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Kentucky Wildcats vs Florida Gators Roundtable and Predictions

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Will the Wildcats break the streak? Our staff offers their predictions.

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

The Kentucky Wildcats and Florida Gators will face off Saturday night with each team looking to start their season 2-0, but the bigger (and obvious) storyline is the 31-game winning streak the Gators hold over the Wildcats.

Mark Stoops has been so very close to breaking the streak during his tenure at Kentucky, from last year’s debacle to the play-clock game in Gainesville four years ago.

Is this the year Kentucky finally breaks the streak?

We gathered the staff to offer up their thoughts on Saturday night’s showdown.

Zac Oakes

Sadly, I think the streak lives on and Kentucky falls just short again this year against the Gators, and fans are left thinking about the “what ifs” for another year.

On paper, there isn’t a large talent discrepancy and Kentucky has been on the verge of snapping this streak at least twice in the last four years, but have painfully fallen just short. I’m expecting another close game this year, but the Gators find a way to escape in The Swamp.

Terry Wilson will be going into one of the tougher environments in college football for the first time in his collegiate career, and it’s hard to see those nerves he had in the first game magically disappear.

I really like Terry, and have a lot of confidence in him being the guy for Kentucky moving forward, but this will be an extremely difficult situation against a Florida defense that possesses a lot of speed up front and love to blitz early and often, rattling quarterbacks from the start.

That’s not to say Kentucky can’t win this game. It’s not hard to envision a scenario in which Kentucky lands the first punch and is able to knock the Gators off their rhythm early and ride the rushing attack of Snell, Rose, and Wilson to dominate time of possession and come away with a big-time victory.

But I’ve predicted Kentucky to win this game two of the last three years, and seeing as the Wildcats haven’t beaten the Gators in my entire lifetime, it’s hard to pick a victory until it happens.

Final Score: Florida 20, Kentucky 17

Jason Marcum

Kentucky’s window to end the Florida streak may be closing if they can’t get it done this week. With Dan Mullen now at the helm in Gainesville, it’s hard to not see Florida getting back to national prominence rather quickly, so Kentucky needs to strike while his program is still in a transition phase.

This also may go down as one of the best senior classes Kentucky has had in quite some time. Between CJ Conrad, Josh Allen, Jordan Jones, Derrick Baity, Mike Edwards, Darius West and Dorian Baker, this is easily one of the most talented and deepest group of seniors this program has had since the Andre Woodson/Wesley Woodyard/Stevie Johnson/Jacob Tamme team.

Oh, and don’t forget about Benny Snell, who probably is going to leave for the pros if he has a good season, so while Florida may still be in a transition phase next year, Kentucky may be in an even bigger one with so many key departures next offseason.

So yeah, this feels like a game Kentucky needs to win, or else this streak could go on for many more years.

Saying that, when it comes to this series, the best bet is on Kentucky losing in the most frustratingly painful way possible. The quarterback play for Kentucky is also too scary for me to pick Kentucky to win a road game vs. a quality opponent.

I do think Kentucky covers the spread as a two-touchdown underdog and has a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter, but a late interception by Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (of course) keeps the streak alive for another year.

Final Score: Florida 27, Kentucky 20.

Adam Haste

Well, as we all know, Kentucky’s history against the Gators is atrocious. The streak is what we think about every year when the football season rolls around and it haunts us. Kentucky has lost this game is every way imaginable, and it never gets easier to handle.

Going into this year’s edition of “will Kentucky end the streak,” I am skeptical of the Cats chances seeing that we have an issue at the most important position on the field, the QB.

In my opinion, if the Cats want to end the streak, Terry Wilson must perform at a high level, because the dual-threat dynamic that he brings to the table will be huge in our chances.

In Week 1, Florida showed that they may be vulnerable in the run game as they allowed a not so stellar Charleston Southern team to rush for 222 yards, though a lot of it did come in the second half when the game was decided. Still, that is encouraging since Kentucky has the best back in the SEC in Benny Snell and what looks to be a much improved and much-needed backup in AJ Rose.

