Gators Vs. Wildcats: The Matchups

Florida travels for the first time in 2011 and the Gators are feeling pretty sure of themselves. Almost a 20 point favorite in the matchup with Kentucky, Florida has to guard against a letdown in a night game that will be played in front of a national television audience. The Wildcats have struggled twice and lost the third game of their season, but they will be looking for the upset Saturday.


Florida Rushing Game vs. Kentucky Rush Defense

The Wildcats will rotate between a 4-3 and a 3-4 front. The Wildcats are led in tackles by Weak side linebacker Danny Trevathan with 38 and almost 13 a game. He is an all-conference LB. The Wildcats rank 66th in the country (136.7 per game) in rush defense and are not helped by plays behind the line of scrimmage with only 16 tackles for loss in their three games. This against a not-so-stellar schedule so far this season. The Wildcats are large up front going 332, 308, 258, and 246 pounds along the line while their linebackers average 239 pounds.

Florida counters with the 30th ranked rushing offense (210 per game) against a better schedule. Florida's strength in their running game is their quickness, speed, and athleticism. This should make for trouble against a Kentucky defensive front that will be hard to catch up to all of that speed.

Look for Florida to run outside most of the time, as usual and overall should be able to do some damage.

Florida Passing Game vs. Kentucky Pass Defense

The Kentucky pass defense ranks a pretty respectable 32nd in the nation coming into the game and just ahead of Florida (33rd), giving up 178 yards per game through the air. Teams are doing most of their damage on Kentucky inside the 20's as the Wildcats have only allowed their three opponents inside the 20 five times in three games. They have given up three touchdowns total on the year and all three were passes of 24, 25, and 25 yards.

Along with a low number of tackles for loss, the Wildcats have only sacked the opposing quarterback six times in three games, but have garnered six interceptions on the season led by safety Guy Winston with two.

Protecting the quarterback has been a strong suit for the Gators, only giving up one sack in three games so far this season. Quarterback John Brantley is throwing for only 202 yards per game, and has only completed three touchdown passes on the year to go along with two interceptions. Hitting the long pass has not been the strong suit.

Florida maximizes the use of their backs and tight ends in the passing game and we should expect that on Saturday, but Kentucky will play close to the line of scrimmage and force the Gators to try and burn them deep and on the outside. The Gators will still get some play in the passing game out of their backs, just from sheer quickness and mismatches with speed.
ADVANTAGE: Slightly Florida


Florida Rush Defense vs. Kentucky Rush Offense

When reading the statistics for the Wildcat running game, they are quite misleading. Their running backs have done pretty well for themselves and they block for those guys with a group that has good size and ability. Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn commented on the running game this week.

"They use a number of different runners, both inside the tackle runners and runners that are good screen and cut-back guys," Quinn said. "Up front they have a veteran offensive line coming back and usually when you have those guys that have played some ball together, their communication and their technique is usually further along than most clubs."

As I will mention every week, the Florida defense is built to stop the run first. Big along the front line and linebacker and with speed, they will crowd the line and force teams to throw, even teams that like to throw. That doesn't bode well for a Kentucky offense that is ranked 92nd in rushing offense.

The Wildcats leading rusher is freshman Josh Clemons and averaging a very nice 5.2 yards per carry with 193 total yards. The backs themselves are doing quite well in the rushing game, but quarterback Morgan Newton has accounted for 111 negative rushing yards and is a guy that likes to run. This is where the Gators must contain the athletic Newton and keep him to the same.

Florida ranks tops in the entire country in rush defense only allowing 30 yards per game in this short season. However, this gator defense hasn't matched up with an athletic guy like Newton. The Wildcats rank in the bottom three teams in the country allowing 26 tackles for loss in three games.

Florida Pass Defense vs. Kentucky Pass Offense

"The first thing that jumps out is a mobile quarterback and a guy that can move the pocket and play outside. You see him make some plays with his feet," Quinn said of the aforementioned Newton.

Newton does have excellent mobility but he has shown to be not a great decision maker so far this season and has been sacked 12 times. He is throwing for 155 yards per game, and a 56% completion percentage. He has four touchdowns to go with four interceptions.

When he does throw, 6-4, 194 pound junior La'Rod King is his main target and King has accounted for almost 50% of the passing yardage with 226 of the total 466 yards. King has 14 catches while receiver E.J. Fields is second on the team with seven catches on the season.

Florida should be able to get heat on newton and that is where the trouble usually begins for the junior signal caller. The biggest issue would be the height matchup with King, but if you get to the quarterback before he throws the ball, it won't matter.

This matchup looks to be Florida's weakness against Kentucky's weakness, but the pressure coming up front should trump anything in the back end and those guys have a chance to benefit with hits on the quarterback.


The best matchups on the day in special teams should be the Florida return teams against the Kentucky coverage. Both units in punting and kicking are ranked very highly for both squads.

Kentucky ranks 109th in punt returns nationally. Florida counters with an inconsistent punter in David Lerner, at least so far this season it has been that way. Kentucky also ranks 83rd in kickoff returns so look Florida to take advantage of that and try to kick the ball for returns instead of out of the end zone.

Overall Florida's special teams have been dominant this year and Kentucky has good coverage units and average to poor return units.

Fightin Gators Top Stories