Muschamp sees an improved Kentucky team

The Gators open as a double-digit favorite over Kentucky this weekend and have won 27 straight matchups, the sixth longest streak of consecutive wins over a major opponent in an uninterrupted series. But Will Muschamp sees an improved Kentucky team traveling to The Swamp this weekend.

The streak is always a weekly topic in Gainesville before the Florida-Kentucky game, and this week is no different. The Gators haven’t lost a game to Kentucky since 1986, are 47-17 all-time against the Wildcats and have won the last six meetings by an average of 36.5 points. History is on Florida’s side, but that doesn’t mean anything about Saturday.

“It’s a 2014 Florida team vs. a 2014 Kentucky team. That’s all it is to me,” Will Muschamp said.

The film has shown the Florida coach a different looking Kentucky team. Second-year coach Mark Stoops has improved the energy of the program, recruiting better and bringing a new level of talent to the Kentucky roster. The talent is still young, but Muschamp knows that the Wildcats have improved under Stoops, calling them “much, much improved in all areas” this season.

The offense uses tempo, mixing the pass and run under coordinator Neal Brown. The Florida defense feels like it’s better prepared for tempo teams after facing a Florida offense now using it during the offseason, but Saturday will be the first big test. Quarterback Patrick Towles is a dual threat at 6-5, 240 pounds. Running back Braylon Heard and DeLand High School product JoJo Kemp provide a two-headed backfield that can provide different looks.

Wide receiver Ryan Timmons had a Florida offer out of high school but wanted to play for the Wildcats. He leads the team with 13 catches for 170 yards this season.

“He’s heck of a football player he does a really good job in space,” Muschamp said. “They get him the ball in a bunch of situations in the passing game and the running game very skilled guy.”

The defense is the most obvious improvement Muschamp sees from Kentucky. Under Stoops, formerly the defensive coordinator at Florida State, the Wildcats lean heavily on defensive linemen Alvin Dupree and Za’Darius Smith. They’ll challenge a Florida offensive line that’s changing parts with Chaz Green moving to left tackle and Rod Johnson starting at right tackle after D.J. Humphries’ injury.

“Two very good pass rushers, you’ve gotta account for those guys on the edges,” Muschamp said.

The speed of the Kentucky defense has taken steps forward, and they’ve allowed just 17 points in the first two games of the season.

“They’re big inside, they’ve got some junior college player inside, both ends are really good players smith and Dupree, you’ve gotta account for those guys very good rushers,” Muschamp said. “They run extremely well, at linebacker and they added a junior college safety that’s made a lot of plays for them and done a nice job in the first two games.”

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