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Big Blue Pick ‘Em - Week 2

The Sea of Blue writers are split on UK/Florida matchup.

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

It’s a big week for the Kentucky Wildcats as they head to Gainesville to take on the red-hot Florida Gators in The Swap in the first SEC East slugfest of the season.

Week 1 went off as expected, with the exception of LSU falling to Florida State in a bizarre game that put a blemish on what should have been a perfect 14-0 start for SEC teams. Instead, special teams - two dropped punts and a missed extra point to end the game - proved to be the kiss of death in Brian Kelly’s LSU coaching debut. Instead, the SEC went 13-1 in the opening week as the Gators upset No. 7 Utah and Alabama and Georgia rolled to big wins as neither defense gave up a touchdown. The Bulldogs simply demolished the No. 11 Oregon Ducks in a 49-3 win that helped Georgia move up to No. 2 this week.

Adam Haste went a perfect 14-0 in the opening week of Big Blue Pick ‘Em followed by yours truly who opened with a 13-1 record. Everyone else came in at 12-2. This week is sure to create a few more big moments as all eyes will be on the Will Levis vs. Anthony Richardson battle as both quarterbacks have received some big-time hype headed into the season.

Of course, The Game of the Week has the Wildcats on the road at Florida and the Sea of Blue staff is split right down the middle with Adam Haste, Ethan DeWitt, Samuel Hahn, James Streble, and Dylan Ballard all picking the Cats to pull off the victory. The rest of the crew has Florida taking care of business at home as the Gators have a 29-5 all-time record against Kentucky in Gainesville. (See our complete Week 2 picks below).

Game of the Week - (20) Kentucky at (12) Florida

Take a deep breath everyone. The Kentucky Wildcats will hit the road for a prime time game against Florida at 7:00 pm ET on ESPN as the Gators have gone from being an unranked team to vaulting its way to a No. 12 ranking in this week’s AP Poll. As of Friday afternoon, Florida is the favorite with the line set at 5.5 points with the over/under at 52 points.

Although Richardson was electric in his debut last week, Kentucky’s biggest issues are all internal after last week’s 37-13 win over Miami (OH) exposed a few concerns. Here are four things to look for as the Wildcats try to pull off another upset in The Swamp.

Gator Bites: It seems the national media has become smitten with the Gators, who went from one of the biggest question marks in the SEC to one of the top dozen teams in all of college football after the upset against Utah. Despite making just his first career start last week, Richardson is already being compared to the likes of Cam Newton and Dak Prescott after going 17 of 24 for 168 in the air and rushing for 106 yards and three touchdown in the season opener. The SEC Network’s Roman Harper took the first shot this week, calling the Cats “soft” as he predicted an easy win for the Gators.

Smoke Break: Kentucky’s bread and butter in the Mark Stoops era has always been the running game which is now a pretty thin room due to recent injuries (Ramon Jefferson - out with ACL) and the fact that Chris Rodriguez is still unavailable due to ongoing problems off the field. Kavosiey Smoke is expected to get another start with JuTahn McClain also in the mix if he’s healthy on Saturday. Smoke ran for 32 yards on seven carriers in the season opener and will need to break a few big plays to open up the Kentucky offense this week.

No Horsing Around: It’s no secret that the Kentucky offensive line struggled in the opener as Levis was sacked four times and was hit way too many times for an early season game. As such, this week’s depth chart was a hot topic as Kenneth Horsey will now move to left tackle as Stoops is committed to playing the “best five” up front to give the Cats the best chance to beat the Gators. Horsey will be joined by center Eli Cox, guards Jager Burton and Tashawn Manning, and right tackle Jeremy Flax. The plan is to ultimately move Horsey back to a guard position once 6-foot-8, 351-point freshman Kiyaunta Goodwin is ready to take over at the Left Tackle spot.

The Wright Stuff: The Cats finally received some good news on Thursday when standout linebacker Jordan Wright was cleared to play on Saturday night. Wright, a Florida native, is part of a strong linebackers core that includes fellow Edge rusher J.J. Weaver and inside linebackers DeAndre Square and Jacquez Jones. Wright was elected a Team Captain for the 2022 season and has 106 career tackles in 42 games. This could be the lift the Cats need to contain Florida’s explosive running game.

