Stoops Looks For A Record
When the Wildcats head south this weekend it could be a record-setting day for Mark Stoops. Last week he became the longest-tenured coach in UK history. In addition, he tied Bear Bryant for the most wins all-time at 60. Can they get it done against Florida? Let’s look at both teams and give you a prediction as Kentucky Heads To “The Swamp.”
Looking For Improvement
In their 37-13 win over Miami (Ohio) the Cats shook off a sluggish first half before putting away the RedHawks. Will Levis threw for 303 yards and three touchdowns, which are very good numbers. However, he did have one interception and that’s something he’s trying to cut down on in 2o22. Levis completed passes to seven different receivers led by Tayvion Robinson‘s six catches for 136 yards. Two freshmen Barion Brown and Dane Key had good games as well.
To most people’s surprise, the running game was non-existent. The Cats only mustered 68 yards on the ground and that becomes 50 when you take away the yards lost on four sacks. Given the success they’ve had in recent years having questions about the running game seems unfathomable.
From Strength In Numbers To A Question Mark
Heading into the season if you read our position previews, and we know you did, the running backs were arguably the strongest position on the team. Unfortunately after one week, the Cats are down to two players from five. Chris Rodriguez will not play again on Saturday as he reportedly waits on the NCAA to determine his status. On top of that Ramon Jefferson, the former FCS All-American who turned heads in camp, is out for the year with a torn ACL. If that wasn’t enough JuThan McClain is also out.
That leaves Kavosiey Smoke and La’Vell Wright as the primary ball carriers on Saturday night. You also have Michael Drennen, but he did not register a carry against Miami. To have any chance at winning on Saturday they must run the ball better and the offensive line must also step up.
Now that we’ve shown you what to expect from the Wildcats at Kentucky Heads To “The Swamp” let’s look at the home team.
Scouting The Gators
Florida also comes into the game with a 1-0 record after beating Utah. Led by all-everything quarterback Anthony Richardson the Gators rallied to beat the then seventh-ranked Utes 29-26. Richardson led the attack with 106 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. In addition, he averaged nearly 10 yards per carry. Utah had a chance to win but Amari Burney picked off a Cameron Rising pass in the end zone to preserve the win.
With the win, Billy Napier’s club jumped from 37th to 12 in the Associated Press Top 25. That’s the biggest jump for a team outside the Top 25 since 2016. Even for beating a team Last Word has playing in the Cotton Bowl that seems a bit much.
Behind Richardson Montrell Johnson ran for 75 yards and a score. Although the Gators only had 168 yards through the air most of it went to Ricky Pearsall and Xzavier Henderson. On the other side of the ball, Trey Dean III led the defense with 12 tackles, including one for a loss. Brenton Cox was right behind him with 10 stops. One note about last week’s game the Gators did not record a sack.
Of course, the history of the Florida-Kentucky rivalry is very one-sided. Overall the Gators lead 53 wins to 19. However recent history is more in the Wildcats’ favor. Under Stoops UK’s won two of the last four including a 2018 win in Gainesville that broke a 31-game losing streak. In all honesty, it should be three of four as they let Florida escape with a 29-21 win back in 2019.
A season ago Kentucky won 20-13 in Lexington marking the first home win since 1986. The last time UK beat Florida in consecutive years was 1976-77.
All right, we’ve scouted both teams and as Kentucky Heads To “The Swamp” we head for a prediction.
Who Wins On Saturday?
This is the first meeting since 2007 with Florida and Kentucky both ranked in the Top 25. You may remember that game came one week after the Cats knocked off top-ranked LSU. In a game featuring nearly 1,000 yards of total offense, Tim Tebow outdueled Andre Woodson as the Gators won 45-37.
Florida enters as a five-point favorite and the Wildcats got some bulletin board material when the SEC Network’s Roman Harper said the Cats were “soft” and Florida would win big. They relish the underdog role and would love nothing more than to give Stoops the all-time record on the road in front of a national television audience on ESPN. Since 1998 Kentucky’s 22-2 in their second game of the season and how’s this for another stat.
— Corey Price (@coreyp08) September 8, 2022
The Cats did a good job containing Richardson last year and need to do it again to have a shot. On the other side of the ball look for Levis to feature the tight ends more. Utah did it with great success and UK should be able to as well. At the end of the day and for the second time in recent history Kentucky wins in Gainesville.
What’s your prediction as Kentucky Visits “The Swamp” this weekend? Leave them in the comment section below. We’ll be back after the game with a complete wrap-up and look ahead to the Youngstown State game next weekend.