GAMEDAY: Previewing the Kentucky Wildcats' SEC opener against the Florida Gators

This AW feature gives you everything you need to know about the Kentucky Wildcats' matchup with the Florida Gators on Saturday in Gainesville. The SEC opener will find Boom Williams (above) and the Cats seeking to end a 29-year losing streak to the Gators.




TV: CBS  (Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson, Allie LaForce)



Record: 0-1 (0-0 SEC)

Ranking: Not ranked

Head Coach: Mark Stoops (Iowa 1989) 4th Year at UK (12-25, 0-3 vs Florida)

Last Game: Lost 44-35 vs. Southern Miss


Record: 1-0 (0-0 SEC)

Ranking: Not ranked

Head Coach: Jim McElwain (E. Washington 1984) 2nd Year at Florida (11-4, 1-0 vs UK)

Last Game: Won 24-7 vs. UMass


Series Record: Florida leads 49-17

In Gainesville: Florida leads 27-4

Last Meeting: Florida won 14-9 in Lexington in 2015

Last UK Win: 10-3 in Lexington, November 1986



When Kentucky has the ball… The Cats must try to regain the form that made them look extremely impressive in the first half of the opener against Southern Miss when they put 35 points on the board. Is that the real offense under new coordinator Eddie Gran or is it the one that was blanked in the second half of one of the most puzzling UK losses in recent memory? Probably somewhere in between, which is what it will take, at the very least, to have a shot at beating the Gators. Florida is typically good on the defensive side of the ball with elite athletes at each position group. DL Bryan Cox Jr. (No. 94, 18.5 career TFL), LB Jarrad Davis (No. 40, 154 career tackles) and DB Teez Tabor (No. 31, 5 career INT) are three of the standouts to watch. Kentucky quarterback Drew Barker should expect more pressure off the edges than he saw against Southern Miss, which will put a premium on making good decisions and getting the ball out quickly. Don't anticipate as many downfield shots as we saw in the opener, rather getting it to the receivers on shorter routes and letting them use their explosiveness to rack up yards after the catch. Junior wideout Garrett Johnson, a Florida native, had a big effort the last time the Cats were in Gainesville, hauling in six passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Kentucky needs to run the ball more effectively than it did last week in order to keep its struggling defense on the sideline as much as possible.

When Florida has the ball…  After getting carved up for 44 points and 520 yards of total offense by Southern Miss, the Kentucky defense is licking its wounds heading into this matchup. Florida had a heavy emphasis on the pass in its opener, and new starter Luke Del Rio (No. 14, 6-1, 211 Sophomore) did a nice job by completing 29 of 44 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns, but it would be somewhat surprising if the Gators aired it out much against UK after watching last week's film. If Florida chooses to attack with the run, the Cats will have their hands full with Mark Thompson (No. 24, 6-2, 237, Junior) who was one of the nation's top juco signees this year. He only had 22 yards on six carries against UMass, but could be a bigger factor this week. Mark Stoops has stressed to his unit all week the need to limit "aggravating yards" on first and second down in order to stay out of third-and-short situations that killed them against Southern Miss. Florida wide receivers Brandon Powell (No. 4, 7 catches, 73 yards, 1 TD last week) and Antonio Callaway (No. 81, 8 catches, 72 yards, 1 TD last week) should be entertaining matchups for UK corners Chris Westry and Derrick Baity when the Gators put the ball in the air.



Senior wide receiver Ryan Timmons needs just 12 yards to become the 26th player in school history to reach 1,000 career receiving yards.



Kentucky will be playing for the 12th time on Sept. 10 in program history. The Cats own an impressive 10-1 record on this date. UK first played on Sept. 10 in 1977, defeating North Carolina 10-7 at Commonwealth Stadium. UK last played on this date in 2011, a 27-13 win over Central Michigan. The win was highlighted by an 87-yard touchdown run from Josh Clemons and a shutout in the second half by the UK defense with current Chicago Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan recording a game-high 13 tackles. 



  • Kentucky has won 18 consecutive Game 2s. The last time the Cats lost their second game of the season was 1997 against Mississippi State, a 35-27 loss in Starkville. Last year, UK defeated South Carolina 26-22 in the second game at Columbia.
  • The Cats have 14 players on their roster from the Sunshine State. 
  • Sophomore linebacker Jordan Jones had a career-high 19 tackles for the UK defense last week. It was the highest total in the SEC.
  • Florida has held UMass to 17 percent on third-down conversions last week.
  • The Gators' Eddy Pineiro made three field goals of 40-plus yards last week, the first UF kicker since 2003 to do that in a game.
  • The Florida staff has two former UK assistants: offensive line coach Mike Summers and special teams coordinator Greg Nord.

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