GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- No. 14 Florida plays host to Kentucky on Saturday in the Gators’ first Southeastern Conference home game. The Gators (3-0, 2-0 SEC) haven’t lost at home to the Wildcats (1-2, 0-0) since 1979.
Here's five storylines for the game:
1. Streaking: Florida has won 25 consecutive games in the series, which is the nation’s longest current winning streak in FBS by a team over a major opponent in an uninterrupted series. The Wildcats haven’t beaten the Gators since 1986. Most of the games haven’t been close, especially lately. The Gators have failed to win by three or less points only once (2003), have outscored the Wildcats 200-31 in the last four meetings, and have won the last eight meetings by an average of 29 points. Kentucky, however, has recently snapped two other substantial losing streaks. Before a 31-28 victory over South Carolina in 2010, the Wildcats were 0-17 against teams coached by Steve Spurrier. Last season UK beat Tennessee 10-7 to snap a 26-game losing streak.
2. Pressure the QB: This is key for both teams. Kentucky QB Maxwell Smith leads the SEC in passing (322.0 yards per game) and passing attempts (149). However, he has only been sacked four times. Florida did a good job rattling QB Tyler Bray in the second half of the Tennessee game. LB Lerentee McCray caused an interception by hitting Bray as he threw a ball. Florida QB Jeff Driskel has been sacked nine times, but wasn’t brought down once last week against Tennessee. He has shown remarkable poise for a sophomore with only two starts.
3. Contain Mike Gillislee: Kentucky has struggled against the run (188.0 yards per game, 13th in the SEC), but to beat Florida the Wildcats are going to have to stop the SEC’s leading rusher. Gillislee (346 yards) is averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He’s the key to UF’s offense, because backups Matt Jones and Mack Brown have struggled in limited action.
4. Take care of the ball: How important are turnovers to each team? UK is 9-1 under coach Joker Phillips in games in which the Wildcats have a positive turnover margin. That means they’re 3-15 when they don’t. In UF’s seven victories last season, the Gators were even in turnover margin. They were minus-12 in their six losses. The Gators are plus-3 so far this season. The Wildcats are minus-3.
5. Start quickly: The Gators have rallied from halftime deficits against Texas A&M and Tennessee. While that says a lot about the Gators’ maturity and fortitude, it’s also an indication that they haven’t played particularly well in the first half. UF traditionally has against Kentucky, though. The Gators have outscored the Wildcats 313-83 in the first quarter during the 25-game winning streak. A fast start would negate the need for a second-half rally.