Gator Gameday: Storylines, question marks and key matchup for Florida at Kentucky

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports
Florida coach Dan Mullen brings his Gators into Lexington, Ky., for today's key SEC East contest.

Things to watch in Florida’s road game at Kentucky.

The storylines for Florida Gators-Kentucky Wildcats

1. Florida’s first SEC road test of the season is a top-25 tilt at Kentucky. UF hasn’t lost to the Wildcats in Lexington in 35 years (1986), though the last three games have been decided by one score. With COVID-19 limiting attendance in 2020, tonight marks the Gators’ first game in a sold-out away stadium since October 2019. Emory Jones is making his first career road start in conference play, while more than 40 scholarship freshmen and sophomores will play in front of a packed opposing crowd for the first time in college. 

How Todd Grantham sees it:Grantham: Wildcats' play-action offense a 'much more difficult challenge' for Gators than Tennessee

2. Kentucky has always been stout defensively under ninth-year coach Mark Stoops, and this season is no different. The Wildcats have a top-10 unit through the first month of 2021, ranking No. 9 nationally and second in the SEC at 260.0 yards allowed per game. Florida, likewise, also ranks ninth nationally and No. 2 in the SEC in total offense, averaging 540.8 yards per game. This will be the third consecutive week the Gators face a top-20 defense after hosting Alabama (ranked No. 14 at the time) and Tennessee (No. 17).

How's Anthony Richardson doing?:Updated notebook: Florida QB Richardson '100 percent ready to go' for Kentucky

3. The Wildcats also boast two of the SEC’s top offensive skill players in running back Chris Rodriguez Jr and receiver Wan'Dale Robinson, a Nebrsaka transfer. Rodriguez leads the league and ranks fourth nationally in rushing yards (522), while Robinson ranks first in the SEC in receiving yards (402). The Gators’ rushing defense, which ranks 31st nationally, should be up to the task against Rodriguez, but who will cover Robinson? Their star cornerback, Kaiir Elam, is probable for the game with a knee sprain. If he misses the second straight week, UF needs freshmen corners Avery Helm or Jason Marshall Jr. to step up against Robinson. 

More on the Wildcats:Kentucky Wildcats' scouting report

Today's game questions

1. How will Emory Jones & Co. fare against another top-20 defense?

2. What impact does backup Anthony Richardson have in his return? 

3. Can UF limit big plays from Chris Rodriguez Jr. and Wan’Dale Robinson?

4. Are the Gators able to generate sacks on Wildcats QB Will Levis?

5. Does Florida win the turnover battle against a turnover-prone UK team? 

Click back Sunday for Abolverdi's answers.

Abolverdi’s pick: Florida 31, Kentucky 24

Key matchup 

Florida’s third-down defense vs. Kentucky’s third-down offense:

Florida and Kentucky boast two of the country’s best third-down offenses, but both programs also rank in the 80s nationally in third-down defense. The Wildcats are ninth in the nation in third-down conversions (54.3 percent), while UF is No. 82 in opponent third-down conversions (40 percent). The Gators defense needs to build off the second-half shutout against Tennessee and get off the field on third down. Florida’s offense is tied for 19th nationally in third-down conversions (50.0 percent), while UK is No. 87 in opponent third-down conversions (41 percent).