Sounds easy. It isn't always as easy as you think, especially in light of losing two of the top players in the conference on the heels of a very physical game. This will also mark the first road trip that the Gators experience under Meyer. Additionally, minus those Bill Curry coached years, the Wildcats always seem to give Florida their best shot. Over the past eight years, the Gators have beaten the ‘Cats by an average score of 41.5-21.5.
Nobody avoided the letdown game better than former Florida coach Steve Spurrier. His record against unranked opponents is legendary.
A quick glance at the Utah record (last year) provides insight that Meyer and his staff are also quite polished at getting the team up for that next opponent. The Utes defeated Texas A&M 41-21 and followed that up with consecutive victories over Arizona (23-6), Utah State (48-6), and Air Force (49-35). Later in the campaign, the Utes beat North Carolina 46-16 and defeated UNLV 63-28 the following weekend. The end of the season saw them beat Colorado State 63-31 and finish off Wyoming (on the road) 45-28, and BYU 52-21.
Kentucky offensive line vs Florida defensive front
Kentucky offense: Multiple
Florida defense: Multiple, 4-3
Lack of experience has been a huge factor for former Florida State coach Jimmy Heggins, who now coaches the Kentucky offensive front. Five Kentucky starters entered the season with a combined total of 22 starts. Florida has three offensive linemen who have 22, 29, and 35 starts respectively.
The Wildcats pass blocking has been poor. Kentucky has allowed 11 sacks in an offense that has only thrown 67 passes. Seven of those sacks given up were against Louisville.
The run blocking has been nearly equally pathetic. Tailback Rafael Little has been as good as one could hope in this system.
Kentucky returns two offensive linemen (Matt McCutchan and Hayden Lane) from one year ago. McCutchan started ten games a year ago for the ‘Cats. Lane started all eleven games a year ago and the final game of the 2003 season against Tennessee.
Williams has one start and played in eight others last season. Atchieson has played in seventeen games over the past two years, but was only able to crack the starting lineup this season.
#62 Matt McCutchan 6-3 295 Sr. 1L Lebanon, Oh.
#72 Mike Atchieson 6-3 290 Jr. 2L Miami, Fla.
#60 Trai Williams 6-4 280 Jr. 2L Franklin, Ky.
#52 Fatu Turituri 6-3 290 Jr. Tr Somoa
#57 Hayden Lane 6-6 280 Jr. 2L Lawrenceville, Ga.
By the way… In 1959 Kentucky Coach Blanton Collier had three assistant coaches who would make an everlasting impact on south Florida and the National Football League. Collier's assistants included, Don Shula, Bill Arnsparger, and Howard Schnellenberger.
The Florida defense had a solid performance against a very good Tennessee offensive line. The most encouraging play was how the Gators shut the Vols out in the second half. They limited the Tennessee offense to five first downs in that all important second half, all minus one of their emotional leaders, Ray McDonald. That is finishing.
It all starts up front, where defensive tackle Marcus Thomas and end Jeremy Mincey had outstanding performances against Tennessee. Thomas finished with a team high 1.5 tackles for loss, while Mincey had four tackles. There is no question the Gators will miss end Ray McDonald. Joe Cohen and Derrick Harvey should be able to step in and stop the bleeding.
Linebackers Brandon Siler and Earl Everett lead the Florida defense. The pair ranks among the leaders in tackles for loss and sacks. They have been exceptional in wrapping up ball carriers without allowing them to secure additional yardage or get away. Todd McCullough has also been pretty good overall.
#44 Marcus Thomas 6-3 285 Jr. 2L Jacksonville
#93 Steven Harris 6-4 281 Jr. 2L Miami
#98 Clint McMillan 6-1 282 So. 1L Oviedo
#99 Lutrell Alford 6-2 290 So. Sq Gainesville
#57 Jeremy Mincey 6-4 265 Sr. 1L Statesboro, Ga
#20 Joe Cohen 6-2 275 Jr. 2L Melbourne
#91 Derrick Harvey 6-4 260 Fr. Sq Greenbelt, Md.
