Florida at Kentucky -- Pre-game Statistical Breakdown

Tonight's game against the Florida Gators represents the second time in three years that Kentucky has faced the #1 team in the nation in Commonwealth Stadium.  That is a testament to just how tough the SEC has been lately, and no matter what the outcome of tonight's game, it is a testament to the quality of football we have gotten used to in the SEC.

Some fun (and not so fun) facts about tonight's game, before we get into the hard-core stats:

  • Series history:  Florida leads 42-17.
  • Cumulative score in the last 5 meetings:  Florida:  203  UK:  80
  • UK leads the nation in QB sacks allowed, and has not allowed one this year.
  • Randall Cobb leads the SEC and is tied for 23rd in the nation in receptions per game.
  • Trevard Lindley is second in the nation in passes defended.
  • This is the 60th meeting between UK and Florida.
  • Joker Phillips and Urban Meyer were both offensive coordinators at Notre Dame.
  • Lones Seiber needs one point to tie Joey Worley for the UK scoring record.
  • Trevard Lindley needs one INT to tie for second on UK's all-time list.
  • Derrick Locke needs 43 yards to reach a career 1000 yard milestone.
  • Kentucky is 3-8 all time against #1 ranked teams.
  • UK is 38-172-5 against ranked opponents.
  • Rich Brooks is currently 5th all-time in wins at UK.
  • Derrick Locke ranks 9th nationally in all-purpose yards.

More after the jump.

The statistical comparison:

Team Statistics Kentucky Opponents Florida Opponents
Scoring: Points/Game 36.5 13.5 47.0 7.3
Scoring: Games - Points 2 - 73 2 - 27 3 - 141 3 - 22
First Downs: Total 47 29 78 39
First Downs: Rushing - Passing - By Penalty 24 - 20 - 3 12 - 14 - 3 43 - 33 - 2 17 - 19 - 3
Rushing: Yards / Attempt 5.04 3.15 7.06 3.03
Rushing: Attempts - Yards - TD 82 - 413 - 5 62 - 195 - 1 123 - 868 - 10 94 - 285 - 1
Passing: Rating 141.13 94.87 175.27 77.73
Passing: Yards 421 371 742 387
Passing: Attempts - Completions - Interceptions - TD 59 - 40 - 1 - 3 63 - 28 - 3 - 2 82 - 57 - 1 - 8 92 - 47 - 4 - 0
Total Offense: Yards / Play 5.9 4.5 7.9 3.6
Total Offense: Plays - Yards 141 - 834 125 - 566 205 - 1610 186 - 672
Punt Returns: Yards / Return 7.60 9.33 3.40 0.00
Punt Returns: Returns - Yards - TD 5 - 38 - 0 3 - 28 - 0 10 - 34 - 0 1 - 0 - 0
Kickoff Returns: Yards / Return 42.33 22.25 38.13 16.82
Kickoff Returns: Returns - Yards - TD 6 - 254 - 1 12 - 267 - 0 8 - 305 - 1 22 - 370 - 0
Punting: Yards / Punt 40.14 38.00 41.50 40.43
Punting: Punts - Yards 7 - 281 12 - 456 6 - 249 21 - 849
Interceptions: Returns - Yards - TD 3 - 84 - 1 1 - 0 - 0 4 - 0 - 0 1 - 0 - 0
Fumbles: Number - Lost 4 - 2 2 - 1 7 - 4 5 - 2
Penalties: Number - Yards 11 - 115 11 - 75 22 - 155 15 - 131
Time of Possession / Game 31:56.50 28:03.50 28:56.33 31:03.67
3rd Down Conversions: Conversion % 58.62% 34.38% 66.67% 31.25%
3rd Down Conversions: Attempts - Conversions 29 - 17 32 - 11 36 - 24 48 - 15
4th Down Conversions: Conversion % 50% 50% 50% 20%
4th Down Conversions: Attempts - Conversions 2 - 1 2 - 1 2 - 1 5 - 1
Red Zone: Success % 77.78% 57.14% 87.5% 66.67%
Red Zone: Attempts - Scores 9 - 7 7 - 4 16 - 14 6 - 4
Field Goals: Success % 50% 50% 75% 100%
Field Goals: Attempts - Made 2 - 1 4 - 2 4 - 3 5 - 5
PAT Kicking: Success % 100% 100% 94.7% 100%
PAT Kicking: Attempts - Made 10 - 10 3 - 3 19 - 18 1 - 1
2-Point Conversions: Success % - - - -
2-Point Conversions: Attempts - Made 0 - 0 0 - 0 0 - 0 0 - 0

I've highlighted the items that I think are significant, the light blue for UK and the light orange for the Gators.