However, I ultimately believe that with the game in the swamp, Kentucky will fall short once again.

Final Score: Florida 24, Kentucky 17.

Jamie Boggs

Yes, Kentucky has a stronger roster than they did a year ago. The defense is more experienced, the offensive line is deeper, and the emergence of AJ Rose adds a new element to the offense.

And yes, Kentucky absolutely gave Florida the game last season on multiple occasions. The Wildcats should have won that game. So if they are even better this year, does that mean they should be expected to win Saturday’s match-up?

Unfortunately, Florida is also better. Dan Mullen is a huge coaching improvement, and even in his first year you have to think he can do more with their roster than Jim McElwain did. The Gators could potentially take a major step forward, and they took care of business in their opening game whereas it took the Wildcats a while to get their footing.

On paper, this should be a close game. But there are two factors that make it tough to predict: the Swamp and Terry Wilson.

Kentucky had the Gators’ number last year, but that was in Lexington. Playing on the road in the SEC is tough, especially in Gainesville. That is a real home field advantage sometimes worth more than the 3 points Vegas gives for it.

I know this is a lot of pressure, but I think this game comes town to Terry Wilson’s play. If he is the guy we saw last week, Kentucky will be in for a long night. If he shows improvement by taking better care of the ball and making some plays, it should be a close game.

In order for the Wildcats to win, he has to be exceptional. It needs to be the type of game where he “arrives” and brings in a new era of Kentucky football.

Unfortunately, I have no evidence to believe that will be the case.

Final Score: Florida 34, Kentucky 24.

Nick Wheatley

31 in a row. It should have ended last year had Kentucky covered a receiver. It should have ended in 2014 had the refs noticed the play clock hit 0. And it could have happened in 2015 if Dorian Baker had not dropped 2 touchdown passes. The list goes on and on.

Is it finally time for Kentucky to end the streak? In my 23 years of life, I have yet to see the Cats beat the Gators. Every year I say “this is the year” only to be disappointed all over again.

Kentucky has to run all over the Gators to have any chance in this one. And they need Terry “Touchdown” and/or Gunnar Hoak to play mistake-free football. One mistake can be the difference. They don’t have to put up gaudy numbers, but the Kentucky QBs have to play disciplined and limit turnovers. And Kentucky simply cannot settle for field goals in the red zone.

So, will Kentucky end the streak? The Cats have lost by less than a touchdown in 3 of the last 4 years. They aren’t getting blown out. At some point, the streak has to end. Florida has been playing with fire for years now, and one day, it’s going to burn them.

Sadly, however, Saturday won’t be that day. Kentucky will turn the ball over too many times and not capitalize on red-zone opportunities. The streak will extend to 32.

Final Score: Florida 31, Kentucky 20

Drew Koch

Kentucky has been so close of late. Last season, they lost at home by only 1 point. The Cats have lost 3 of the last 4 games against Florida by less than a touchdown. Unfortunately, Cats fans, I think we’re going to see another loss at the hands of the Gators.

Neither the Wildcats nor the Gators played a Power 5 FBS opponent in their opener. The Cats, after a slow start, took care of Central Michigan, and the Gators boat raced the Charleston Southern Buccaneers.

If Kentucky’s young quarterbacks can handle the intense pressure of playing in The Swamp and not turn the ball over, then the Wildcats have a chance. I just need to see Kentucky prove it before I believe that this year’s team is ready for a big season. The defense is good enough. The Cats have the best running back tandem in the SEC.

But, I’m not ready to pick UK to end the streak on the road with a young quarterback. I hope they prove me wrong.

Final Score: Florida 28, Kentucky 24.

Alec Usleaman

1986. That was the last year that the Kentucky football team beat Florida. To put that into a better perspective, I am 23 years old, born in 1995, and I have never seen the Wildcats beat the Gators in football.

