Kentucky is no match for Florida
A 40-year-old man feels stressed out at his job and constantly gets headaches. A 15-year-old girl feels sick to her stomach. A 20-year-old college athlete twists an ankle and experiences massive soreness.
What do they all do to solve their problems?
They take drugs, and not the kind that gets players booted from their teams. They take medicine that temporarily relieves the discomfort.
The Florida Gators football team is no different—they have problems too, and before they go out and take on the Big Baddies from Baton Rouge, they need to cure their issues.
Which is why Kentucky is on the schedule.
Since 1987, Kentucky has gone from a weaker opponent to a breather game to an easy win to the Gators' punching bag. Now, I believe I have discovered a level beyond a punching bag—a drug.
The scores of the previous four games have been as follows: 63-5, 41-7, 48-14 and 48-10. Yes, Florida won them all.
That's all Kentucky is, a drug. You all know how drugs work—they mask the problem, but don't necessarily get rid of it. I first made this observation in 2010, when the Gators looked atrocious with Steve Addazio running the offense (into the ground—I still have not forgiven him, nor do I think I ever will, for wasting all that talent) for three games and then looking like world beaters against Kentucky.
Gator fans remember the experience all too well. We all thought that we were back, that our problems were fixed. Look out college football, here we come. We got so high on the Kentucky drug that we even thought Tim Tebow had been resurrected. I love Trey Burton, but it took just one play, a failed jump pass, the following week against Alabama to realize he is nowhere close to what Tebow was for Florida.
It wasn't quite so bad last year, as Gator fans kind of expected the team to take a step backward, but still, a 48-10 beatdown of the Cats in Lexington got us a little too hyped for the Alabama game the following week.
Perhaps what makes Kentucky such a dangerous drug is that they're in the SEC. Beating them counts as a conference win, and beating them this year would mean Florida would be 3-0 in conference for just the third time since 2001.
You see? It's that kind of statement that makes the Kentucky drug so lethal. A win on Saturday would put the Gators in the same spot as two of the Gators' five best teams in school history. These kinds of facts are what gets Florida so overly confident that they flop the ensuing week.
For that same reason, I would rather play a D1-AA team (FCS) than Kentucky before our bye week, followed by LSU. It's not just because some FCS teams would probably beat Kentucky, it's because they're in the SEC. The best result you're going to get out of crushing Kentucky is a good drunken bar argument: "Hey, we're 3-0 in the SEC. Yeah, we just crushed another SEC team."
The Gators don't solve anything by beating Kentucky in a blowout match. Brent Pease can put 50 points on Kentucky, and probably will, but it doesn't mean the offensive line is any tougher. Muschamp's defense can hold Kentucky to two yards, but does that mean that the defense is any better than it originally was?
Like it or not, the Gators do have some serious problems they need to work on.
For one thing, Driskel gets pressured too much. That's on the offensive line. It's much better as a unit than it was last year, but last year it was at a middle-school level. Now, it's more like a D-III level, which is on the right track, but not good enough. Bowling Green, Texas A&M and Tennessee have three of the worst six defenses the Gators will face this year. Blocking like a D-III line is OK against those teams; not so much against Georgia, South Carolina, and of course, LSU.
Another big problem is the Gators' defense is extremely inconsistent. They can stop General Patton and his tanks on one drive, and then give up enough ground to form a new continent against a pee wee team on another drive. Like the offensive line's problem, this is acceptable against Texas A&M and Bowling Green; it's not going to cut it against the SEC heavyweights.
The other major problem with this team is the penalties. I can live with the occasional hustle and fight penalty—the late hit out of bounds or the pass interference on a jump ball. It's the stupid pre-snap and post-play penalties that drive me wild. You know them: False starts, illegal motions, helmet removal or throwing a punch.
Those completely avoidable penalties are what win or lose games for teams, and the Gators committed too many in Week 1. While the penalty situation got better against Texas A&M, it was pretty bad against Tennessee.
The one thing the Kentucky drug will allow a team to do is practice how to improve those problems. For example, the offensive line gets beat a lot. That's a no-no for any team because it invites defenses to take free shots at the QB. In particular, I noticed that UF's o-line keeps getting beat on the outside.
What Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis need to do is make the adjustments to completely close the outside lane for defenders, and force teams to generate pressure up the a-gap.
This way, Driskel won't get blindsided, and with his elusive moves, at least has a chance to break free and make a play. By working on the adjustment techniques and strategies against Kentucky, the Gators will be somewhat familiar with them when LSU comes to town, especially after a bye week and two full weeks of practice.
The Solomon Patton end-around has become a particularly effective play for the Gators' offense, but I'd still like to see some other looks against the Cats, even if it means LSU will get to see it on tape. It's a trade-off I would take any day—the Gators are more familiar with the play and have experience running it against another defense, but LSU knows it exists.
Just because Les Miles is aware of the play's existence doesn't mean he knows when it's coming.
The final thing I want to see against Kentucky is Jeff Driskel throwing the ball down the field. The Gators have established Mike Gillislee as the SEC's best running back so far; give him a half-day at the office while letting Driskel pitch it around. If nothing else, throwing for 400 yards against a defense that is so defenseless it needs security guards to protect them will give Driskel some confidence heading into the LSU game—even if he was high on the Kentucky drug while he put up those numbers.
And honestly, Jacoby Brissett did too well under pressure last season to not deserve some snaps in live action, so let's get up by five touchdowns at halftime and let Brissett have a go.
The Kentucky drug has one good side effect: It lets a team try out new strategies, plays and players in live action against a different team. Brent Pease promised to hang half a hundred on the Cats, so let's do that and start 4-0 heading into our bye week.
Just don't get too high on Florida after this game.