Will pointed out that attrition has effected Florida's depth to the point that this season's game against the Gators presents the best opportunity to end THE STREAK.To refresh your memory, here's the link to Will's article.
While I agree that the opportunity is there, I maintain that such a victory is unlikely from a historical point of view. I would feel differently if the Cats had won against Louisville last season. We could've had a major confidence boost, but could get it done. As it is, every year, we are offered blue Kool-Aid in the preseason only to wind up disappointed.....every year, world without end.
As I look back over the years, we beat Florida 10-3 in 1986 in Lexington when Jerry Claiborne was our coach. Bill Curry couldn't beat Florida. Hal Mumme couldn't beat Florida, Rich Brooks couldn't beat Florida, Joker Phillips couldn't beat Florida and in his three seasons, Mark Stoops hasn't racked up a win against Florida. We've had several close encounters over the years, but close only counts in horseshoes.
I think even the most fanatic Gator fan has to admit that Florida isn't the same team since Urban Meyer "retired" from coaching. Will Muschamp had his great defenses, but almost ignored the Gator offense. That's why he lost his job. Florida just isn't Florida without a great offense. In spite of their offensive decline, our defense hasn't been able to stop Florida's offense. Kentucky has got to learn to overcome the variables such as the referees and the clock. Kentucky is going to have to show that they actually know how to win against SEC teams on a consistent basis.
While Will didn't predict a Kentucky win, there are those that are. Rick Bozich is one, predicting that Kentucky will beat Florida and Vanderbilt. Over at Kentucky Sports Radio they are saying that the Cats will beat the Gators. Nick Roush predicts a win. Then, there's this thread over at the All Wildcat (Scout) forum. You have to admire our fans' eternal optimism.
More recently, Keith Garrett published another great article concerning hope for 2015 and beyond. Keith wisely points out that Kentucky is still in the process of building a foundation directed toward winning football.The winning may not come this year, but it is in sight. I think a reasonable fan can agree.
Just to show that Florida still has more talent than Kentucky, consider this chart without true freshmen (class of 2015):
(Note that this also shows our recruiting compared to UGA, a team that we've beaten during THE STREAK.)
As you can see, Kentucky is gaining on Florida in recruiting, but we're not there yet. Just as the chart shows, Florida has maintained a top 10 recruiting class for several years. The incoming 2015 freshman class ranked 23rd compared to Kentucky's 35th place in the Rivals Rankings.
The two schools are not really competitive for 2016 either, although we are actually doing better in the early going. Kentucky ranks 12th for the moment while Florida ranks 20th. These current rankings show that Kentucky has 16 commitments while Florida only has 11 so far. Florida's average star rating is a solid 3.00 while Kentucky's is 3.06. Both schools only have one 4 star recruits.When it is all said and done, I don't think Kentucky will beat Florida in recruiting. The reason is that there are many high quality Florida kids who are considering the Gators. See for yourself at 247Sports. There are a lot of "Warm" showings for the Gators.
Drake Jackson is Kentucky's lone Rivals 4 star while Defensive Back Chauncy Gardner is Florida's. Both schools have a majority of 3 star players (8 for Florida and 12 for Kentucky). Florida has one 2 star commitment, but Kentucky has three not rated players. One of those is JUCO WR Kayaune Ross. The other two are WR Dakota Holtzclaw and RB Asim Rose.
While Florida will be opening the season with a new coaching staff, this staff is an upgrade from Will Muschamp's staff. You can read about the new Gator staff here. You should pay particular interest to their new OC and QB coach, Doug Nussmeier.
My point is that while recruiting at Kentucky is on the rise, Florida has maintained a top 10 class up until Muschamp's final year. Kentucky did not gain on the Gators and they are unlikely to for 2016.
The components of winning football are coaching, player experience, depth and talent. Comparing the coaches is fruitless this year because Florida has a new staff and you know they will be installing a new offense. We can, however, compare the talent, experience and the depth.
I have taken the liberty of analyzing both rosters after spring practice, position by position. I didn't bother with Special Teams (PK, P, LS, etc) even though they can influence a close game.
Florida will have six Rivals 5* players when fall practice begins. Only two will be true freshmen. As you know, Kentucky has none. Matt Elam was ranked as a 247 Sports 5*, however. Here's the position by position level of talent:
Offensive Line: Florida has an average Rivals rating of 3.07 stars compared to Kentucky's 2.59.
Quarterback: Interestingly, both teams have an average rating of 3.67.
Runningback: Florida's five RB's average 3.00 and Kentucky's five average 2.60.
Wide Receiver: Florida's 13 average 3.23 while Kentucky's 13 average 2.62.
Tight End: Kentucky's Tight Ends average 3.25 compared to Florida's average of 3.20
Defensive Back: Florida's DBs average 4 stars while Kentucky's average 3.12
Defensive Line: Florida's average 3.62 compared to Kentucky's average of 2.56
Linebacker: Florida averages 3.71 while Kentucky averages 3.40
Defensive End: Florida averages 3.25 while Kentucky averages 3.00
Florida's Five Stars: True Freshman OL Martez Ivie, Junior DB Vernon Hargreaves, Sophomore DB Jalen Tabor, Senior DL Jonathon Bullard, Junior LB Alex Anzalone and Freshman DE CeCe Jefferson.