Truthfully, I don’t think that this is the year that changes either.

Week 1 gave us all we really needed to know about who will win this Week 2 match-up. In the first half, Kentucky had four turnovers, and the mediocre QB play was matched only by the play of the o-line. On top of that, Florida’s defensive front is tremendous and will do a lot more damage than CMU did.

Benny Snell is the SEC’s best running back, and pairing him up with QB Terry Wilson and fellow RB AJ Rose makes them a force to be reckoned with. The only way the Wildcats win this game would be by matching their 299-yard rushing yards they put up against CMU, and I don’t believe we will be seeing that on Saturday.

Final Score: Florida 28, Kentucky 17

Drew Brown

One game into this season it’s difficult to be as optimistic as I was prior to Saturday’s home opener against Central Michigan. The defense played tremendous at times, while the offensive execution left much to be desired. The Cats didn’t show the best versions of themselves but did still manage to showcase their talent in the backfield.

Everybody knows that Benny Snell can provide consistent production, so adding AJ Rose to the mix could really take some pressure off the quarterback. Terry Wilson will obviously have to improve on all fronts in his first ever game against an SEC defense.

Kentucky will have to win the turnover battle if they are going to stay competitive against a Gator team that had no trouble putting up 51 points in the first 3 quarters in their home opener against Charleston Southern.

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for an SEC night game will be a madhouse. For that reason, and 31 years of history, my prediction is a big Gators win.

Final Score: Florida 45, Kentucky 28.

Jake Harris

Sadly, with Florida’s hiring of Dan Mullen, it feels like UK may not be ending the streak for the foreseeable future. Florida won’t be relying solely on their defense anymore with Mullen at the helm. They absolutely stomped Charleston Southern last week, 53-6. They even ran a jump pass play as a homage to Tim Tebow.

UK’s had some rather traumatic losses to Florida in recent memory, none of them being worse than last year. This year, UK heads down to The Swamp as a 15 point underdog. This may be their last best chance to win before Mullen starts bringing in the players he wants. Just because we want the streak to end really bad, doesn’t mean it’s going too though.

I will note that my predictions usually end horribly wrong, so hopefully this works in UK’s favor.

Final Score: Florida 35, Kentucky 17.

Shane Shackleford

Every fiber of my being wants me to say that the 31 game losing streak comes to an end Saturday as the Kentucky Wildcats defeat the Florida Gators in the Swamp.

The window of the Cats winning over the Gators is definitely open. Coach Mark Stoops has done an awesome job bringing in talent that can pull this victory off. I’ve always felt to win in the SEC you need three things: a power running game, the ability to stop the run, and great special teams play.

The Cats showed flashes of all three against Central Michigan last Saturday. UK had two backs rush for 100 yards en route to a 299 yard performance running the ball. The Cat defense did its part as well, limiting the Chippewas to under 3 yards per carry, and the Cats special teams were sensational at flipping the field in the punting game and kicking game as well.

With all of this good, I’m still hesitant to pick the Cats to win Saturday. I worry about Terry Wilson’s first time in the Swamp. Will he be able to execute in a very hostile environment on the road? I worry that the Cats fumbles on Saturday could bleed over to this Saturday. If this happens, Florida could make them pay where CMU couldn’t. Last I worry about history itself. The last time UK won over Florida I was purchasing a cassette of Beastie Boys iconic “Licensed To Ill” in 1986. Could the stigma of history weigh heavy on the Cats mind?

With all that said, I feel like if the Cats are ever going to pull off the upset of Florida it has to happen soon. However, I don’t think it happens this Saturday. The streak unfortunately goes to 32

Final Score: Florida 31. Kentucky 23.

John Cox

In its season opener, Florida beat the snot out of an FCS team that went 6-5 last season. Apparently, that’s enough to get you into the Top 25 these days. I’d argue Kentucky’s come-from-behind win against a solid MAC team that went to a bowl game a season ago was significantly more impressive.

