Cats Look To Extend Winning Streak
Mark Stoops‘ Wildcats are looking to go 5-0 for the second time in the last three years. In order to get there they’ll have to accomplish something they haven’t done since the 1950’s. A win over Florida would be a third straight over the Gators. Let’s look at both teams and give you a score prediction as Kentucky Hosts Florida On Saturday.
Trying To Put It All Together
Despite being 4-0 for a third straight year the Wildcats are still battling inconsistency. The first three weeks they started slow then turned it on in the second half. In last week’s win over Vanderbilt UK jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead then took their foot off the gas somewhat coasting to a 17-point win.
So far this season quarterback Devin Leary ranks seventh in the SEC with 1,060 passing yards and third in touchdowns with nine. However, he has five interceptions in four games which equals the number he threw in 2021, which was his last healthy year.
Another transfer, Ray Davis, has been a huge pickup. Currently, Davis leads the league with five touchdowns and is fourth with 314 rushing yards. He has a great history against Florida as he ran for 122 yards in the Commodores’ 31-24 upset win last season. Kentucky will need another strong game on Saturday.
After struggling at times Kentucky’s “Dynamic Duo” of Barion Brown and Dane Key both bounced back s against Vanderbilt. However “Super Senior” Tayvion Robinson has been the Cats’ most consistent receiver with 16 catches for 287 yards and three touchdowns.
Up front switching Jager Burton and Eli Cox back to the positions they played last year of guard and center respectively helped an offensive line that’s struggled at times. The “Big Blue Wall” needs to be strong against a very good Florida defense.
Speaking of the visitors from the Sunshine State let’s introduce you to some players the Big Blue Nation needs to know.
Scouting The Gators
Billy Napier’s club comes into Saturday sporting a 3-1 record and is ranked 22nd in the country. They dropped their opener at Utah but have won three straight since then. That includes a very impressive 29-16 win over Tennessee which wasn’t really that close.
Florida’s offense is led by Graham Mertz, a quarterback transfer from Wisconsin. On the season he’s completed 84 of 108 passes for 951 yards and four touchdowns. Furthermore, his 78 percent completion rate puts him fourth in the country.
When Mertz goes to the air his favorite target is Ricky Pearsall. Through four games the senior has 27 receptions for 357 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers put him third and sixth in the SEC respectively. In addition, he also returns punts.
The Gators also have a strong running game. Trevor Etienne ranks third in the league with 329 yards to go along with two scores. His best game came in the Tennessee win where he ran for 172 yards. Right behind him is Montrell Johnson who has 211 yards on the ground.
On the other side of the ball linebacker Shemar James leads the defense with 27 tackles, three for a loss, and one sack. Safety Jordan Castell is second on the squad with 24 stops. Florida leads the SEC in pass defense allowing 162 yards a game. In addition, they also are tops in total defense at 244 yards a game.
Now that we’ve previewed both teams let’s look at the long rivalry as Kentucky Hosts Florida on Saturday.
Series History And Last Time They Met
Overall the history between the two schools is very lopsided in favor of Florida. Saturday marks the 74th meeting with Florida holding a 53-20 lead. That of course includes a 31-game winning streak from 1987-2017. Kentucky finally broke the streak, winning in “The Swamp” in 2018.
However recent history has favored Kentucky. A win on Saturday would mark three straight wins in the series, something UK hasn’t done since winning four straight from 1948-1951. In addition, the Cats have won three of the last five.
A season ago Kentucky went into “The Swamp” and won for the second time in the last three games. The Cats rallied from nine down to pull out a 26-16 victory.
Who Wins On Saturday?
The quarterback battle in any game is always a focal point. However, on Saturday there will be even more focus. In an interesting bit of irony, Kentucky was very interested in Mertz once he hit the transfer portal. In fact, many experts thought he was Lexington-bound. However, when Leary became available UK swooped in and he became a Wildcat.
After being a one-sided series for decades a win on Saturday would prove that Kentucky has gotten to Florida’s level in the SEC. In order to do that they’ve got to cut down on mistakes and use their defense to shut down the Gator attack. It’s a NOON kickoff, a move that surprised many as this series is usually contested in prime time. The Cats are having a Blue-White day with each side of the stadium wearing the appropriate colors. Look for a rocking Kroger Field that will help push the Wildcats to a third straight win.
Thanks for checking out our preview as Kentucky hosts Florida on Saturday. We’ll be back after the game with a complete recap.