#40 Brandon Siler 6-2 239 So. 1L Orlando
#30 Earl Everett 6-2 231 Jr. 2L Webster
#47 Todd McCullough 6-5 233 Sr. 3L Jacksonville
#13 Brian Crum 6-3 237 Jr. 1L Woodbine, Ga.
#55 Jon Demps 6-4 219 Fr. HS Pensacola
#42 Billy Latsko 5-10 230 Jr. 2L Gainesville
Injuries… Florida defensive end Ray McDonald suffered a tear in his ACL last Saturday night versus Tennessee. Kentucky guard Micah Jones is out with torn cartilage in his knee.
Analysis: You can't establish any offensive continuity without having experience up front. The Wildcats have only two starters with the minimum experience necessary to win in the SEC.
The Wildcats are only averaging 89 yards per game running the football. That must mean they throw the ball very well. Wrong. They are dead last in total offense. Injuries have cost the ‘Cats seven or eight lives. Their greatest hope is that Florida comes out flat.
Florida is second in the conference in turnovers. They rank third in run defense, allowing only 61 yards per game. The Gators sit atop the conference rankings in pass defense, pass defense efficiency, scoring defense, and total defense.
This kitty sits on a 2x4 floating in Lake Alice surrounded by dozens of alligators.
HUGE EDGE: Florida
Kentucky Skills Positions vs Florida secondary
Kentucky wide receiver Tommy Holt did not start against Indiana because of a neck injury he sustained against Louisville. He is expected to return this weekend.
The Kentucky offensive attack begins and ends with starting tailback Rafael Little, who accounts for 41% of the total yardage. He averages six yards per carry and has a 104 yard performance against Idaho State in the Wildcats only win of the season. Little is also the ‘Cats leading wide receiver with 11 receptions for 85 yards.
Quarterback Andre' Woodson has not thrown an interception this season. If they put it up that should end this weekend, provided the Gators can hang on to the ball. Woodson hasn't had a lot of time to throw the ball.
Tight end Jacob Tamme leads the Kentucky receivers with eight catches for 66 yards and one touchdown.
The most productive wide receiver has been 6-3 Scott Mitchell. The senior has caught only six passes, but has turned two of them into touchdowns, including a 79 yard touchdown reception last weekend. He is averaging 24.3 yards per catch.
Keenan Burton is averaging 24 yards per reception. Burton runs very well after the catch. He has caught five passes for 144 yards and a score.
Senior Tommy Cook has missed some time to injuries, but when healthy is a very reliable receiver. Cook has caught five passes for 95 yards, including a 53 yard catch.
By the way…Kentucky has only one back with more than three carries that averages three yards or more per carry. That is the worst distribution in the Southeastern Conference.
Injuries: Kentucky tailback Tony Dixon is out for the season with a broken ankle, Wide receivers Keenan Burton is out with a broken his foot. Tommy Cook has had a dislocated kneecap and suffered a neck injury against Louisville.
#3 Andre' Woodson 6-5 230 So. 1L Radcliff, Ky.
#25 Alexis Bwenge 6-1 229 Sr. 3L St. Apollenaire, Quebec
#22 Rafael Little 5-11 195 So. 1L Anderson, SC
#18 Jacob Tamme 6-5 234 So. 1L Danville, Ky.
#1 Scott Mitchell 6-3 222 Sr. 1L League City, Tx.
#4 Glenn Holt 6-2 195 Sr. 3L Miami
#17 Tommy Cook 6-0 206 Sr. 3L Victoria, Tx.
#19 Keenan Burton 6-2 195 So. 1L Louisville, Ky.
One problem has plagued the Florida secondary. The inability to catch the football. Is there any question that the Gators would lead the nation in turnover ratio if they could just hold on to the football?
They started a little slow last week, but came on strong after the first quarter in shutting down the Volunteer receiving corps. Who would hgave thought the Florida secondary would be the best overall unit on the team last July? None of us.
#15 Dee Webb 5-11 190 Jr. 3L Jacksonville
#16 Vernell Brown 5-8 165 Sr. 2L Gainesville
#22 Reggie Lewis 5-10 195 Jr. 2L Jacksonville
#32 Reggie Nelson 6-1 175 So. TR Melbourne
#4 Avery Atkins 5-11 189 Fr. HS Daytona Beach
#46 Jarvis Herring 5-11 205 Sr. 3L Live Oak
#3 Kyle Jackson 6-1 200 So. 1L Jacksonville
#19 Tony Joiner 5-11 200 So. 1L Haines City
#49 Terrance Holmes 5-11 202 Jr. 2L Glassboro, NJ
Analysis: Kentucky had most of their success throwing the ball on first down against Louisville. They had no success running the ball, especially on first down. They had more success with Little running the ball on first down against Indiana in the second half.
Tennessee had some early success against the Florida secondary, but Clausen and Ainge had difficulty putting the ball on target.
If the Gators secondary continues to play lights out and Rafael Little's role in the running game AND passing attack is neutralized…Andre' Woodson might want to read up on the medical redshirt rule.
Florida offensive line vs Kentucky defensive front
Florida Offense: Spread
Kentucky Defense: 4-3
The Florida offensive line struggled against one of the best defensive fronts in college football. The Vols put a lot of pressure on quarterback Chris Leak, including five sacks. The play at guard was not very good. Coach Hevesy inserted Steve Rissler in for Drew Miller. Tavares Washington was whipped out there either at times by the Tennessee front. Most of those breakdowns were in the middle as we told you to expect them in last weeks preview.
Sometimes the best lessons are when you've had it handed to you. That was voiced over and over again by the '96 Florida offense line after losing to FLorida State in Tallahassee. They handed out the punishment a month later in New Orleans for the National Championship.This line must too make that vow to improve and never get embarrassed like that again.
We are not going to find out how much they've improved against a team like Kentucky. The Wildcats are pretty devoid of talent along the defensive front. The next test is in a little over a week in Tuscaloosa. However, the Gators can work on making things much better and preparing for the high tide.
#68 Mike Degory 6-6 304 Sr. 3L Melbourne
#79 Steve Rissler 6-3 310 Jr. 2L Sarasota
#67 Drew Miller 6-5 310 So. 1L Sarasota
#76 Tavares Washington 6-4 320 Sr. Sq Greenville, MS
#63 Jim Tartt 6-3 315 Fr. Sq. Sopchoppy
#79 Steve Rissler 6-3 310 Jr. 2L Sarasota
#72 Lance Butler 6-7 315 Sr. 2L Lexington, NC
#74 Randy Hand 6-6 310 Sr. 3L Ft. Myers
#77 Jason Watkins 6-6 300 Fr. Sq. Lake Gibson
#75 Phil Trautwein 6-6 310 So. 1L Voorhees, NJ
By the way…The 'Cats gave up 200+ yards more rushing in eight of their eleven games last season. They gave up 209 yards to Louisville in the season opener and 305 yards last week to Indiana.
Kentucky defensive tackle Jason Leger got the first start of his career against Indiana last Saturday. Leger had been out due to a sprained knee.
Defensive end Durrell White is the best player on the Kentucky defensive front. White leads the 'Cats in tackles for loss (3) and sacks (1).
The 'Cats leading stopper is Will linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who has amassed 28 tackles. He also has an interception and a pass broken up. You can bet that he'll be in passing situations. We'll see just how apt he is to stopping Florida's outstanding skills position players.
v Linebackers Ray Fonataine and Braxton Kelley have been the leading tacklers (behind Woodyard) in the front seven. Fontaine has recorded two ttackles for loss, but neither have a sack.
Idaho State had three drives in the first 15:42 of the game that resulted in field goals.Can the 'Cats really be that bad?
