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Kentucky Football SEC Opener Preview: Florida Gators

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A look at Kentucky’s first SEC opponent, the Florida Gators.

NCAA Football: Florida at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

For 29 years the Florida Gators have claimed victory over the Wildcats. The last two years, Kentucky has made it difficult but unsuccessful in coming out with a win. Florida has beaten Kentucky 49 times in its history which is the most wins it has against an opponent. This year Kentucky will have to go to the Swamp to try to take down the streak and help reverse this one-sided match-up.

Florida

Luke Del Rio should be the starting quarterback for the Gators when Kentucky rolls in to Gainesville. Del Rio is the son of NFL coach Jack Del Rio and was an Oregon State transfer. He led the Blue team to a 44-6 beat-down against the Orange team in the spring game. He threw for 176 yards on 10 of 11 passes completed. All of this to say, he still isn’t proven as a college quarterback. He is a third-year sophomore has yet to start a game in college. That’s huge coming into this season. I’m sure the coaches are impressed by what they’ve seen in practice and scrimmages but game day is a lot different, especially at that position. Austin Appleby a Purdue transfer is in contention and would likely be the 2nd string quarterback at the beginning of the season.As for the running attack that Florida has enjoyed over the last decade or so, it will be in the hands of two names most people outside Gainesville have heard of. Mark Thompson a JUCO transfer and Sophomore Jordan Scarlett will likely be the “thunder and lightening” combo this season. Whether they will be effective will be a key point for the Gators season. They do have experience at wideout with Antonio Callaway who averaged 17.6 yards per catch and snatched up 6 touchdowns last year. That will be a big help for whoever the quarterback is on September 10th.

Defensively, Florida lost two All-Americans (cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and tackle Jonathan Bullard) and a physical stalwart at safety (Keanu Neal) to the NFL Draft along with Antonio Morrison and Alex McCalister. All these departures do not mean that Florida will weak on that side of the ball though. Jalen Tabor will be one of the nation's top cornerbacks and Senior Bryan Cox Jr. will be a force to be reckoned with this year. One young player they will look to count on is Cece Jefferson at defensive end/tackle, he will provide Florida with a strong pass rush.

Kentucky

Drew Barker will be in a similar situation as the Florida starter under center. He has started two games and played some in other games. Experience is not a strong point with Drew though and his play will be a key factor in our upcoming season. Boom Williams has had pretty decent success against Florida and even had one play that will go down as a top-10 play in the Stoops era. The screen play the had Boom going right to only be surrounded and the cutback to the left to score in overtime was one of the best touchdowns in Kentucky history.

Last year, the story was Florida’s defensive pressure and the lack thereof from Kentucky. There’s not too much telling me that this year’s story will be different. I think the biggest difference will be a consistent offense. Drew Barker is our only real significant question mark. Well, maybe that and receivers catching balls. I don’t see the score being much different than last year’s 14-9 mark.

Breakdown

Quarterback - Kentucky

Luke Del Rio is highly touted and could be amazing. The only problem is he has zero experience playing in real games in college. Drew has more experience and I think more weapons.

Running Back - Kentucky

Boom is better.

Wide Receivers - Kentucky

Antonio Callaway might be the best receiver on the field during this game. That is if he even plays for Florida this season. I’ve learned that Callaway’s attorney has said that he is under investigation for a code of conduct issue. So, our boys get the nod here!

Tight End - Kentucky

Conrad will be a big target for Barker all season long. The Gators have had the edge here almost every match-up. I think this year we have the advantage at tight end.

O-Line - Florida

I can’t imagine that our line play will be drastically more stable and the Gators line talent will fall that much.

D-Line - Florida

If you are a believer of “you win in the trenches” you may be able to predict where I am going with this games prediction.

Linebackers - Florida

Lack of experience hurts here for the Cats

Defensive Backs - Kentucky

This will be the one bright spot all year I believe. I just hope they can stay healthy and consistent.

Special Teams - Kentucky

This is always the x-factor and Kentucky may have to settle for some field goals in this game.

Prediction - Florida 17 - Kentucky 13