Game Time: Saturday, September 10, 3:30 p.m. ET
How to watch online: CBSSports.com
Odds: Florida opened as a 16-point favorite. The line is wavering between 16 and 16.5 points via OddsShark.
After its struggles with UMass last week, Florida (1-0) looks to go through correction in its SEC opener on Saturday when Kentucky (0-1) arrives in Gainesville.
The Wildcats are coming off of a disastrous opening weekend where it led 35-10 in the first half before Southern Miss went on a 34-point run to get the win. UK was dominated defensively, allowing the Golden Eagles to have the ball for 40+ minutes and gave up 33 first downs, 554 total yards, and 296 yards on the ground.
There were some encouraging things for Gator fans to take note of in the win against UMass. Luke Del Rio did a decent job of managing the offense in his first start for UF, Antonio Callaway and Brandon Powell got some touches, Jordan Scarlett made his case to be the leading tailback, and the defense did its job for the most part. The offensive line clearly needs to play better and a 29:44 run-pass ratio isn’t going to cut it in league play.
Kentucky hasn’t won in Gainesville since 1979, and if their defense doesn’t make adjustments to stop the run, that trend will continue. The offense didn’t play that badly against Southern Miss, with Drew Barker having an efficient day by going 15-for-24, throwing 323 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.
However, that pick combined with two lost fumbles, 75 yards in penalties, and going 3-for-9 on third down put the ‘Cats defense in bad spots while the Golden Eagles scored on seven of their last eight drives.
If the Gators are to win Saturday, they have to commit to the run early to see if Kentucky is better at containing it. Scarlett could have himself a day if last week’s defense shows up. Defensively, UF needs to make Barker methodically drive down the field and make him earn yardage; letting UK have chunk plays and hang around in the game will only build their confidence as they head into the later stages.
In order for the Wildcats to pull off the upset, the offense has to have success on the ground. Kentucky can ill afford to throw it every down against Florida’s athletic defense. The Gators will just pin their ears back and go after Barker if that is their plan of action. On the other side of the ball, UK really has to go after Del Rio on defense on Saturday. The UF offensive line struggled in pass protection against the Minutemen last week and Del Rio didn’t look comfortable throwing in a muddy pocket.
It should be a really competitive game in the Swamp Saturday, with two teams trying to right some of the previous weekend’s wrongs.