Kentucky vs. Florida: 5 Keys to the Game for the Gators

Stephen Sheehan@@StephenPSheehanCorrespondent ISeptember 21, 2012

Kentucky vs. Florida: 5 Keys to the Game for the Gators

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    No one really knows what position Trey Burton plays, but there's one thing for certain: He's a Wildcat killer. 

    The 6'3", 228-pound junior cemented his name in the record books with six touchdowns in Florida's 48-14 home thrashing of Kentucky as a freshman. Last season, the multi-dimensional athlete was part of a 405-yard rushing attack that accounted for four touchdowns in another lopsided 48-10 win. 

    As the Gators play host to the Wildcats Saturday, Burton's big-play ability once again should be key to Florida emerging with a blowout victory. 

    Along with Big Play Trey, UF's pass defense will face another tough test, as the Wildcats lead the SEC in passing attempts, completions and yards. With Jelani Jenkins still sidelined by a fractured thumb, the Gators need Antonio Morrison to continue his stellar play on the weak side. 

    Let's take a look at five keys to a Gators victory against the Wildcats. 

Stopping Kentucky's Passing Attack

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    Florida has a tradition of churning out NFL safeties, and Matt Elam will be the next Gator great to wreak havoc in an NFL secondary. 

    The 5'10", 202-pounder anchors an improved secondary that's allowed just 227 yards per game. In last weekend's matchup against Tyler Bray and the Tennessee Volunteers, Elam put on a show, recording 10 tackles, a sack and a pick. 

    Kentucky quarterback Maxwell Smith already has thrown for 966 yards, good for seventh-best in the nation. Elam and the rest of the Gators secondary limited Bray to just 257 yards, so I expect them to put a damper on Smith's hopes of moving up in the passing rankings. 

Let Mike Gillislee Run Wild

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    Will Muschamp preaches about running the ball and playing tough defense. Luckily, his team does both. 

    Thanks to senior Mike Gillislee, the Gators boast the nation's No. 22 rushing attack, averaging 232.7 yards per game. The 5'11", 209-pound Gillislee has spearheaded Florida's vaunted ground game, rushing for 346 yards and four scores in the team's first three games. 

    While Gillislee continues to be the bell cow, offensive coordinator Brent Pease has a few other options in his tool chest, including Trey Burton and freshman power back Matt Jones. 

    Burton has provided a big-play spark for Florida's often-inconsistent offense, and Jones brings much-needed size to the backfield. 

    The Wildcats rank just 92nd in rush defense, making this a juicy matchup for Gillislee and Co. 

Unleash Jeff Driskel

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    It's time to take the training wheels off Jeff Driskel. 

    Florida's emerging sophomore quarterback has battled through inconsistent play by his receivers and offensive line to lead the team to a 3-0 start. Now that he's taken down Tennessee on the road, Saturday should be the day we see whether scouts had it right when they named him the No. 1 high school quarterback in the nation back in 2011. 

    Opposing quarterbacks have completed 72.5 percent of their passes against the Wildcats, who have snagged just one interception and accounted for only four sacks. UF's passing offense isn't lethal, but conservative play-calling may have something to do with that. 

    With LSU on the docket in two weeks, Brent Pease should open up the playbook and see if Driskel rises to the challenge. 

Win on Special Teams

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    Coaches often say a game can come down to who wins on special teams, and Saturday's game presents an intriguing matchup in the game's third facet. 

    The Gators have a pair of special teams studs in kicker Caleb Sturgis and dynamic returner Andre Debose. Sturgis is money on both kickoffs and field goals, and Debose is a threat to take the ball to the house every time he touches it. 

    However, Kentucky's special teams play is among the SEC's best, as the Wildcats rank third in the conference in kick return average (27.7). 

    Freshman punter Landon Foster also has stepped in nicely, averaging 44.1 yards per punt. 

    If this game comes down to the kicking game, I'll take Florida's any day. 

Don't Look Ahead to LSU

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    Kentucky certainly isn't in LSU's class, but Florida can't afford to overlook its opponent on Saturday. 

    Last season, the Gators enjoyed an easy 48-10 victory over the Wildcats before getting pounded in back-to-back games against Alabama and LSU by a combined score of 79-21. 

    That's not to suggest the Gators weren't focused, but this year's squad actually has a chance of redeeming itself against the Tigers. 

    However, to avoid a letdown on Saturday, the Gators must remain focused, avoid penalties and execute on both sides of the ball to emerge victorious. 

    With Will Muschamp's fiery leadership style, I expect Florida to roll over Kentucky, setting up a huge home showdown with Les Miles' Tigers in two weeks. 


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