This week the Gators take on the Kentucky Wildcats in a homecoming of sorts. Florida has been on the road the last two weeks to open SEC play with wins against Texas A&M and Tennessee. Florida looks to build on an impressive start with a strong showing against what, on paper, looks like an overmatched opponent. Here are a few things to look for in the game.
1.Florida’s running game
The Gators will look to run the ball early and often against Kentucky. Florida is rushing for 232.7 yards a contest and Kentucky is giving up 188 yards a game on the ground. Mike Gillislee has rushed for an SEC leading 346 yards on 6.2 yards a carry for the season, so look for the gators to pound the ball inside. Florida has had most of its rushing success when running plays off tackle. The Gators are still looking for a big interior push in short yardage situations.
2. More Improvement from Driskel
The sophomore has looked better with each snap. Driskel may have looked shaky during the first half at A&M, but since then he has showed poise and maturity. Driskel was able to evade the rush while still keeping his eyes downfield last week against the Vols. He also stood tall in the face of pressure when he delivered strikes to Jordan Reed and Frankie Hammond to quiet the Vol nation. Driskel has thrown for 495 yards and 3 touchdowns on the season. He’s averaging 9.52 yards per attempt and 13.3 yards per completion. Look for success in the running game to open up big plays down the field with the play action, and for Driskel to hit his marks.
3. UF pass rush
Kentucky quarterback Maxwell Smith has thrown for nearly 1000 yards so far this year. