KICKOFF: Saturday, 7 ET
SITE: Commonweath Stadium, Lexington, Ky.
SERIES: Florida leads 44-17 (last meeting, 2010, Florida 48-14)
RECORDS: Florida 3-0, 1-0 SEC; Kentucky 2-1, 0-0 SEC
POLLS: Florida (No. 15 AP, No. 15 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Florida 44-20
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- For Florida: Avoid a letdown after an emotional win against Tennessee. Kentucky's offense has struggled early this season, but the Gators must go into the game with an emphasis to stop freshman RB Josh Clemons (5.2 yards per carry). QB John Brantley (3 TDs, 2 interceptions) must remain patient and take what Kentucky's defense gives him.
-- For Kentucky: Get off to a quick start. The Wildcats, who have been mauled in the opening quarter of their last three games against Florida, will need some artistically creative offensive plays because running the ball will be immensely tough. The defense faces a severe test both in trying to defend against both the run and pass.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
Florida has been better in the red zone season, converting 15-of-16 overall scoring chances inside the 20 and 9-of-16 for touchdowns. But offensive coordinator Charlie Weis would like to see more TDs and fewer field goals. Florida QB John Brantley has relied on throwing the ball to his running backs early this season, but may need to get the receivers involved if teams start to key on covering RBs Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps and Trey Burton. WR Deonte Thompson has had issues with drops again early this season, while WR Quinton Dunbar has yet to deliver on the big-play potential he showed in the spring.
Florida held Tennessee to minus-9 yards rushing, continuing its season-long ability to stop the run first. The Gators rank first in the nation in run defense, allowing just 30.7 yards per game, and have yet to allow a rushing TD this season. UF's young secondary had issues in pass protection against Tennessee with penalties. Freshman CB Marcus Roberson had an interception against Tennessee called back on a questionable pass interference call. Florida is coming off a season-high three-sack performance against Tennessee after having just two sacks in its first two games.
Kentucky QB Morgan Newton is coming off his best performance (255 yards) of the season and has completed 55.8 percent of his passes. His ability to scramble and run could come in handy against a Florida defense that loves to bring pressure. Freshman RB Josh Clemons has rushed for 193 yards in three games, but 87 of them came on one play. The Wildcats will likely have trouble moving the ball on the ground against the Gators, who lead the nation in rushing defense (30.7 yards per game). WR La'Rod King has 14 catches for 226 yards and has caught a touchdown pass in each game. The offensive line is ailing and allowed six sacks against Louisville. It faces a tougher task in slowing down the Gators.
Kentucky ranks 19th in scoring defense (13.3 points) and 39th in total defense (314.7), and it will be relied on to keep the Wildcats in the game against Florida. All-Conference LB Danny Trevathan is once again leading the SEC in tackles (38). S/LB Winston Guy (30 tackles) has also stood out while adjusting to a new hybrid role. Junior FS Mikie Benton has supplanted senior Mychal Bailey as a starter, a role Bailey held last season. The Wildcats have six interceptions but haven't recovered a fumble. Kentucky had a season-best four sacks against Louisville.
Gators: Florida hasn't lost to Kentucky since 1986 and goes into the game with a 24-game winning streak over the Wildcats. That's the fourth-most consecutive wins ever in a series that is played ever year, behind only Notre Dame's 41-game winning streak over Navy from 1964-2006, Nebraska's 36-game streak over Kansas from 1969-2004), and Tennessee's 26 consecutive wins over Kentucky since 1985. ... Florida scored a touchdown on its opening drive against Tennessee and has scored points on all three of its opening drives this season. ... Tony Burton enjoyed a record effort against Kentucky in last year's meeting, scoring six touchdowns in Florida's victory. ... QB John Brantley has done a strong job managing UF's offense so far, throwing for 637 yards with three TDs and two interceptions. ... LB Jelani Jenkins has dropped several potential interceptions this season, but he also has been active in Florida's mixed defensive fronts. Jenkins is tied for second on the team with 13 tackles and also has one sack and one quarterback hurry. ... LB Dee Finley will return to the lineup after serving a one-game suspension for the Tennessee game following a misdemeanor arrest for resisting a law enforcement officer.
Wildcats: Kentucky co-defensive coordinator Rick Minter knows Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis well from their time together at Notre Dame. Minter was on Norte Dame's staff for two seasons (2005-06) under Weis. ... Kentucky hasn't beaten Florida since a 10-3 win over the Gators back in 1986, and the two teams have played every year since 1967. ... The Wildcats' last win over a ranked team was last season over then No. 10 South Carolina. The 'Cats haven't beaten a ranked Florida team since a 28-9 win back in 1976. The Gators were ranked 15th then. ... With LSU and South Carolina to follow, the Wildcats are looking at the likelihood of playing three consecutive games against ranked teams with the last two on the road. ... Until their recent 11-game losing streak against Florida in Lexington, the Wildcats had won 10 of the first 16 meetings in Commonwealth Stadium.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
RB Chris Rainey -- Rainey has been the speedy, big-play cog of UF's offense so far this season, leading the Gators in rushing (306 yards) and receiving (214 pounds). He'll need to continue to find ways to work in space while opposing defenses focus their attention on him.
DL Sharrif Floyd -- Floyd's mere presence helped the UF defensive front against Tennessee, but he also was active with three tackles, a pass deflection and two quarterback hurries. The 295-pound Floyd is versatile enough to play both DE and DT.
SS Matt Elam -- Elam recorded his first career interception last week against Tennessee. The sophomore is being counted on as the leader of a secondary that includes true freshman CB Marcus Roberson and true freshman FS De'Ante Saunders.
QB Morgan Newton -- With Florida being so stingy against the run, Newton needs to throw the ball the way he did against Louisville, as opposed to struggling the way he did in Kentucky's first two games. This is a big opportunity for him to prove he won't be overmatched in games against elite SEC teams.
OLB Danny Trevathan -- Just racks up the tackles in consistent fashion and has a streak of 12 consecutive double-digit tackle games. He ranks fourth nationally in tackles per game (12.7) and has 25 career tackles for loss.
DT Mister Cobble -- Has achieved career-highs for tackles in each of the past two games, and the Wildcats are hoping he's on his way to fulfilling his vast potential. A strong performance at Florida is vital, as the Gators have controlled Kentucky in the trenches in recent seasons.
TE Jordan Reed (hamstring, questioable), OL Trip Thurman (shoulder, out), CB Jeremy Brown (knee, out).
OT Billy Joe Murphy (knee, doubtful), OG Larry Warford (ankle, day-to-day), WR Gene McCaskill (back, questionable).
Cats and Gators, a snapshot
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