The Kentucky Wildcats take to the road for its SEC opener this afternoon as the 'Cats travel to The Swamp to take on the undefeated and 13th ranked Florida Gators in a 12:21 ET pigskin showdown (television coverage provided by the SEC Network).
Unfortunately, Kentucky has not defeated the Gators since Moses wore short pants (1986 to be exact, as Glenn deftly points out), so Joker Phillips and crew will be looking to put a halt to another ridiculously long UK losing streak. And after last week's disappointing overtime loss to in-state rival WKU, the Kentucky football program is in dire need of something to feel good about.
Follow me after the jump for a quick look at what stands between Kentucky and an upset of monumental proportions.
These are not your father's pass happy Gators
Sporting the 22nd ranked run offense in the nation, second-year Gator head coach Will Muschamp has turned the once pass-centric Florida offense into a pound-the-ground attack. The evidence; the Gators average 232.7 rushing yards per game, while throwing for "only" 176.3 yards per contest (96th in the nation).
Led by 5-foot-11, 209 pound senior running back Mike Gillislee, who's darted his way to an SEC-leading 346 yards on 56 carries (6.2 yards per carry) and four touchdowns, the Gators will look to go north and south on a questionable UK run defense, controlling the clock and wearing down the 'Cats.
In Florida's last two game, versus Texas A & M and Tennessee, both road games, Gillislee motored his way to 198 yards on 32 carries (6.2 ypc). He isn't a threat out of the backfield, though, as Gillislee has caught only one pass on the year.
Jeff Driskell, UF's 6-foot-4 inch sophomore quarterback, has thrown only 52 passes in Florida's three wins (connecting on 37 of his attempts, a completion percentage of 71.2 percent). In last week's come-from-behind Gator win in Knoxville against Tennessee, Driskell was true on 14 of his 20 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns as Florida rallied in the second half to take down Derek Dooley's squad.
Driskell, while accurate when passing the ball (he hasn't thrown an interception all year), is capable of gashing a defense with his legs, something he did last week against the Vols as he ran the ball eight times for 81 yards (10.1 ypc).
Jordan Reed, a 6-foot-3, 243 pound junior tight end is Driskell's favorite target when passing the ball. Reed has caught 13 passes for 152 yards (11.7 yards per catch) and two touchdowns, as presents the UK secondary with a troubling match-up with his combination of size and speed.
Frankie Hammond is Florida's deep threat receiver, and a player UK's secondary cannot lose sight of this afternoon, as the 6-foot-0, 187 pound speed demon will get behind the Kentucky defense and find the end zone. Last week against UT, Hammond caught only one pass, but it went for 75 yards and six points. On the season, Hammond has caught six passes for 164 yards (an otherworldly 27.3 ypc) and two touchdowns.
An old UK foe, Trey Burton, who torched the 'Cats two years ago by scoring six touchdowns, is a dual-threat player in the truest sense. Both a capable pass catcher (six receptions for 66 yards) and ball runner (five carries for 92 yards and two touchdowns), the 6-foot-3, 228 pound junior can hurt defenses while lining up wide, or at the helm of the Wildcat.
The Florida offense averages 409 yards and 28.0 points per game.
The Gator defense
The Florida defense is giving up only 17.0 points per game (7th SEC), with the Gator rush defense allowing a stingy 106.0 run yards per contest and only 3.4 yards per carry. But, the Gator D has allowed five rushing touchdowns on the year, a figure tied for fourth most in the conference.
The Florida secondary allows opponents to pass for 227.7 yards per game (10th SEC), but holds opposing quarterbacks to only a 55.9 completion percentage. The Gators have given up only two passing touchdowns on the year.
With UK quarterback Maxwell Smith leading the SEC in passing yards per game with 322.0 yards per contest, the battle for control of The Swamp air will go a long way in determining whether the 'Cats are competitive, or not.
The Gator players to watch when UK has the ball are 6-foot-1, 246 pound linebacker Jonathan Bostic, who is second on the team with 18 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss. Sharrif Floyd, a 6-foot-3, 303 pound defensive lineman is seventh in the SEC with 3.5 tackles for loss.
It's Bostic and Floyd who will be most responsible for controlling UK's running attack.
In the secondary, 6-foot-0, 178 pound defensive back Marcus Roberson is the man UK's Smith will want to stay away from, as the speed demon leads the SEC with five pass breakups to go along with one interception.
Defensive back Josh Evans, a 6-foot-2, 246 pound DB leads Florida in tackles with 21, and secondary member Jaylen Watkins (6-foot-0, 187 pound junior) has recorded 4.0 pass breakups.
If the 'Cats get into a field goal kicking battle with Florida, the Gators have one of the best in Caleb Sturgis, who has made 7-of-8 attempts on the season.
So there is your quick look at the Gators. Continuing coverage of this afternoon's contest is forthcoming here at A Sea of Blue.
Thanks for reading and Go 'Cats!