Experience and Depth:
This was determined by the number of letters a player has earned and the number of players at each position. Walk-ons haven't been counted unless they've earned a letter.
Offensive Line: Florida has one player who has earned 2 letters and three who have earned 1 letter. When the 2015 class shows up they will have 14 players at the position. Kentucky has two who have earned 3 letters, one with 2 letters and four who have earned 1 letter. Kentucky will have 17 at the position. Coaching advantage: Mike Summers, Florida.
Quarterback: Treon Harris has earned 1 letter and so has Skler Mornhinweg. Redshirt Freshman Will Grier will get his opportunity to play this year. Patrick Towles has 2 letters, Reece Phillips has one and Redshirt Freshman Drew Barker wlil probably earn one this year. Coaching Advantage: Even. Dawson and Nussmeier are both in their first year at their respective schools.
Runningback: Florida has one (Kelvin Taylor) who has 2 letters and Adam Lane who holds 1 letter. Two 4* freshmen will be added in August. Jojo Kemp has earned 2 letters, Boom Williams, Michael Horton and walk-on Junior Jeff Witthuhn has one. Sihiem King will be Kentucky's only freshman. Coaching advantage: Chad Scott. Scott has been a RB coach his whole career while Tim Skipper has been flipped between RB and defense over his career.
Wide Receiver: Florida has two players who have earned 3 letters, three who've earned 2 letters and four with 1 letter. Kentucky has one (Timmons) who's earned 2 letters and seven who've earned 1 letter. Coaching advantage: Tommy Mainord. He has more experience than Florida's Kerry Dixon.
Tight End: Florida has one player who has earned 1 letter while UK has none. Coaching advantage: Greg Nord, based solely on experience. That being said, you can't call Vince Marrow a slouch.
Defensive Back: This is Florida's strongest position. They have one with 3 letters, four with 2 letters and four who've earned 1 letter. They will have two losing their red shirts and another two freshmen coming in. Kentucky has three with 3 letters, three with 2 letters, four with 1 letter, three who will lose their red shirts and another four freshmen who will show up in August. Coaching advantage: even. Derrick Ansley and Kirk Callahan have about equal experience. Ansley doesn't have Vernon Heargraves to work with, however. Don't forget the Mark Stoops is helping Ansley with the corners.
Defensive Line: Florida has one with 3 letters, three with 2 letters and three with 1 letter. Red shirts are coming off of four and two will come in with the 2015 class. Kentucky has three players who have earned 1 letter. Red-shirt sophomore Jacob Hyde should see action and tow will be taking off their red-shirts. One true freshman wil be coming in along with JUCO Courtney Miggins. Coaching advantage: Chris Rumph. Rumph has more experience at some big time schools (Clemson, Alabama and Texas). Jimmy Brumbaugh has yet to prove himself at Kentucky.
Linebacker: This position is another strength for the Gators. They have one with 3 letters and another four with 2 letters. They have one who will take off his red-shirt and one incoming freshman. Kentucky has three with 3 letters and JUCO Ryan Flannigan who earned 1 letter last season. Kentucky has two freshmen coming in. Coaching advantage: Randy Shannon's 23 years experience and his success as a linebacker coach isn't matched by UK's double team of D.J. Eliot and Andy Buh.
Defensive End: Florida has four incoming freshmen and no players with college experience.Kentucky has one with 3 letters, two with 2 letters. Another, Ware, will take off the red-shirt. Two more freshmen will be coming in. Coaching advantage: Jimmy Brumbaugh. His development of Bud Dupre and Z'Darius Smith makes him the choice over Chris Rumph, in my opinion.
Overall coaching advantage has to go with Kentucky's Mark Stoops. Stoops has a two year advantage over Jim McElwain's staff at Florida. It isn't unusual for a first year staff to go through growing pains. Kentucky will be Florida's new staff's first SEC game. And, it is a road game for Florida. So, there is probably where opportunity lies.
Kentucky can pretty much match Florida's depth, but we are not able to match their talent. The gap of talent between the two schools is getting more narrow, but Kentucky is going to have to do better to catch Florida.
Is the Florida game a game we can win? It is, after all, a home game against a still talented Florida team, but one with a new coaching staff. Kentucky will have played Louisiana Lafayette at home and South Carolina on the road. Florida will have two home games under their belt (New Mexico State and East Carolina).
South Carolina will tell us about Kentucky's will to win. Kentucky hasn't won an SEC road game since 2009 when they beat Auburn and Vanderbilt on the road. Beating the Gamecocks could provide a mental boost for the Cats and give them the confidence they need for Florida. We can if we play inspired football. My question for our readers: Is Florida the most important game of the early season or is South Carolina? A win in Columbia could provide the incentive and confidence to beat the Swamp Lizards.