After this past weekend, it seems more obvious than ever that the SEC East is up for grabs. That makes this weekend’s match-up in Lexington even more important, as the Florida Gators come into town to take on the surging Kentucky Wildcats for first place in the division.
However, both teams may be missing key pieces that have played major roles in their team's success. Linebacker Jordan Jones of Kentucky and Florida defensive back Duke Dawson seem unlikely to suit up this weekend, and that is big news for both defensive units.
Coach Stoops says LB Jordan Jones remains doubtful for this week's game with an injury.— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) September 18, 2017
Jones was sidelined in Kentucky’s big win over South Carolina in week 3 due to a collarbone injury, and Coach Mark Stoops said he remains doubtful for this week. The Wildcats’ leading tackler from a year ago, Jones’ motor and attitude is often as important to the Kentucky defense as his production. But despite missing almost a game and a half due to injury, he is still tied for fourth on the team in tackles.
Jones’ status is so doubtful that Mark Stoops left him off of the depth chart completely this week. Whether or not the depth chart is official, that certainly does not look good.
With so many suspensions and injuries, Dawson’s role for Florida has been just as important to the Gators as Jones’ is to Kentucky. He has two interceptions already this season, one of which he returned for a touchdown. When you add that to his nine tackles and two pass deflections, you can see how much of an impact he has made early in the season for Florida.
Coach Jim McElwain says that Dawson is highly questionable for Saturday with a head injury. “With Duke being down, it’s going to truly put the onus on those young guys,” McElwain said in his weekly press conference.
However, Dawson does not seem to agree with his coach’s assessment.
Everything is fine, I will be playing this upcoming Saturday against UK .— Duke Dawson Jr. (@7upya__) September 18, 2017
Regardless of whether or not Dawson plays, Florida has seven players that are currently suspended for off-field issues, including star receiver Antonio Callaway. There is a chance they could play, but all of them have allegedly been banned from team activities during the investigation so you would have to question whether or not they would be game-ready. Starting linebacker Kylan Johnson (hamstring) and wide receiver James Robinson (heart issues) are also doubtful for Saturday.
In such a high-stakes game, it is unfortunate that injuries may be such a big factor this weekend. But with Eli Brown (and the entire defense) playing so well against South Carolina in Jones’ absence on Saturday, Kentucky fans still have to feel good about their chances. Right?
Do you think Kentucky will break the 30 year streak of losing to Florida on Saturday?