Welcome to the A Sea of Blue Week 3 Virtual Tailgate. This week, the Kentucky Wildcats visit the Swamp to challenge the Florida Gators’ 27-game winning streak over Kentucky. I talked about what that meant in the Quickies earlier today, but without rehashing the details, it has been a long time.
More about the game later on in this article. Let’s get fed.
We always begin with a cocktail, and today is no exception. The cocktail of choice for today is:
Manhattan hour with Maker's Mark (via swanksalot)
You can make a Manhattan with most any whiskey, I guess, but I prefer bourbon. Mix that with some sweet vermouth and Angostura Bitters to get a smooth concoction that packs a punch.
Next, the appetizer. I asked my wife Petra to help me set today’s menu, and she chose:
Fried ravioli (via Joelk75)
These things are easy, and delicious. Serve with a little marinara sauce.
Now, the main course. Since we are in Florida, seafood seems to be the logical choice:
Fish tacos (via vidalia_11)
Fish tacos are just one of the greatest things ever. Fresh fish, either fried or grilled, with some cabbage for crunch, a nice sauce, some pico de gallo… Mmmm. Fresh and delicious. Healthful, too.
For the side, how about:
Mmm... baked beans (via jeffreyw)
Baked beans go good with almost everything. With lots of bacon and in a cast-iron pan, there’s nothing better.
Next, our beer. Since we’re down in Florida, we should drink Florida beer:
Key West Sunset Ale (via Erik Cleves Kristensen)
Never had it. Looks really good, though.
Finally, desert. Today, since we’re down south, we need something refreshing and in honor of our hosts. Yes, you know what it is already, don’t you?
Key Lime Pie (via ralph and jenny)
Yeah, it may be a bit predictable, but there are few deserts more refreshing on a hot Florida day than key lime pie.
Now that we’ve stuffed our faces, let’s stuff our brains and talk about this football game. We’ve already talked a bit about the streak an all that negative stuff. Now, let’s take a look at our chances for winning this football game.
We have to be honest — the odds of Kentucky going in and beating the Gators on their home field are not great. Even though Florida had a terrible season last year, they have a new offense and still have arguably the most talent of any team not named Alabama in the SEC. Florida is big and fast, and the Jimmys and Joes, as anyone will tell you, are the most important thing.
According to the F/+ ratings, Kentucky is the underdog against Florida, and the Vegas line of UF -17 is slightly higher than the FEI Game Projection (though they are equal if factoring in the 3 points Vegas customarily grants home teams). UF has a slight advantage offensively, and a sizeable advantage defensively, according to the S&P+ rankings. Maybe if we knew who won when Florida’s offense scrimmaged their defense in their fall camp we might be able to predict the winner given UF and UK’s similar offensive ratings.
Kentucky must find a way to put up points against Florida, and that’s going to start and finish with the offensive line. Kentucky’s offensive line has showed some cracks in both victories so far this season, but it has also showed some ability. Today, the Big Uglies are going to need their best game of the season to move the more talented Gator linemen, and block the speedy ends and second-level blitzers.
If Kentucky can give Patrick Towles time to locate receivers, Kentucky has a chance. If the line can open lanes for Jojo Kemp, Braylon Heard & company to run through, Kentucky has a chance. The Wildcats have enough skill in the backfield and on the outside, even if it isn’t that experienced, to possibly give Florida trouble if the offensive line plays well.
Defensively, I have no idea what to expect from Florida’s new-look offense. They have so many great skill players that Kentucky’s defense is going to have to play well above reasonable expectations to stop them with any consistency. As Will and Will pointed out in this article, gap integrity is absolutely critical:
The purpose of this post isn’t to pick on Smith. Several players were guilty of losing gap integrity, and there were many examples when Smith followed protocol and it led to him getting tackles and quarterback hurries. As Stoops said,too many players are trying to do too much rather than play within the system. The results can be disastrous when that happens.
Losing gap integrity against the remarkable athletes of Florida is even more potentially devastating, so Kentucky must play solid, intelligent defense and avoid the mistakes that lead to big plays.
I have a feeling that Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith are due for a big game, and anything that Kentucky can do to get pressure on Jeff Driskel will be important. Driskel is more than capable of beating Kentucky with his arm, and the Wildcats have to be disciplined and forceful in order to not only get pressure on the quarterback, but avoid letting Florida’s backs and wideouts into a lot of open space.
Well, here’s to pulling the upset of the year so far in the SEC. Go, ‘Cats!