The Gators went 4-7 last season. Although Florida got the best of Kentucky in 2017, we all know who looked to be the better team in that game (minus a couple costly defensive errors). But the Gators still finished behind the Cats in the SEC East standings last year.

Florida returns a lot of starters and is improved, but the same can be said about Kentucky. This will be a defensive battle. If the Cats come out scared and get rattled early, they’ll get whooped just like their last visit to Gainesville.

If Kentucky takes care of the football and stays disciplined on defense, they have a legitimate shot. The streak can’t last forever.

#31andDONE

James Streble

Wildcat players and coaches once again find themselves answering questions about a 31-game winning streak held by the Florida Gators. It’s the longest in the country, and it’s a punchline for rival fanbases. With a new head coach in Florida, the Cats find themselves with an opportunity to rewrite history on Saturday.

But can they do it?

Look, I want to believe that they can. Every year, I build myself up and convince myself that the Wildcats will finally beat Florida. That buildup reached crescendo last season when Florida came into a night game at Kroger Field.

Kentucky had the better roster and the crowd was electric. Early in the game, the Cats were dominant in every facet and the Gators looked outmatched. We had the attention of the country and it looked like the streak was going down.

And then disaster struck. A new quarterback was inserted. Wide receivers were left uncovered by the defense. Twice. And it was the same old story: dejection, anger, disappointment, and embarrassment.

I still haven’t gotten over that loss. That’s why I’m not picking Kentucky to win. I think Kentucky can compete with Florida in just about every position. I also think Kentucky is better than Florida at multiple positions.

But until the Cats can prove to me that they can win, I just can’t go with them.

John Morgan Francis

Last fall, the Kentucky Wildcats had one of the worst fourth quarter debacles in the history of their football program. Tied with the Florida Gators at halftime, Kentucky dominated the third quarter by outscoring the Gators, 10-0.

Netting a field goal early in the final quarter gave the Wildcats a 13-point lead and their best chance at ending “The Streak” in years.

However, in heartbreaking fashion, the Gators scored two touchdowns in the final eight minutes to keep “The Streak” alive.

This year, the Wildcats will make their long-awaited trip to Gainesville and enter “The Swamp” as two-touchdown underdogs.

Starting with two inexperienced quarterbacks and an injured left tackle, there are many reasons to think Kentucky will take their 32nd straight loss.

However, AJ Rose and Benny Snell, along with the best defense Mark Stoops has ever put on the field, give several reasons to think Kentucky will pull off the upset.

Many teams go to The Swamp and come back with a loss. This Saturday, though, don’t be surprised if the Wildcats come back with their second win of the season.

Final Score: Kentucky 24, Florida 20

Aaron Gershon

This is about as good a chance for Kentucky to beat Florida as they have had over the long 31-year streak of failure against the Gators. Kentucky has a defense full of experience and playmakers and an offense with an elite running back.

Florida is coming off a losing season, and despite a great performance in Week 1, still is a long ways away from being a dominant program again. Despite only allowing six points to Charleston Southern a week ago, they did give up 70 plus rushing yards to two different rushers.

That could bode well for Kentucky who had Benny Snell and A.J. Rose who both went over 100 last week. The concern for Kentucky is the quarterback play. The team saw both their quarterbacks last week and despite some good things both Terry Wilson and Gunnar Hoak are works in progress.

Florida’s secondary is loaded, and the loud Florida crowd is going to make it hard for the quarterbacks to communicate. On the flip side of the ball, Feleipe Franks looked much improved for Florida last week.

The Kentucky secondary, however, is full of experience and the defense as a whole did an outstanding job with a solid quarterback in Tony Poljan last week. The team also shut down Jonathan Ward of CMU, who may be as good of a running back as any Florida has on their roster.

This game won’t be a 15-point game like the spread says for Florida. However, on the road this early on the season with two inexperienced quarterbacks may be too much to ask for from Kentucky.

Final Score: Florida 26, Kentucky 20