No. 1 Florida Gators (3-0, 1-0 SEC) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (2-0, 0-0)
What Happened Last Week
Florida opened its 2009 SEC play with a 23-13 win over Eastern division rival, Tennessee. It wasn’t the royal beating that a good majority of Gator fans wanted to see, but the end result was a win; and that’s what is most important. Florida comes in ranked number one in the country and is unbeaten in SEC conference play.
Florida has beaten Kentucky 22 years in a row, and this is the third time Florida has been ranked number one when playing Kentucky.
Kentucky comes into their 2009 matchup with Florida unbeaten, after an opening weekend win over Miami (Ohio), which was followed by a third straight win over in-state rival Louisville.
Kentucky is unranked when playing Florida for the ninth time in the last ten years.
Florida will win if…
They Develop a Tempo on Offense early
Finding a tempo Saturday night is going to be ideal for Florida, who has gone to a no-huddle offense at times this season. Florida needs to dictate the tempo up front on offense, utilizing a big offensive line and a good stable of running backs to set the pace of the game and to take pressure off of the young guys who are stepping in at receiver.
If something/someone on offense is clicking, the Gators need to stick with it until the defense can’t stop it/them anymore.
They Don’t Make this a ‘Look Ahead’ Game
Make no mistake about this game: It is a trap for Florida. An undefeated, number one team that is working through injuries and personnel losses is going on the road to an opponent that has payback on their minds for the 63-5 beating they received a year ago. Yeah, that would be a trap.
Not to mention, The Gators have a much needed bye week on the schedule next week before a big test on the road at LSU. Still sounds like a trap to me.
Florida needs to put this game away early and get out of Lexington intact with a win, so that they can start to heal and prepare for LSU.
The Defense Pressures Kentucky Quarterback Mike Hartline
Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline is a dropback passer with limited mobility, and is much less of an athlete than receiver/part-time quarterback Randall Cobb is. Florida will need to use its superior speed on defense to harass and confuse Mike Hartline, whether it is from a base defense or their ‘Joker’ package.
When given time, Hartline can sit in the pocket and pick apart a defense. Louisville had a non-existent pass rush, which enabled Hartline to complete 20 of 27 passes for 178 yards. Denying Hartline the chance to put the ball in the hands of running back Derrick Locke and receiver Randall Cobb will significantly raise Florida’s probability of winning.
The X-Factors will be…
Florida’s coaching staff
SEC play has started, and now is the time for Florida’s coaching staff to step up its game. Poor ball handling, poor tackling, conservative schemes and problems with penalties have given the Gators fits through their first three games; but they are problems that can be fixed, and need to be fixed if Florida wants to make it to the SEC Championship Game.
The coaching staff cannot rely on Tim Tebow carrying the ball 24 times a game. They just can’t. There are plenty of playmakers on the roster that Urban Meyer and his staff have recruited in the past four years, and it is high time that they start using them. Just call the plays and trust the players you’ve recruited to win games for you.
Also, during the first three games of this season, Florida’s offensive line has had very tight splits on running plays, which pulls the defense closer to the center and closes down running lanes. Going back to last season, Florida started to gash teams in the running game when the offensive line had wider line splits. Florida offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Steve Addazio needs to fix this ASAP.
The widening of the line splits dictates where a defender will line up (based on an opponents’ defense), and the offensive blocking scheme Florida uses is designed to open cutback angles and seams for their runners to go through.
No. 1 Florida 35 – Kentucky 17