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College Football: Kentucky Wildcats Versus Florida Gators Preview

A preview of the game using the F/+ system.

Andy Lyons

On Saturday Kentucky faces its biggest challenge yet as it travels to Gainesville to take on a seemingly improved Florida team. Kentucky's football team looks to leave the Swamp with a victory which would end a near three decade long streak, and officially announce the arrival of the Mark Stoops regime on the field forget the recruiting trail. Knocking off the favored Gators will be no easy task, but could the adjusted data have some interesting information for UK fans to pay attention to?

Importantly, these ratings are taking into account performances from the first two weeks and preseason data, so a grain of salt is required. As the season progresses, and more data is accumulated, the numbers should gain more accuracy.

A reminder: F/+ ratings combine the S&P+ rankings and the FEI rankings. This is how those ratings are described:

The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) considers each of the nearly 20,000 possessions every season in major college football. All drives are filtered to eliminate first-half clock-kills and end-of-game garbage drives and scores. A scoring rate analysis of the remaining possessions then determines the baseline possession expectations against which each team is measured. A team is rewarded for playing well against good teams - win or lose; and is punished more severely for playing poorly against bad teams than it is rewarded for playing well against bad teams.

The S&P+ Ratings are a college football ratings system derived from both play-by-play and drive data from all 800+ of a season's FBS college football games (and 140,000+ plays). There are four key components to the S&P+

If interested, here is a glossary that might be of additional use.

Lastly, keep in mind that the F/+ percentage ratings measure every team against a perfectly average team. So, if the F/+ rating of a team is 0% that team is considered perfectly average by this rating system.

Kentucky versus Florida




F/+ (Overall)

66 (-1.4%)

31 (10.1%)

S&P+ Rk (Offense)

59 (98.3)

54 (100.5)

S&P+ Rk (Defense)

62 (99.6)

32 (110.5)

FEI Rk (Overall)

77 (-0.052)

34 (0.127)

FEI Game Projection


25-11 (Florida)


According to the F/+ ratings, Kentucky is the underdog against Florida, and the Vegas line of UF -17 is slightly higher than the FEI Game Projection (though they are equal if factoring in the 3 points Vegas customarily grants home teams). UF has a slight advantage offensively, and a sizeable advantage defensively, according to the S&P+ rankings. Maybe if we knew who won when Florida's offense scrimmaged their defense in their fall camp we might be able to predict the winner given UF and UK's similar offensive ratings.

For comparison's sake, The Ohio offense that scored 3 points against UK is currently ranked 105th (81.3), and its defense that held UK to 20 points is ranked 71st (97.9).

It's hard to know what to make of Florida at this juncture since they've only played one game and it was against a poor team. It's safe to assume that the defense will be above average against both UK's aerial and ground attacks, and the UF offense will be improved, but it's unknown to what degree. Florida will likely have a higher ceiling than UK due to superior talent across the board too. Given the small sample size against a bad opponent, and a new offensive scheme yet to be displayed against a SEC opponent, that's about all that can fairly be said about Florida at the moment. They are a big unknown with a high ceiling.

UK actually dropped several spots in the rankings this week, probably because it left 6-10 points on the field. Meanwhile, Ohio was bumped up a few notches. This serves as a compliment to UK as losing to an average team or better increases a losing team's ratings.

It will be interesting to see how UK's 62nd ranked defense matches up against UF's 54th ranked offense. UF will spread the field, and try to connect on short passes while biding their time for a big play. This probably means that UK will spend a lot of the day in nickel and dime coverage, but will also mix in blitz packages to disrupt Jeff Driskel's timing.

Tackling in space will be crucial, particularly when blitzes have been called. In my mind, UK's secondary was going to be the strength of the defense this season and here's their first challenge. They so far have been effective at creating turnovers, and must continue to create more on Saturday, and points would be even better.

The defensive line and linebacker units both showed improvement between the UT-Martin and Ohio games.  Alligator Army has expressed a concern with the interior of the Gator offensive line. If UK can shut down the run and push the pocket back into Jeff Driskel's face on passing downs that could help coverage. Unfortunately, Driskel will operate out of shot-gun and quick passes will mitigate UK's pass rush. Stopping the run is still required and gap integrity is a must.

UK's offense will be tested by Florida's defense maybe as much as it will all season. UK's inability to consistently move the ball in short yardage situation has been troublesome, and not having starting guard Zach West available may hurt things further. Defensive end Dante Fowler will be a handful for either tackles Darrian Miller or Jordan Swindle, and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves is possibly the best defensive back in the country. UK will be challenged to consistently move the ball, and will require explosive plays to move the chains.

I believe explosive plays are probable given my confidence in Braylon Heard, Javess Blue, Ryan Timmons, and yes, Jojo Kemp's abilities. Florida's defense will play man coverage and if UK's receivers can get separation, or if there are coverage breakdowns, there's the potential for big plays when there haven't been in the past due to the quality of athletes.

Negative plays against the UF defense could very likely seal the fate of UK's offense. The margin of error will be razor thin. Patrick Towles has yet to throw an interception, but this will be his first big start on the road. The windows he threw into against UT-Martin and Ohio will be much smaller against Florida. Towles seems due for an interception, and many other inexperienced quarterbacks have thrown at least one during their first visit into The Swamp.


The nature of UF's current record makes any attempt to specifically gauge strengths and weaknesses a bit dishonest. UK also hasn't played a team of true substance yet which further complicates the matter. In short, I don't know enough to confidently predict a score, but tend to believe Florida will score 27-34 points while UK will score between 10-17 points. I think a generally competitive game will appear less so due to UK's offense committing turnovers that either result in points or great field position for UF's offense.


It's rarely the case, but the score holds less meaning to me for this one game. We know UK has injected immediate talent in players like AJ Stamps and Braylon Heard. We know that UK has recruited well signing Ryan Timmons and Matt Elam among others. We also know the program is developing Joker's players to levels they weren't previously like Mike Douglas, Fred Tiller, and Jordan Swindle among others.  Finally, we now this team blocks, tackles, throws, and catches better than any recent UK team.

What we don't yet know is how the 2014 team responds to man-the-hatches-everything-has-gone-to-hell-and-nothing-works adversity.

I want to see the team take some body blows Saturday, because more than the final score, I want to see how they respond. Will they respond in kind with their own hay-makers, or will they go gentle into that sticky Florida night? The answer to that question will play a bigger role for the rest of the season than whatever the scoreboard reads as the legion of jorts departs The Swamp.