gators will look to continue the longest winning streak (versus a single opponent) in the nation, extending it to 32.
Despite the narrative, Florida head coach Dan Mullen isn’t concerned about the streak. When asked if it plays into the preparation, he said, “I don’t know what that has to do with the game this week. You know, our guys didn’t have a whole lot to do with that and neither did the guys on their team. So, it is what it is.”
Instead, Mullen is driven to win because winning is the goal each week and he has impressed that upon the team during his short tenure as the Gators head coach. The focus of practice this week has been honing in on what the Gators did right and correcting what they did wrong -limited as that list may be – in the season opener last week.
At a glance:
2018 record: 1-0
Head Coach: Mark Stoops
While Florida made easy work out of their FCS opponent last week, the level of competition will drastically improve this weekend. The Gators defense will be tasked with containing one of the top running backs in the nation, in Benny Snell, Jr. Add to that an up and coming A.J. Rose and a dual threat quarterback, Terry Wilson.
While Snell and Rose were superb in Kentucky’s 35-20 victory over Central Michigan last weekend, Wilson struggled to find his rythym for much of his debut. The 6’3″ 205-pound QB will be baptised in the fire this weekend as he makes his first career start on the road in one of college football’s most hostile environments.
Three out of the last four meetings between these schools have been decided by a touchdown or less but the last time Kentucky came to the Swamp, they suffered a 45-7 beatdown. With Mullen at the helm of this program, Kentucky’s window to break the streak has nearly closed.
Florida managed to hold Snell to a mere 59 yards last season as Kentucky very nearly ended the streak but eventually fell 28-27. They will need to do more of the same while at the same time, not allowing Wilson or Rose to run wild in order to stop Kentucky’s upset bid this year.
In last week’s game, Snell and Rose each rushed for over 100 yards. Snell totaled 125 yards on 20 attempts with a pair of touchdowns. Meanwhile, A.J. Rose also found the endzone twice and ate up 104 yards on just 8 carries.
Wilson, for his part, went 11/18 for 78 yards with a couple of picks while also rushing 9 times for 38 yards. At times, he seemed like a deer in the headlights, scrambling around in the face of pressure and making poor decisions with the football. With Florida’s defensive front providing a heavy rush against a pretty weak Kentucky offensive line, don’t expect Wilson to feel any more comfortable in the Swamp.
Much has been made by various members of the sports media about UF giving up 222 rushing yards to Charleston Southern and how that will translate against Kenucky’s ground attack. But let’s put this into context. 70 yards of the 222 allowed came on one play at the very end of the first half. Nearly all of the remaining yards were given up during mop up duty in the second half against Florida’s third and fourth string players.
On the reverse side of that point, Kentucky rushed for 295 yards and 4 touchdowns against the Chippewahs. They will be facing a much better defense this week.
Turnovers will also be a deciding factor in Saturday’s game. Currently, their is a chasm between these teams in terms of +/- turnover margin. Kentucky turned the ball over 4 times last week while Florida came away with 0 turnovers and 3 take aways.
The bottom line is this. Florida will have a massive home field advantage in front of a frenzied crowd at the Swamp. The Gators aggressive defense will be more than Wilson and the Wildcats will be able to overcome. The offense will be efficient and productive as they attempt to build on last week’s performance.
Currently, #25 Florida is a 15 point favorite over Kentucky. The game will be live from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with coverage beginning at 7:00 PM on the SEC Network. Live game threads will be presented by ChompTalk.com on Facebook and on Twitter.