When: 7 p.m. (ET) Saturday Sept. 28, 2013; ESPNU
Where: Commonwealth Stadium; Lexington, Kentucky
FOCUS IS KEY
Florida enters the contest with a 26 game winning streak in the series. The Gators have had to fight off a great deal of angst this week with the loss of starting quarterback Jeff Driskel for the season when he sustained an injury to his lower leg that required surgery and will keep him out for the rest of the year.
On Tuesday, the Gators lost maybe the best player on the team when defensive tackle Dominique Easley went down with a torn ACL and torn meniscus. Easley has played like an All-American so far this year and will be missed.
Staying focused for these Gators is now catamount to going on the road and winning a contest like this in the SEC. They haven't shown enough consistency on offense to keep having the mishaps and turnovers they have been accustomed to in this early season, and come out with the win.
The Wildcats come limping in after a bye week with a 1-2 record and a real sour loss to Western Kentucky to start the season, but have looked much better in their last two outings including a contest with Louisville that was close at halftime.
The Wildcats are efficient on offense with a two headed quarterback system. Sophomores Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow have combined for 830 yards, five touchdowns and only one interception in three games.
They spread the ball around a lot with only one receiver with double digit catches. Javess Blue has 15 receptions for 197 yards and a touchdown. Three other receiver also cross the 100 yard mark including freshman dynamo Ryan Timmons with nine catches for 133 yards. Anthony Kendrick leads the five tight ends that they use in the games with five catches for 102 yards.
Raymond Sanders and JoJo Kemp are listed as co-starters at running back. Kemp leads the team with 167 yards and an impressive 9.3 yards per carry. They have three backs averaging over 50 yards per game and none over 60.
Along the offensive line, they have 53 starts among them, a relatively low number. Only sophomore guard Zach West crosses the 300 pound threshold so they are a relatively small offensive line in terms of the SEC.
The Kentucky defense struggles against the run. They are 89th nationally in yards per game and have given up six touchdowns on the ground in three games.
The strength of the Wildcats is probably their defensive line. Junior Za'Darius Smith leads the SEC in sacks with 4.5 on the season. He's a junior college transfer that has made an instant impact. Senior Mister Cobble is a 338 pound monster in the middle at defensive tackle and has started 16 games in his career. His side kick Dante Rumph goes 6-5 and 320 pounds at defensive tackle. Rumph has started in 20 games and has 10 tackles for loss in the four years on the field for the Wildcats. Junior defensive end Alvin Dupree is the stats leader in the group with a career 10.5 sacks and 130 tackles.
Senior linebacker Avery Williamson anchors the middle and is responsible for 235 tackles in his four years on campus. Junior TraVaughn Paschal and sophomore Jodi Forrest start on the outside and have but 49 tackles between them in their entire career.
Kentucky's pass defense is ranked 30th nationally with 181.3 yards per game and has only given up two TD passes all season. The leader in the secondary is junior safety Ashely Lowery, but they are getting great play from junior college transfer Nate Willis.
Kentucky's special teams are solid but not spectacular although junior kicker Joe Mansour is 6 for 6 on field goals with a long of 37 yards.
Offensively Florida will likely want to try and pound the ball. The Wildcats have fared well on pass defense even after playing the high flying Louisville cardinals, and are a bit porous on the ground. This suits what the Gators want to do to a tee. If they pass, it needs to be quick stuff and move the pocket, don't let that pass rush get to quarterback Tyler Murphy.
On defense, the game plan changes depending on the quarterback. Whitlow is the athlete and likes to use his feet to hurt the opponent. As usual Florida will try and shit down the run and force teams to pass where the Gator secondary is likely the best In the land and just starting to really come on.
Inevitably Florida should try to pound this one out. It will be interesting to see how effective the defense can be without Easley, but I don't see it being a huge issue with the Wildcats. Still, a low octane offense won't produce a killer score in my opinion and the prediction is 24-13 Gators.
More from the week leading up to the game.
Easley: "We're not there yet"
Fowler named SEC Defensive Player of the Week
Muschamp wanting more on defense
Notebook: Hot hand at running back
Pease happy with Murphy's growth
Gators in the NFL: Week three
Muschamp teleconference: Easley injured
Audio: Gators and More with Hollywood Bob
Durkin talks options at defensive tackle
Easley with season ending knee injury
Fowler breaks out, ready for more
Jeff Drummond answers subscribers questions
Phillips returns to Kentucky
Cummings is at the right place
Video: Patton making his mark
Murphy keeps breaking barriers