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Florida opens SEC play against Kentucky on Saturday. Coming off a blowout of the inferior UT-Martin Skyhawks, the Gators will travel to Lexington for their first true road contest of the season.

The following are our staff predictions for the game:

Michael Pfeffer:

These teams are each facing a watered down version of the other. Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson was lost for the season in their last game, while the Gators lost key contributors on both sides of the ball in Kadarius Toney and CJ Henderson. However, I believe the loss of Wilson to be much more detrimental. The Gators struggled to shut down the combination of Wilson and Snell, last season. The Wildcats will now be forced to face a terrific Gators defense without either of them. Meanwhile, the Gators remain loaded with playmakers. In my opinion, the game will come down to the play of Florida’s offensive line. Although they are not a finished product, they have done quite well at protecting Feleipe Franks up to now, and I believe the experience gained from the week zero matchup with Miami helps them in this game. I am picking the Gators, 31-24.

Ainslie Lee:

I have a feeling this will be a game for the ages. Unlike situations when one team has everything to gain while the other has everything to lose, after last year’s streak-snapping game, both teams have everything to win and everything to lose. A win for Florida would obviously come with the smell of vengeance whereas a Kentucky win would start a streak of their own. However, an ‘L’ in the column for either of these teams could be season shattering. A week three loss typically isn’t anything to freak out about, but I think this game will be the best indication of what these teams will accomplish this year. Not to mention its a divisional contest. The Wildcats will be without Terry Wilson, a quarterback that torched the Florida defense last year. While it’s a very unfortunate situation Kentucky, but more so for Wilson, the Gators are likely wiping their brow a little. Nonetheless, the Gators are going to be facing their most talented team yet. The offensive line will be immensely challenged and while they haven’t been spectacular, they’ve been good enough. But “good enough” might not be enough this weekend. Likewise, the defensive line will have to maintain the pressure we’ve seen all season long as they line up across some really big and talented UK offensive linemen. This is a game that will be won in the trenches, for sure. Florida’s defense wins the game, 35-21.

Brandon Buckman:

As the Gators’ head to Lexington to start SEC play, they will be doing so with one thing on their mind – revenge. I’m sure we all remember what happened at The Swamp a year ago, but I believe things will be different this time around. With Kentucky Quarterback Terry Wilson going down with an injury, my biggest question for the Wildcats’ is can second string quarterback Sawyer Smith have the same energy and impact on the game as Wilson had a year ago, and I do not think so. Gators are looking for revenge and do so in Lexington, final score 31-17. Time to start the streak again!

Mark Stine:

Saturday’s clash between Florida and Kentucky will come down to quarterback play, the battle in the trenches and the secondaries.

The Wildcats are at an immediate disadvantage without their signal caller, Terry Wilson.

Wilson suffered a torn patellar tendon late in Saturday’s win over Eastern Michigan. Troy transfer Sawyer Smith will get the start this Saturday. He went 5 for 9 passing for 76 yards and two scores after Wilson’s injury.

Applying pressure to Smith will be a major factor for Florida in this game, but it must also focus on protecting Feleipe Franks against a fearsome defensive front.

The UK interior is comprised of seniors Calvin Taylor and T.J. Carter and junior nose guard Quinton Bohanna. Edge threats Jamar Watson, Jordan Wright and redshirt-freshman Xavier Peters, a transfer from Florida State who was granted eligibility by the NCAA on Tuesday, will attempt to fill the 17-sack void left by Jacksonville Jaguars first-round pick Josh Allen.

How this defensive line plays against Florida’s inexperienced, yet so-far solid offensive line will prove critical.

Lastly, UF enters with an experienced starting secondary, but it fears the likely absence of Preseason First-Team All-SEC corner CJ Henderson. Behind Henderson is a cast of freshmen in Kaiir Elam, Chester Kimbrough and Jaydon Hill.

Meanwhile, Kentucky lost virtually its entire secondary from last season to the NFL and graduation. This group held Franks to a frustrating 17 of 38 passing in 2018.

I give Florida the edge with the higher-caliber quarterback and more experienced secondary, but Kentucky will fire back with a stout front seven and experience offensive line. The away team will win, but it won’t cover the eight-point spread in a 20-14 UF victory.

Brian Fox:

I keep trying to figure out a way that Kentucky can win this game. Barring turnovers and offensive ineptitude from the Gators, I just don’t see it.

Even if all things were equal (they aren’t), Florida has the revenge factor because of the humiliation they endured against the Wildcats at home just a year ago.

Starting under center for UK will be Troy transfer Sawyer Smith. Smith completed 5-9 passes against Eastern Michigan in relief of the injured Terry Wilson, but he doesn’t have nearly the legs that Wilson used to carry his team past UF last year. His 74 carries at Troy last year netted him only 2.6 yards per attempt. Expect to see the Gators defense focus on the rushing game with DC Todd Grantham bringing the rush on third and long. Gators 28-17.

Florida and Kentucky are set for a 7:00 PM kickoff. The game will be aired on ESPN. You can follow @ChompTalk and @MikeyPfeffer on Twitter for live updates of the contest.

Also check out our own Michael Pfeffer on Read and Reaction’s, Own The Fourth Quarter, a live call-in show that airs during the final period of play.

What are your predictions, Gator Nation? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook.

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