#91 Trey Mielsch 6-3 280 Sr. 3L El Maton, Tx.
#66 Jason Leger 6-1 288 So. 1L Brodhead, Ky.
#9 Durrell White 6-3 245 Jr. 2L Middlesboro, Ky.
#97 Nii Adjei Oninku 6-1 245 Fr. Sq Dayton, Oh.
#56 Braxton Kelley 6-2 220 Fr. HS LaGrange, Ga.
#50 Ray Fontaine 6-4 225 Sr. 3L Ottawa, Ontario
#16 Wesley Woodyard 6-1 200 So. 1L LaGrange, Ga.
Injuries…Kentucky defensive tackles Ricky Abren has a dislocated wrist and may be unavailable, while Lamar Mills tore a knee ligament and is out for the season.
Analysis: Kentucky defensive coordinator Mike Archer has been in the Southeastern Conference coaching circle for a long time. He will breakdown the Tennessee tape and try to exploit many of those same areas where the Florida offensive line experienced breakdowns. His problem is personnel. The ‘Cats simply don't have them. Count on Archer to try get pressure whenever, and wherever he can. Count on Florida to have the resources to handle whatever they throw at them.
The Florida offensive front has a lot of questions to answer. You simply can't go on the road to Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge and expect to win without improving. You can bet that Coach Hevesy wants to see these guys work on pass protection. But, Florida will also get physical and pound the rock!!
Florida Skills Positions vs Kentucky secondary
Quarterback Chris Leak played very well last week. He missed a few reads on John Chavis' Tennessee defense, but to their credit, the Vols were mixing things up very well. The Gators didn't run any option against a very fast Tennessee front seven. You can expect to see a little more of the option against Kentucky. I would also expect to see a little more of Josh Portis running that option.
DeShawn Wynn and Kestahn Moore combined to run for 67 yards on 22 carries. While that's not bad against a tough Tennessee defense, that's still hardly impressive. I would imagine that we'll see Markus Manson this weekend. In my opinion, Manson has the exposiveness the Gators would like to have in that one back set.
Tight end Tate Casey saw quite a bit of action last weekend. The loss of Caldwell and having Casey to help block provided the keys for Casey's playing time.
The absence of Andre Caldwell should also open the door for Gavin Dickey or Kenneth Tookes to see more action against Kentucky. This appears to be an excellent time to evaluate who will emerge as that fourth receiver in the rotation. Whoever it is, you can bet they'll be aggressively blocking.
#12 Chris Leak 6-0 210 Jr. 2L Charlotte, NC
#4 Josh Portis 6-4 210 Fr. HS Woodland Hills, Ca.
#21 DeShawn Wynn 5-11 230 Jr. 2L Cincinnati, Oh.
#2 Markus Manson 6-0 210 HS Sq Tuscaloosa, Ala.
#84 Tate Casey 6-6 242 So. 1L Longview, Tx.
#8 Chad Jackson 6-1 205 Jr. 2L Hoover, AL
#81 Dallas Baker 6-3 204 Jr. 2L New Smyrna Beach
#6 Jemalle Cornelius 5-11 190 Jr. 2L Fort Meade
#17 Gavin Dickey 5-11 205 Jr. 1L Tallahassee
#3 Kenneth Tookes 6-2 209 Jr. 1L Jacksonville
Two of the top three top tacklers on the Wildcats defense reside in the secondary. Safety Muhammad Abdullah (26) and cornerback Bo Smith (21) rank two and three respectively. Defensive coordinator Mike Archer will move Abdullah around. I would be surprised if he didn't blitz him two or three times in the first quarter to see if the Florida offensive front can pick him up.
Kentucky has given up over 200 yards passing per game and four touchdown strikes. Opposing quarterbacks have hit 61 of 87 passes Against Kentucky for 605 yards.