Analysis

For UK to beat Florida would be a major upset, no matter what the condition of the team vis-a-vis the flu.  Florida is the fastest team in the nation, having a number of athletes on their team with world-class speed -- Jeffrey Demps immediately comes to mind.  They also have a presumptive Heisman trophy candidate in Tim Tebow, which would be his second.  Florida also has one of the best linebackers in the nation in Brandon Spikes, and a very solid defense all around.

Kentucky, on the other hand, has a few of these things -- one of the best linebackers in the SEC in Micah Johnson, arguably the best cover corner in the league and one of the best in America, and the most experience offensive line in the SEC.

Florida offense vs. Kentucky defense.

The Florida offense is one of the most high-powered in the nation.  Florida attempts to isolate athletes in space by using a variation of the Spread Option offense, and because their athletes are so explosive, they are deadly when they achieve that objective.  Florida's offense did not perform particularly well against Tennessee's defense, but they performed well enough to win the game, and Tennessee's defense is very stout.

To succeed today, Florida's offense must:

  • Get the ball to Demps early and often, particularly on the pass;
  • Keep Tebow protected in the pocket so he can work his magic, either with his feet or with his arm;
  • Avoid throwing the ball at Trevard Lindley;
  • Let Chris Rainey run the ball and force UK to stop him;
  • Riley Cooper and Aaron Hernandez are averaging 16 and 12 yards/reception respectively.  Tennessee held them down a bit, but can Kentucky?

This will be a big test for the UK defense.  Against the only BCS team it has faced so far, Kentucky's defense was anything but impressive.  Of course, the three turnovers in a row that kept the defense on the field for the entire third quarter of the Louisville game does not really give us a fair read, but it is safe to say that the biggest concern.  Kentucky's biggest concern right now is pressure from the defensive line -- they were able to get very little on Louisville's mobile quarterback, and that is not an encouraging fact when facing the much more accomplished and highly mobile Tim Tebow.

To succeed today, Kentucky's defense must:

  • Force Tebow to throw the ball on the run;
  • Contain Tebow and Demps on the outside;
  • Minimize the yards after reception.  Florida killed UK last year with yards after the catch;
  • Make solid tackles, particularly on Demps and Tebow.
  • Take chances.  Kentucky cannot beat Florida by playing conservative, their athletes are too good.

Kentucky offense vs. Florida defense

Kentucky's offense is clearly better than it was last year with a more mature Mike Hartline and Randall Cobb, the addition of Chris Matthews at wide receiver and the return of the dangerous Derrick Locke.  Kentucky has enough offensive weapons to do some damage against Florida, and if it can manage to keep the defense on the field with long drives that result in scores, UK could threaten Florida if they are not having a great offensive game.

To succeed today, Kentucky's offense must:

  • Get the ball to Randall Cobb early and often;
  • Continue to give Hartline time;
  • Throw the ball downfield some;
  • Establish a running game to keep Florida from teeing off on Hartline;
  • Avoid third and long.

Florida's defense is a very strong unit, but interestingly enough is currently ranked only 3 spots above Kentucky in the run.  Florida has not been particularly strong against the running game this year, and with a healthy Derrick Locke and Alfonso Smith, UK could do some damage by reeling off a few good gains.  Brandon Spikes, Florida's All-American candidate linebacker, will probably be able to prevent big gains over the ground.

To succeed today, Florida's defense must:

  • Deny Randall Cobb the ball wherever possible, even double-team him at WR;
  • Force UK to throw the ball underneath, where Florida's speed can be used most effectively;
  • Keep UK from running the ball effectively;
  • Find a way to get some pressure on Hartline.

Summary

Overall, Florida is deeper and more talented than Kentucky at most positions, but not ridiculously so at most of them.  UK has seriously upgraded its talent overall, and even though Florida will be prohibitive favorites to win, it won't take much in the way of missteps of poor play on the part of the Gators to turn this into a football game.  Urban Meyer knows this well, so he will not be cocky or careless against the Wildcats, and will likely force Kentucky to take most of the chances.

Obviously, if UK collapses on special teams like they did last year, or allow too many early big plays, they will fold like a house of cards versus the Gators' superior speed and talent.  But if UK can hold in tight for the first quarter or so, the game could get interesting real fast.  The Gators have a number of players who are feeling ill, and forcing sick guys to play in a competitive football game would give UK a shot at winning.  The Gators will want to jump on the 'Cats early, and try to get at least a 21-point cushion before halftime.  That way, they can play safe and smart, and avoid exhausting their ailing players.

Predicted score:  Florida 38, UK 24

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