After 31 years of struggling, is it finally time for a Kentucky Wildcats win over the Florida Gators?
Kentucky opened up the season with a 35-20 win over Central Michigan. Thanks to Benny Snell and AJ Rose, UK was able to run the ball to victory over the Chippewas. Florida is a 13.5-point favorite over the Cats as of Friday night. Florida is coming off of an easy 53-6 win over FCS team Charleston Southern.
Kentucky will have the whole state of Florida rooting against them, but the Cats also have several things for bulletin board material. One of Florida’s players have said, “It’ll be 32 straight after Saturday” in regard to the what would be 32-game winning streak over UK for Florida.
If Kentucky is going to be able to upset the No. 25 team in the country in Gainesville tonight, then here are the five things they will need to do:
1. Control the clock.
Last week against Central Michigan, UK was able to pull off a win by rushing for over 290 yards. This week, one Florida player said that Benny Snell was nothing special and couldn’t compare to players like Sony Michel, so Benny should be able to have that extra chip on his shoulder this game.
In order to beat Florida in the Swamp, there are a couple things you need to do, but first you have to control the clock. If you can run the ball for over 250 yards against Florida, I think you could mark up a “W” for the Cats.
Snell was sick last weekend and was still able to run for 125 yards on 20 rushing attempts with two touchdowns.
AJ Rose was able to run the ball eight times for 104 yards and was able to get two touchdowns as well. If Kentucky can manage to run the ball and win the time of possession, I can truly see UK being able grab a “W” in the Swamp.
2. Win 3rd down.
Last week against Charleston Southern, Florida was only able to convert on 2 of their 9 3rd down conversions.
Florida wasn’t able to really get any offense going on third down, so if Kentucky can manage to win up front and force Feleipe Franks to make good decisions on third down, they should be fine. Florida is really good at hitting big plays, so I think you have to force them to hand the ball off and take your chances at stopping the run.
Kentucky really only gave up seven points last week against Central Michigan if you don’t count the bad turnovers that put CMU in UK territory. If the Cats can manage to force the Gators into 3rd and long early and often, they can get the win.
3. Limit Turnovers.
Last weekend against Central Michigan, Kentucky turned the ball over four times and really helped Central Michigan score 13 of their 20 points against UK.
Now, everyone knew what to expect when Terry Wilson decided to come to Kentucky. Wilson has a big arm and he is a great runner, but he also throws a lot of interceptions. Wilson has a lot of talent and he showed a lot of that last weekend, but he turned the ball over three times, making it hard to pay attention to those special things he could do. W
ilson finished the game last weekend completing over 64 percent of his passes and he rushed for close to 40 yards. If Kentucky is going to be able to upset the Gators, Wilson will have to protect the football and play with confidence.
4. Put pressure on the QB.
Feleipe Franks passed for 219 yards and five touchdowns last weekend against Charleston Southern. He also only got hit less than five times. Franks is one of those quarterbacks that can stand in the pocket and just make you pay for any mistake that you make.
Franks is a sophomore quarterback that basically took over the job early last season for Florida. He ended 2017 with 9 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.
For me, that stat line says one thing for sure, it’s that he turns the ball over a lot. If Josh Allen and the defensive line can manage to put pressure on Franks, I could see him throwing a couple interceptions and helping UK grab a win at home.
If UK can’t put pressure on Franks, the game gets really hard to win in The Swamp.
5. Get C.J. Conrad involved
Last weekend against Central Michigan, UK didn’t utilize Conrad as much as most people would have foreseen. Last weekend Conrad was only able to grab 3 passes for 9 yards.
Last season, one of UK’s biggest struggles was hitting Conrad and the other guys over the middle for easy 10-15 yards. Conrad is predicted to be one of the best tight ends in the country this season, but Eddie Gran has to find a way to hit him up the middle instead of on the sideline for 3-4-yard gains.
Now, on the flip side, Kentucky will need those 3-4-yard gains against Florida Saturday night, as I could see a lot of 3rd and 4 situations for the Kentucky offense. Conrad is a great blocker and an amazingly athletic tight end, so if UK is going to win, Eddie Gran and Mark Stoops has to find a way to get Conrad involved.
Kentucky is a lot better than what most people think I believe. They turned the ball over four times last weekend and they basically gave Central Michigan 13 of their 20 points. If UK is going to win, they have to take care of the ball.
I think Kentucky is going to win. I know we have all got our hopes up for 31 straight years, but this is the year. I think Kentucky has the athletes to match the Gators, and why not now?
Snell is going to have over 125 yards and two more scores this weekend. I think Wilson has a big game and turns a lot of heads as he throws for over 200 yards and two touchdowns. Conrad grabs a few passes for over 50 yards and he finally has the game we’ve been waiting for. while the defense does just enough to preserve a narrow win.
My Score Prediction: Kentucky 31, Florida 24