This week will mark the first road game for the Florida Gators in the Will Muschamp Era when they travel to Lexington, Kentucky to take on the Wildcats. On paper, this looks to be a complete mismatch. Florida has a lot more talent than Kentucky on both sides of the ball. In its second year under Joker Phillips, Kentucky football is underwhelming its fan base. So much so that there is already grumbling amongst some of the fans and even worse, apathy is setting in among many.
So this should be smooth sailing for the Gators right? Well, yes, it should be. But, there are some pitfalls that Florida must guard against.
1. Florida has beaten UK 24-years in a row. The law of averages dictates that UK has to win one eventually. Right?
2. UK is at home. This is UF's first road game of the year with a very talented but very young team. It's difficult to predict what will happen on the first road game of the year. Ask Auburn. Ask Ohio State. Ask Michigan State.
3. Florida is coming off a big win and has a big game next week. UK is one of those dreaded "sandwich games." You have Tennessee at home, Kentucky on the road and Alabama at home in a three week stretch. Which game are the players most likely to overlook?
4. Kentucky just lost to its arch in-state rival, Louisville. So they may be a bit angry. Plus, some of that "noise in the system" sometimes inspires teams to "win for the coach."
5. Kentucky can't be as bad as they've looked so far this season. Can they?
Florida needs to come out with an early lead and pour it on this week. The longer they leave UK in the game, the more difficult it will be to win. Last week against Tennessee, Florida jumped out to a 30-7 lead only to have to sweat it out a bit at the end before a late Matt Elam pick-off iced the game at 33-23. Florida needs to learn how to finish teams off when they have them down.
Three areas need work for them to be able to do this:
1. Red zone offense. To be honest, so far this season it's been awful. Caleb Sturgis is going to break some kind of scoring record at the rate the Gator offense is bogging down inside the 10-yard line.
2. Forcing turnovers. Despite three relatively weak opponents so far, Florida is (-1) in turnover ratio. Entirely too many dropped interceptions are the main culprit. On at least two of Tennessee's touchdown drives on Saturday, UF dropped a sure interception that could have killed the drive. That is like giving a team an extra out in baseball. They will usually make you pay.
3. Penalties. Saturday's game was an endless parade of yellow. 16 Gators Penalties for over 150 yards will kill a team normally. That needs to be addressed immediately before it costs the Gators a game.
Hopefully, these issues will be dealt with on Saturday and we can have a clean and enjoyable road trip and be ready for the Crimson Tide on October 1. That's when football season really begins in Gainesville.