Gators game preview: Kentucky

ESPN’s GatorNation brings you the 30 things you need to know about Florida’s upcoming 2012 season. For 30 weekdays we’ll preview games, talk about trends, spotlight players and positions, and give you pretty much everything you need to know to be ready for the season before the Sept. 1 opener against Bowling Green.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- GatorNation is previewing each of Florida’s 2012 opponents. Today is Kentucky (Sept. 22 in Gainesville).


2011 record: 5-7 (2-6 SEC).

Coach: Joker Phillips, third season (11-14).

Series record: Florida leads 44-17.

Top returners: QB Max Smith (85-153-4, 819 yards, 4 TDs); WR La’Rod King (40 catches, 598 yards, 7 TDs); DT Mister Cobble (33 tackles); S Martavius Neloms (71 tackles, 1 INT).

Did you know? In the annual rivalry with Louisville, the team that has run for more yards has won 16 consecutive times.

Scouting the offense: Kentucky was last in the SEC in scoring and passing in 2011, and it may not get much better. The OL is inexperienced and there’s no depth, Neloms is a sophomore who started three games last season, and King is the only receiver on the roster who caught more than 10 passes last season.

Scouting the defense: UK lost six players, including all three linebackers, from last year’s unit, but the line should be solid and the secondary has a couple of playmakers in Neloms and S Mikie Benton. It’s not good, though, when one of your projected starters at CB was a RB last year.

Three things to watch

  1. UF has beaten Kentucky 25 consecutive times, and the Wildcats haven’t won a game in Gainesville since 1979. It’s the longest current winning streak in FBS by a team over a major opponent in an uninterrupted series. The record, by the way, is Notre Dame’s 43-game winning streak over Navy.

  2. Expect some big offensive numbers by the Gators. UF has scored more than 40 points 15 times during the winning streak, including six of the past seven years. The Gators ran for 405 yards last season against a more experienced defense than the one coming into the Swamp this year.

  3. UK WR Demarco Robinson is a player to watch. He had just 20 yards of offense last season as he struggled with the transition from high school to the SEC, but he emerged as a go-to receiver during the spring and is a dangerous kick returner because of his speed.