Florida plays Kentucky Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. The game will be broadcast at 7 PM on ESPN2. Florida is a 19.5-point favorite going into the game that they have not lost in their last 24 tries. This will be the second SEC game for Florida while it is the SEC opener for Kentucky. For 16 players on Florida's two-deep depth chart, this will be the first time they will play on the road in the SEC.
The game against Kentucky will provide the Gators with a final tune-up game before they begin their daunting October schedule. With a win, Florida will extend their win streak against Kentucky to a quarter-century. If this were a wedding, gifts of silver would be given in celebration of reaching such an achievement; unfortunately for Kentucky, the only gift the Gators will be bringing is Chris Rainey.
This list will not necessarily be six things the Gator must to do beat Kentucky, but six things they must do to win the game and get ready for the next part of their schedule.
Let's take a look.
Florida has beaten Kentucky for so long that there isn't a player on the roster that was alive the last time Kentucky won a game in the series.
With a big game against Alabama coming the week after, it is important that the Gators stay focused on the task at hand. Bring the streak to 25, and then focus on Bama, in that order.
John Brantley has been serviceable through three games for the Gators. He has yet to show the major improvement that many expected him to have moving into the pro-style offense he ran in high school.
Here is an alarming stat: Brantley threw for 213 yards against Tennessee, a good day for Johnny. Although he threw for 213 yards, his receivers—I mean running backs—exploded for 198 yards after the catch. This means that in totaling Brantley's passing yards, 15 were when the ball was actually traveling through the air!
Now I've heard the arguments: "If it ain't broke don't fix it" and "they are taking what the defense is giving them"—and those are both correct. The issue is, Florida has played three teams with considerably less talent than they have, and Florida should have been able to do whatever they want against all three.
Yes, Chris Rainey is a dynamic player, and he should be involved in as much as the offense as he can, but in as good as he has played, the receivers have been equally absent. Gators fans, please know that Nick Saban has watched Florida's games so far, and please know that the Alabama defense will not leave Rainey, Demps or Burton all alone in the flats. After watching how these games have gone so far, every defensive coordinator should be taking the short passes away and daring the Gators to beat them down the field.
Kentucky provides a good test for the Gators. They cannot match the speed and athleticism that Florida possesses on offense or defense. This is an opportunity for the Gators to take some chances downfield, and get Brantley and his receivers the confidence they need to keep taking shots downfield. So far this year Florida has been a one-trick pony; that will get them by who they have played to date, but not Alabama, LSU, Auburn and maybe not even Georgia.
Use the Kentucky game to take some chances downfield.
Florida has dominated Kentucky on special teams for several years now. Being able to block a punt or a kick is a monumental momentum shift, and almost always gives you good field position.
Florida has shown that they still have a great unit, blocking two punts on the year and returning one for a TD. Look for Florida to block at least one punt or field-goal attempt.
Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips recognized the difference in speed between the two teams. Joker said he has to put 180-lb receivers and defensive backs on his special team unit, to match the speed of Florida's linemen. Those smaller players don't stand a chance of blocking or preventing a Dominique Easley or another lineman opening holes for, as Joker called them, "those small guys with world class speed."
They struggled somewhat creating pressure on opposing quarterback in their first two games but came out of their shell against Tennessee.
Florida sacked Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray three times, and kept constant pressure on him throughout the day. Sophomore Ronald Powell had a breakout game, and pressure he caused resulted in both of Florida's interceptions.
The Gators need to keep getting pressure on the quarterback and force him into difficult throws to help their young secondary.
Florida has struggled in the red zone this season.
Sophomore Trey Burton will be looking for a repeat performance from his six-touchdown game last season. Look for Burton and fullback Hunter Joyer to provide the power running the Gators have been lacking down on the goal line.
Also look for Florida to involve their tight ends, Gerald Christian and A.C. Leonard, in the red zone to provide a changeup from the heavy doses of Rainey that are likely to get the Gators there in the first place.
The Gators are not a deep team by any means. They have playmakers all over the field, but an injury could derail this season quickly.
I know that I have been very confident in the Gators coming away with a victory this weekend (with good reason), but an injury to a key player would be detrimental to the rest of the season.
The Gators need to treat this road game as a business trip. Go in, get the victory, get out healthy and turn the focus to Alabama.
The Gators have a 24-game winning streak against Kentucky. This means that since I have been alive I have never seen Kentucky come out on top when they play Florida.
Sorry Kentucky, this is not the year.
Kentucky has struggled mightily on offense this year in the absence of Randall Cobb. The Florida defense will be the most talented that Kentucky has faced all year, and they will struggle to move the ball and score.
Final Score: Florida 38-3