The Wildcats are coming off a big 23-13 win against South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium. Florida is coming off a thrilling win against #23 Tennessee, 26-20. The Gators won on a last play hail mary caught by wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland.
Even after a clutch win for Florida, the Wildcats are looking at the possibility of beating the Gators for the first time since 1986.
The Wildcats have looked very impressive this season. They have possessed both a very balanced offense and defense. Their leader on the offensive end, quarterback Stephen Johnson, has been an elite dual threat in 2017. Johnson has thrown for 569 yards and two passing touchdowns, and he’s rushed for 132 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Running back Benny Snell Jr. has been impressive, as expected. The sophomore has rushed for 272 yards and three touchdowns. Snell was particularly spectacular last week as he rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns against the Gamecocks.
Kentucky’s defense has been the biggest surprise of all. Through three games, the Wildcats have allowed just 15.3 points per game. Now, their first three games have not been against the hardest opponents.
The Wildcats have found wins over Southern Miss, Eastern Kentucky, and just recently South Carolina. All three of these teams are not offensive powerhouses, so the Kentucky defense has not really been put to the test.
Kentucky’s run defense has been unbelievable. The Wildcats have the third-best run defense in the NCAA, and are allowing just 57.0 yards per game. The Gators have run all over the Wildcats in the past, but with Gator running back Jordan Scarlett suspended that will be a little tougher.
With Scarlett out of the lineup, the Gators have struggled to find consistency in the run game. The Gators have averaged just 89.5 yards per game on the ground in 2017. Moreover, they have just one rusher over 100 yards, and that was in big part to a 74 yard rush against Tennessee last week.
Kentucky linebacker Jordan Jones could potentially miss his second straight game. The All-SEC linebacker is the defensive leader and showed dominance in his first two games of the season.
Before going down with a shoulder injury, Jones had a stellar game against Eastern Kentucky. Jones posted eight tackles, one forced fumble, and a pass deflection. If Jordan Jones does not play, his elusiveness and versatility will be missed in Kentucky’s front seven.
Kentucky have ran the ball extremely well all year, and they will need to continue to do so against the Gators. Believe it or not, the Gators defense has scored more touchdowns than their offense. The Gators’ stout pass defense has three interceptions returned for touchdowns.
The Gator offense has only two touchdowns, both of those coming through the air. Florida might be without their top defensive back Duke Dawson after he suffered a head injury against Tennessee. This would put the weight of the pass defense on C.J. Henderson’s shoulders, who has two interceptions returned for touchdowns this season.
With the amount of players Florida has suspended and injured, Kentucky has a legitimate chance of breaking Florida’s 30-game win streak. Kentucky has shown they can compete within their conference after a win against South Carolina. The tables might finally turn in Kentucky’s favor for the first time in three decades.
Date: Saturday, September 23
Game Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky
TV: SEC Network
Announcers: Tom Hart (play-by-play), Jordan Rogers (analyst) and Cole Cubelic (sideline) will have the call.
Radio: you can listen to Tom Leach (play-by-play), Jeff Piecoro (analyst) and Dick Gabriel (sideline) call the action on the UK radio network or online at UKAthletics.com.
Online Stream: WatchESPN.