This should be the most sure-bet prediction there is for Saturday night’s game: The struggling Florida offense will start slow and get shut out in the first quarter for the fourth consecutive game.
I’m tempted to go with that. But I have a feeling the offense is going to come out much sharper in this game and actually put together at least one scoring drive in the first quarter. The reason I feel this way is because I have a strong sense John Brantley is really starting to figure things out and play with the confidence he seemed to be searching for in those early games.
He’s definitely starting to show that he can manage the game and convert some big third-down plays, which he did several times in Knoxville last Saturday. What’s helping his confidence is he’s getting great protection from his veteran offensive line and his receivers are starting to make plays for him. Carl Moore bailed him out at least twice with tough catches a week ago. So did Jordan Reed.
After responding in a favorable way in the second half in such a tough environment a week ago, I think the offense has a chance to start growing up in a hurry now — something the coaches have been stressing has to happen.
I think the defense is starting to gain its identity, too, especially up front and in the secondary. The group that’s shown the most improvement over the course of the season is the linebackers. Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins have a chance to become big-time players by the end of the season after what they’ve shown in recent performances. Both are playing much better, and with much more confidence, than they did in the first two games.
The big concern on defense is those busted coverages in the secondary that led to two long touchdown passes against the Vols.
So, here’s my prediction: The offense is going to play better, but the defense is going to have its hands full with Kentucky’s dynamic offensive players — wide receiver/quarterback Randall Cobb and super-fast tailback Derrick Locke, who also is capable of hitting the home run in the return game.
It’s going to be another tense (and intense) game in The Swamp, but it will have a happy ending for the Gators.
Prediction: Florida 38, Kentucky 31