Scouting report: Kentucky

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- No. 14 Florida returns to Florida Field for the first time since the season opener on Saturday against Kentucky. Here’s a look at the Wildcats:


Record: 1-2 (0-0 SEC)

Coach: Joker Phillips, third season (12-16)

Series record: Florida leads 44-17

Top players: QB Maxwell Smith (102-149-4, 966 yards, 8 TDs); WR La’Rod King (23 catches, 214 yards, 2 TDs); LB Avery Williamson (33 tackles, 1 INT); S Martavius Neloms (21 tackles, 2 forced fumbles)

Scouting the offense: Smith has had a solid start to the season and he has to put up good numbers because the Wildcats are going to have to win games with their offense. RB Raymond Sanders has carried the ball only 16 times in two games but has 153 yards (9.6 per carry). King and WR Aaron Boyd (18 catches, 168 yards) are UK's playmakers and are both averaging better than 9.0 yards per catch.

Scouting the defense: The Wildcats are really struggling here, giving up 399.3 total yards per game and 188.0 yards per game rushing. UK gave up more than 400 yards to its first two opponents (Louisville and Kent State). Only two teams (Arkansas and Ole Miss) have given up more touchdowns than the Wildcats (10).

Three keys to victory:

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 streak isn’t a big deal for UF’s players, but it is for Kentucky’s. Does that become a distraction during the week?

2. Kentucky’s struggling defense needs to make some big plays. 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. The one thing the Wildcats are doing moderately well on defense is rushing the passer. They have eight sacks in three games. Texas A&M and Tennessee were unable to rattle UF QB Jeff Driskel, but the Wildcats are going to have to do that to win for the first time at Florida Field since 1979.