Upset Special - (24) Tennessee at (17) Pittsburg

At first glance, it would see obvious that No. 24 Tennessee would be the underdog at No. 17th-ranked Pittsburgh this week. However, the Vols are surprisingly a 7-point favorite on Saturday so it’s hard to determine who’s the real “favorite” as Pitt is getting little respect from national pundits. In fact, the majority of Sea of Blue writers this week have Tennessee penciled in to move to 2-0 on the young season.

Part of the Tennessee hype is around Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker, who was 18/25 for 221 yards and two touchdowns in limited action in the 51-10 blowout win over Ball State last week. Running backs Jaylen Wright (88 yards) and Jabari Small (63) also found success in the run game as the Vols finished with 569 yards in total offense.

However, don’t overlook this Pitt team that finished 11-2 a year ago and won the ACC championship, the first outright conference title in program history. Pitt opened the 2022 season with a win over West Virginia and has good vibes against the Vols, beating Tennessee last year 41-34 in Knoxville.

Things to Know for Week 2

Saban’s Coaching Tree: Alabama football coach Nick Saban has an impressive coaching tree scattered about in college football with former defensive coordinator Kirby Smart winning last year’s national title at Georgia. This week, Saban will face another old friend when Steve Sarkisian takes on his old boss when Texas hosts No. 1-ranked Alabama. Sarkisian was Alabama’s offensive coordinator in 2019-2020 and finished 5-7 in his first season with the Longhorns, who have been on everyone’s radar after announcing they will join the SEC with Oklahoma in 2025. Sarkisian also recently signed No. 1 recruit Arch Manning, nephew of Peyton and Eli, and grandson of Archie Manning.

Dominate Dogs: Coming off a convincing 49-3 win against the No. 3 Oregon Ducks, there’s early speculation that this year’s Georgia defense may be just as good, if not better, than the one that helped the Bulldogs win the national championship. Despite losing five defensive players in last years first round of the NFL draft, including No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker, Georgia’s defense reeled in two interceptions while allowing only 313 yards. Georgia safety Chris Smith, a sixth-year senior, was named the SEC’s Co-Defensive Player of the Week, after recording six tackles and an interception.

Quarterback Shuffle: Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin can’t seem to decide on a starting quarterback in the post-Matt Corral era. USC transfer Jaxson Dart got the Week 1 start in a win over Troy and finished 18 for 27 for 154 yards and a touchdown. However, the offense looked stagnant in the second half of a 28-10 win so Luke Altmyer gets the start this week against Central Arkansas. The good news is that the Rebels are still ranked No. 22 this week and are sure to find some consistency in Kiffin’s high-powered passing game.

Horns Down: At his weekly press conference, Saban was informed by local media of a Big 12 conference rule that designated the “Horns Down” gesture as a taunting penalty, resulting in a 15-yard penalty. Saban, unaware of the rule, said “I think that’s a good thing for me to go over with the team so I appreciate that.” A thank you from Nick Saban? To the press? Yes, things are getting crazy in Week 2 of college football. Let’s just hope that “L’s Down” never becomes a penalty in the annual Kentucky-Louisville football rivalry.

That’s it for Week 2 notes so check out the TV schedule below and get settled in for a great weekend. Go Cats!

SEC Football TV Schedule Week 2

September 10th

  • (1) Alabama at Texas (12:00 pm on FOX)
  • Samford at (2) Georgia (4:00 pm on SEC Network)
  • Appalachian State at (6) Texas A&M (3:30 pm on ESPN2)
  • (24) Tennessee at (17) Pittsburgh (3:30 pm on ABC)
  • South Carolina at (16) Arkansas (12:00 pm on ESPN)
  • (20) Kentucky at (12) Florida (7:00 pm on ESPN)
  • Central Arkansas at (22) Ole Miss (7:00 pm on SEC Network+ | ESPN+)
  • (23) Wake Forest at Vanderbilt (12:00 pm on SEC Network)
  • Missouri at Kansas State (12:00 pm on ESPN2)
  • San Jose State at Auburn (7:30 pm on ESPNU)
  • Southern at LSU (7:30 pm on SEC Network)
  • Mississippi State at Arizona (11:00 pm on FOX Sports 1)