Kentucky Looks To End Long Home Losing Streak
For the second time in the last four years the Kentucky Wildcats are 4-0 and 2-0 in the SEC. However business really picks up on Saturday when they host Florida. Can Mark Stoops’ team end a home losing streak that’s gone on for three decades now? A win on Saturday can prove UK is gaining ground on Florida in the SEC. Will they do it? Let’s preview both teams and give you a prediction with our Florida Gators Versus Kentucky Wildcats Preview.
Same Old Song And Dance
Through the first four games of the season there’s a familiar theme with the Kentucky football team. That, of course, is turnovers. So far in 2021 the Cats have 11, which ranks them dead last in the nation along side of Florida State and Hawaii. Furthermore their turnover margin is minus nine, which ranks them 129th out of 130 teams. Only Wisconsin is worse.
It’s really amazing the Cats are 4-0 with that turnover margin. However, the defense has really stepped up preventing the Wildcats from losing the last couple of games. A good case in point is the 16-10 win over South Carolina last week. UK had three turnovers which doesn’t include the two times Chris Rodriguez fumbled but they got it back. Brad White’s defense held Carolina to 216 yards and the one score. The week before against Chattanooga Tyrell Ajian ran an interception back for a touchdown preserving a Kentucky victory.
While the turnovers are a major problem it’s not like the offense has been bad, in fact far from it. Wan’Dale Robinson leads the SEC in receiving yards and Rodriguez in rushing. It’s not very often you see Kentucky at the top in anything other than rushing stats.
SEC leaders through week 4: Three Cats make the cut ⬇️
(Will Levis is currently No. 6 in QB passing yards with 902) pic.twitter.com/GBJ1LZ5Fjx
— Maggie Davis (@MaggieDavisTV) September 27, 2021
Taking it a step further, Robinson is third in the league with 25 receptions and yards from scrimmage with 480. Again it’s not that Liam Coen’s offense has been bad, just turnover prone.
Continuing on with the Florida Gators Versus Kentucky Wildcats Preview let’s look at Dan Mullen’s squad.
Scouting The Gators
Florida heads into Saturday’s contest sporting a 3-1 record, with their only loss coming to Alabama. However Florida had a chance to defeat the nation’s number one team losing 31-29 on a failed two point conversion. In the process of rallying from a 21-3 deficit they held the high powered Alabama offense to only 324 total yards and 91 on the ground. A year ago the Gators led the SEC in passing with 379 yards per game behind quarterback Kyle Trask and receivers Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney. However in 2021 they’ve completely flipped the script averaging 323 yards on the ground and 218 in the air.
Quarterback Emory Jones leads the Gators’ attack and is coming off one of his best games. In a 38-14 win over Tennessee Jones completed 21 of 27 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns. In addition he ran for another 144 yards on 15 carries. As a result the junior was named SEC Offensive Player Of The Week. Backup signal caller and fan favorite Anthony Richardson sat out the last two games due to a hamstring injury but has been cleared to play. So far in 2021 the freshman is averaging a whopping 25 yards per carry and scored twice. He’s also thrown for two more scores. Knowing Kentucky’s history against back up quarterbacks that’s something to watch on Saturday. Florida’s going to run the ball and Kentucky’s good at stopping it. Something has to give on Saturday.
Florida offense: 322.5 rushing yards per game, 13 rushing TDs.
Kentucky defense: 87.3 rushing yards per game, 2 rushing TDs.
— Brandon Zimmerman (@BZSEC) September 27, 2021
On the other side of the ball the Gators’ defense was pretty awful a season ago, leading many to want defensive coordinator Todd Grantham fired. This season they’ve been much improved sitting 67th in the nation giving up 347 yards per game. However in rushing defense they rank 31st allowing only 107 yards. Defensive back Trey Dean III and linebacker Mohamoud Diabate lead the team with 26 tackles each. One way the Cats and Gators are similar are forcing turnovers. Kentucky only has two for the year while Florida has three.
Continuing our Florida Gators versus Kentucky Wildcats preview let’s look at the series history, which is painful if you are a UK fan and fun for Florida fans.
Overall Florida leads the series 53-18 in what has become a one-sided affair. Of course you can’t discuss the UK-UF rivalry without talking about “The Streak.” Since the Cats beat the Gators 10-3 on November 15, 1986 in what was a cold day at Commonwealth Stadium Florida has won 33 of the last 34 games.
In case you are curious the number one song that week in 1986 was “Amanda” by Boston. In addition the number one movie was “Crocodile Dundee.” Taking it a step further yours truly was a junior at Lincoln County High School in Stanford, Kentucky. The lone Kentucky win came in a totally unexpected 27-16 win in “The Swamp three years ago.
As if the streak wasn’t bad enough the way the Cats have lost may be even more maddening. In pretty much every way possible the Gators have rolled off 16 straight in Lexington. During each of their last three trips to Kentucky the Cats have been ahead late only to blow it in the fourth quarter. Last season Florida took advantage of a depleted Wildcat squad winning easily 34-10.
Now that we’ve gone through that agonizing history it’s prediction time with our Florida Gators versus Kentucky Wildcats preview.
Who Wins On Saturday?
If you read our 2021 preview we said Kentucky should win the first four and last four. However it’s the four in the middle that determines how the season goes. Those start on Saturday with the Gators. The law of averages says eventually things should balance out however at this point you have to wonder. For Kentucky to have any chance to win they have to limit turnovers. Quite simply if they have a minus three turnover margin on Saturday then Florida wins by double digits.
Look for the Cats to come out hot and for once keep it going through all four quarters. Behind the “Big Blue Wall” Kentucky dominates the time of possession and keeps the Gators off the field. With one half of the stadium wearing blue and the other white this is going to be the largest crowd since the Cats and Gators played in 2019. Sparked by the Big Blue Nation Stoops ends another streak and becomes the first coach to beat Florida in Lexington since Jerry Claiborne.
Thanks for checking out our Florida Gators versus Kentucky Wildcats preview here at Last Word On College Football. We’ll be back with a recap of the game and get you ready for the LSU Tigers’ invasion of Lexington next week.