For the last three decades, one of the most anxiety-inducing games for its respective fan bases on the SEC schedule has taken place in September. This is none other than the matchup between the Florida Gators and the Kentucky Wildcats. The infamous streak was finally broken in 2018, but the Gators have managed to come out on top in this game in every conceivable fashion every year since 1986, aside from 2018’s blip. Will the Gators head back south from Lexington Saturday night with yet another W?
How to watch Florida vs. Kentucky
Time: 6 p.m. ET
Watch Online: ESPN App
(via Odds Shark)
Spread: Florida -7.5 | Kentucky +7.5
Moneyline: Florida -330 | Kentucky +260
Florida enters this game at 3-1 (0-1) with the loss coming at the hands of Alabama. Kentucky is still unscathed at 4-0 (2-0). Even with the 4-0 start, this game is yet another “prove it” spot for Kentucky. They want to move into the upper echelon of the SEC. For the Cats to accomplish this, more wins against Florida, Georgia and other teams that usually finish near the top of the conference simply must happen. While Mark Stoops has unquestionably improved his program’s standing and reputation overall, he has a combined 1-15 record against the Gators and Bulldogs during his stint in the Bluegrass.
To improve to 2-15, Stoops and his Cats’ key for the game this week is pretty straightforward. They must clean up the turnovers. So far in 2021, Kentucky has a -9 turnover margin which is good for absolutely last in FBS. They’ve lost six fumbles and QB Will Levis has thrown five interceptions. The undefeated record to this point is almost miraculous. I believe that the Wildcats can turn the ball over no more than once if they want to have any shot at beating this version of the Gators. If they have 3+ like they have in some games this season, it will be a blowout, plain and simple. The Wildcat defense will have a much harder time bailing the offense out against Florida than South Carolina.
Kentucky may find themselves chasing the game and this could lead to still more turnovers if Will Levis has to force throws. Levis forcing throws is also not ideal because he overwhelmingly targets two players, Wan’Dale Robinson and Josh Ali. Ali and Robinson are the only UK players with more than five receptions through the first four games.
Florida has rediscovered their rushing attack in 2021. The Gators are averaging 322.5 YPG on the ground this year after only managing a 131 last season while the potent passing attack led by Kyle Trask thrived. But to beat Kentucky, the Gators just need to keep it simple, stick to the script and run. An almost 200 YPG improvement from year to year speaks to how impressive of an offensive coach Dan Mullen is. Florida features a three headed monster at running back with Malik Davis, Nay’Quan Wright and Dameon Pearce, but the top two on the team in rushing yards are actually their QBs! Emory Jones or Anthony Richardson can set the tone on their own.
Even with this emphasis on the run game in 2021, the Gators are still putting up 218 passing yards per game on average. Balance is the name of the game in Gainesville this season. Not too many defenses in the SEC will be able to contain this attack this season save for Alabama (who barely did it) and Georgia who looks historically good on defense.
Kentucky is by no means a bad team, but this version of Florida is clearly more talented from top to bottom. In the first two years of Mullen’s tenure, these rosters were more on par with each other and the scores in this game reflected that. Recruiting has picked back up for the Gators and they also have plenty of veterans that are settled into their defense. Florida should be in control from the beginning if they play cleanly.
Prediction: Florida 38, Kentucky 21.