Cornerback Bo Smith sat out the 2004 season due to an injury. He had seven starts in '03 wity a big game against the Gators, when he picked off a pass, forced a fumble, and broke up a pass. Antoine Huffman is a former high school wide rfeceiver/defensive back with speed, who moved to corner at Kentucky. He will be starting his 17th game this weekend.
Abdullah, Huffman, and reserve safety Karl Booker (6-1 189) have each picked off a pass this year. All four of those takeaways occurred against tiny Idaho State.
#24 Bo Smith 6-0 195 Jr. 2L Owensboro, Ky.
#36 Antoine Huffman 6-0 175 Sr. 3L Jonesboro, Ga.
#42 Muhammad Abdullah 6-0 205 Sr. 3L West Monroe, La.
#35 Roger Williams 6-0 200 So. 1L Rockmart, Ga.
Injuries…Florida wide receiver Andre Caldwell broke his right leg against Tennessee. Kentucky free safety Marcus McClinton is out for the season with a torn patella tendon.
Analysis: The Kentucky secondary is no match for the Gators skills positions, whether Leak is throwing the ball to a back out of the backfield, tight end Tate Casey, or one of the Florida receivers.
Opposing quarterbacks are completing just over 70% of thier passes against the Mildcats, need I say more?
HUGE EDGE: Florida
Rafael Little returned a kick 99 yards for a touchdown against Idaho State. It was the first time that Little has returned a kick this season.
True freshman punter Tim Masthay figures to get a lot of work this Saturday. Masthay has booted 13 punts for a 34.6 yard average. He had hit five of those inside the twenty and had one bloacked.
Field goal kicker Taylor Begley has hit one of two on the year, with both of those coming from inside 39 yards.
The Florida special teams were outstanding last week. A blocked field goal attempt, solid play to thrwart a Tennessee return, field goals by Chris Hetland, and some pretty good kicks by Eric Wilbur. The Gators have yet to improve returning punts and they lost Caldwell on a kickoff return, but it was still a fantastic night for the special teams unit.
Hetland yet again earned SEC Special Teams Player of the Week He is still living the dream. This week he'll earn his stripes on the road trying to figure out hoiw the winds blow in Commonwealth. The kid has earned a 'ship.
Wilbur has yet to have a complete game, but he hasn't been bad at all. He is averaging 41.3 yards per kick with a long of 55. He has booted four inside the twenty. Against Tennessee, Wilbur averaged 37.6 yards per kick.
#44 Tim Masthay (P) 6-2 200 Fr. HS Murray, Ky.
#89 Taylor Begley (PK) 6-0 200 Sr. 3L Danville, Ky.
#44 Tim Masthay (KO) 6-2 200 Fr. HS Murray, Ky.
#7 Rafael Little (PR) 5-11 195 So. 1L Anderson, SC
#7 Rafael Little (KR) 5-11 195 So.. 1L Anderson, SC
#19 Keenan Burton (KR) 6-2 195 So. 1L Louisville, Ky.
#10 Eric Wilber (P) 6-1 195 Jr. 2L Winter Park
#39 Chris Hetland (PK) 6-0 185 Jr. Sq Leesburg
#43 James Smith (LS) 6-1 225 Fr. Sq Gainesville
#16 Vernell Brown (PR) 5-8 165 Sr. 2L Gainesville
#18 Tremaine McCollum (KR) 5-8 178 Jr. 1L Miami
#2 Markus Manson (KR) 6-0 210 Fr. Sq Tuscaloosa, AL
Analysis: The Gators got a field goal last week against Tennessee. The 'Cats have already allowed a punt to be blocked. Will Meyer send the troops after freshman punter Masthay?
Caldwell has brought back each of Florida's four kickoff returns this season. The Gators will have to find a new guy opposite T. Mac.
Pick: The Gators haven't lost to Kentucky since 1986, when they came out flat after beating Auburn (18-17) and Georgia (31-19) back-to-back and dropped a 10-3 decision. Depth is not a concern...at Florida! The Gators remain undefeated in the SEC East.