Five things to know about Florida-Kentucky game
Kentucky (3-5) vs. No. 5 Florida (6-1)
TV: 12 p.m. Saturday, ESPN. Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850. Favorite: Gators by 22½-points (according to BetMGM).
1. 'Cats seeking to take flight
Florida’s secondary has been susceptible for much of the season, giving up all kinds of chunk plays and long touchdown receptions. That should be encouraging news for the Kentucky offense, but the problem there is the Wildcats don’t have much in the way of a passing game to take advantage of a glaring weakness in the UF back end. UK is averaging just 122.6 yards a game passing, which ranks last in the season, and the 'Cats pass efficiency rating (114.8) is 108th in the FBS. To put in perspective just how anemic the Wildcats are, they’ve totaled just 981 yards passing for the season, compared to Florida’s 2,643.
2. A tradition unlike any other
Well, not. In another sign of how COVID-19 has turned this football season sideways, the Gators will not be renewing their rivalry with Florida State on its traditional Saturday after Thanksgiving. In fact, the Gators aren’t playing the Seminoles at all this season. Instead, Florida is playing Kentucky, which usually falls on the schedule in early September. So, this all feels sort of out of sorts. “It’s such a weird deal right now, it certainly doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving week because we’re in the middle of the season,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “This year, you’re not really supposed to get with your family and you’re missing out on your big football games to watch. So it’s just such a different year, but, it’s going to be a big game here. So, hopefully, everybody eats a lot on Thanksgiving Day and wants to burn some calories off in The Swamp cheering some Gators.”
3. Defending The Swamp
Coaches are always looking for ways to motivate their team, especially heading into a game where they’re a heavy favorite like the Gators are Saturday. But Mullen doesn’t need to look for motivation. It’s right there in front of everybody, in the form of the game two years ago, when the Wildcats stunned the Gators, ending UF’s 31-game winning streak in the series. It was a big deal for UK and coach Mark Stoops and his players celebrated on Florida Field like it was. The Gators saw that — and certainly remember it. The Gator goal is to defend The Swamp and avenge that loss. As painful as that game was for Florida, it actually helped the Gators get refocused and turn their season around from there.
4. Saturday's game questions
Will the Florida defense give up long scoring plays like the Gators did in the past two games against Arkansas and Vanderbilt?
Will Kyle Trask struggle to throw for 300-plus yards against a sound UK secondary?
With tight end Kyle Pitts returning after missing the last two games, what kind of impact will he have?
Can UK keep the ball away from the Gators with a consistent ground game behind a veteran offensive line?
Will the Gators get off to a fast start on both sides of the ball? Or will it be just one side (the offense) like last Saturday in Nashville?
Click back Sunday for Andreu’s answers
Florida 31, Kentucky 21
5. Key matchup
Kyle Trask and the Florida passing game vs. Kentucky’s pass defense:
Trask has had great success completing a high percentage of passes through tight windows this season. Well, those windows might be a little tighter than usual Saturday. The Wildcats have the best pass defense in the SEC. They lead the conference in interceptions (12) and are first in fewest passing yards allowed per game (222.8.) The Gators are averaging 377.6 yards passing a game, but Trask and Emory Jones will be facing their toughest test of the season so far. In the last two games, Arkansas and Vanderbilt elected to defend the Gators by dropping seven and eight players into coverage, making it a crowded secondary. But with only three and four defenders rushing, Trask had enough time to go through his progressions and find the open receivers. UK has enough confidence in its secondary to maybe drop only five or six in coverage and allow the front to possibly turn up the heat on Trask. One thing is certain, Trask has to be aware of where sophomore cornerback Kelvin Joseph is at all times. He leads the Wildcats in interceptions with four.