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3 Reasons why Kentucky will and won’t beat Florida

We take a look at how the Cats can beat Florida, but also make the case for why the streak will live on.

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

3 Reasons Why Kentucky Will Beat Florida

1. Defense

The Kentucky Wildcats’ defense needs to put on the best possible performance in order to pull off an upset over the Florida Gators. They aren’t going up against Jim McElwain’s offense anymore.

Dan Mullen brings a whole different approach to Florida’s offense this year. He’s been able to bring out the best in each quarterback he’s coached since his first stint as Florida’s QB coach and offensive coordinator.

Luckily, Stoops and the Cats have faced Feleipe Franks before. He struggled in his start against UK last season and was ultimately replaced by Luke Del Rio, who led Florida back to victory.

If the Cats are going to beat Florida, their defense will need to shut down Franks once again. Jordan Jones and Josh Allen are both coming off a nice game against Central Michigan. Kentucky’s pass rush will need to generate pressure and force Feleipe to make mistakes.

If they’ve done it before, they can do it again.

2. Running game

Last year, Florida’s defense limited Kentucky to only 3.8 yards per carry and held Benny Snell to 59 yards on 12 attempts. UK cannot count on Terry Wilson to throw three touchdowns like Stephen Johnson did. They’ll need a much better game out of Snell this time around.

Since Snell was sick in their first game this year, Kentucky used Snell a little more conservatively to make sure he wasn’t overworked. Both he and AJ Rose should come into their matchup against Florida fresh.

Even though Florida’s defense returns nine starters from last year, Snell is a monster. It doesn’t matter that it’s a tough matchup, Snell is a generational talent looking to impose his will. It won’t be easy, but Snell is skilled enough to run against any defense.

If he can match his numbers from their game last week, he will give them a chance to finally end the streak.

3. Florida overlooks the Wildcats

For reference, Mullen was 14 years old the last time Kentucky beat Florida. As a coach, he’s only lost to Kentucky once in his entire career. Florida is a favorite in this one by more than 2 two touchdowns. It would be very easy for a school to overlook a team they’ve dominated for over 3 decades.

Florida is coming off a dominating performance in their first game. Kentucky should be fired up after struggling in theirs. If Florida starts this one slow, thinking they can walk their way to a victory, they’ll be in for a rude awakening.

3 Reasons Why Florida Will Beat Kentucky

1. Head Coach Dan Mullen

The only loss Mullen suffered at the hands of the Wildcats was back in 2016, when Kentucky kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired to win 40-38. He’s gone 4-1 against Stoops since he took over at UK. He beat Kentucky as Florida’s offensive coordinator and Mississippi State’s head coach. Now, he will try to win as Florida’s head coach.

Even though Florida finished 2017 with a 4-7 record, Mullen inherits a ton of talent from last season. UF returns 10 starters on offense and nine starters on defense. QB Feleipe Franks threw for only nine touchdowns in 11 games last year. In Florida’s one game under Mullen, he threw for five touchdowns in the first half alone.

Mullen is currently 10-1 against Kentucky in his coaching career. Most likely, it’ll be 11-1 after this weekend.

2. Kentucky’s subpar quarterback play continues

If Wilson is as careless with the football as he was last week, there’s absolutely no way Kentucky comes close to winning this game. There is no room for error when facing an SEC opponent on the road.

Florida is experienced up front on defense, but their secondary is much younger. Still, they will definitely try to force Wilson to beat them through the air. If he forces his throws into double coverage or stares down his receivers against this defense, this game will get out of reach quick.

Kentucky will need to make massive improvements in their passing game compared to last week in order to put up points against Florida.

3. Running back depth

The Gators have five running backs who could potentially see some action, three of which with previous experience as a starter. Jordan Scarlett is back after being suspended last season.

Scarlett’s replacement, Malik Davis, returns from an injury after starting as a true freshman in 2017. Behind those two is Lamical Perine, who started eight games last year and led the team in rushing. Against Charleston Southern, true freshman Dameon Pierce led Florida in rushing with 75 yards on eight carries.

Not only are they bringing back a ton of talent and depth at running back, Florida returns all five starting offensive lineman from last year. With Kentucky’s depth at defensive line being a point of weakness, Florida can attack UK with their running game.

Florida averaged 5.2 yards per carry against UK when they faced each other last year. This will be a blowout if Florida can dominate the running game in a similar fashion.