Florida Gators (2-0) at Kentucky Wildcats (2-0)
- Game Time: 7 pm EST on Saturday, September 14
- Location: Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky
- TV Channel: ESPN
- Announcers: Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Todd McShay will be on the call for ESPN.
- Radio: Tom Leach and Jeff Piecoro will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM, 98.1 FM in Lexington, and on the UK Sports Network.
- Online radio: TuneIn broadcast or UKAthletics.com.
- Online Stream: WatchESPN
- Odds: Florida is an 8-point favorite as of thursday afternoon. The initial line was Florida by 10, so it’s dropping as we inch closer toward gameday.
- Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).
- Rosters: UK | UF
- Weekend Weather Report
- Live Stats
- Score Projections: OddsShark has the Gators winning 37-23. TeamRankings projects a 27-20 win for Florida, while numberFire went with a 26-23 Gators win.
While we wait for the game, here is the official Kentucky - Florida hype video from UK:
The Florida Gators beat the Kentucky Wildcats in football for 31 straight years. But on September 8, 2019 that streak came to an end.
Terry Wilson was brilliant, Benny Snell was Benny Snell, and Lynn Bowden had his best game to date. Only one of those three guys will be suiting up on Saturday, but the Wildcats will be looking to win the second game in their own streak against Florida.
With Wilson noe out for the season, the Wildcats will be turning to transfer junior Sawyer Smith to lead the offense. Smith threw for 1,669 yards last season, completing 62.9% of his passes with a 7/3 touchdown to interception ratio. He led the Troy Trojans to a 10-3 record, including a Dollar General Bowl victory over Buffalo.
According to offensive coordinator Eddie Gran, Smith is also mobile enough to run the same offense that Wilson has been leading this season.
“We put a lot in this fall camp,” Gran said after practice on Tuesday. “The good part about where Sawyer is right now, we don’t have to change anything. The thing’s open. We’re going to do the exact same thing. We’re not changing and that’s a huge benefit to us.”
Considering the stability that has been established in the backfield with AJ Rose and Kavosiey Smoke and the emergence of play-making receivers like Ahmad Wagner and Bryce Oliver, the offense is in a really good place to support a new signal-caller. That is not even mentioning the strongest unit on Kentucky’s team, the offensive line.
The offensive line will also be the most important group on Saturday, as Florida’s defense has racked up an astounding 15 sacks in their first two games this season. And it is not just one person.
The Gators defense has had 14 different players record sacks in those two outings. Their defensive front is vicious, and it will be a great challenge for Kentucky’s offensive line this weekend.
Leading Florida’s pass-rushing efforts is Louisville transfer Jonathan Greenard, who has become one of the best pass-rushers in college football through two weeks.
The Gators had a fierce pass-rusher off the edge last night in Jonathan Greenard. pic.twitter.com/sf3RHFOpm8— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 26, 2019
The good news is Kentucky’s offensive line has been stout through two games, highlighted by left tackle Landon Young, who’s become a great left tackle after missing 2018 with a knee injury.
Here are the highest-graded pass-blocking offensive tackles through 2 weeks of action! pic.twitter.com/Au5IC9WhrO— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 11, 2019
On the other hand, Florida’s offense has not been quite as impressive. While quarterback Felipe Franks has thrown for over 260 yards per game, he has also already thrown two interceptions and has shown that he is vulnerable to bad decisions under pressure.
Kentucky got a big addition to its pass rush this week when Florida State transfer Xavier Peters was ruled eligible for the remainder of the 2019 season. The former four-star recruits drew lots of praise throughout summer workouts and training camp, enough to think he could make a big impact in this game so long as he’s up to speed on the defense and his conditioning.
Kentucky got another front-seven addition this week with the return of Phil Hoskins, who served a two-game academic suspension to open the season. Hoskins is a senior this year after a productive junior season, where he totaled 21 tackles, 3.5 tackles, 3.0 sacks and one QB hit. The 310-pound defensive tackle is now the backup behind Calvin Taylor, but having this kind of depth is crucial to go toe-to-toe with a team like Florida for four quarters.
Can the front seven apply enough pressure to keep Franks from getting into a rhythm? The answer to that question very well may decide the outcome of the game.
The Gators rushing attack has left something to be desired. Their lead running back, Lamical Perine, has only 93 yards on the season. Their second leading rusher is Franks, and no other player has more than eight carries on the season.
Kentucky’s secondary, on the other hand, will be tested. When Franks get into a rhythm, he can be a dangerous passer. And the Gators have five different receivers with five or more receptions. Josh Hammond and Van Jefferson are the guys to watch for on the edge, but Perine actually leads the team in receptions coming out of the backfield.
All-in-all, anything can happy on Saturday. Kroger Field should be a great environment, the game is on ESPN, and for once in the last 30+ years Kentucky feels like they have as good as or a better team than Florida.
Will Mark Stoops be able to establish the Wildcats as the second-best team in the SEC East? Or will Dan Mullen prove that he has Florida on the right track back to national prominence?
We will all find out together Saturday night.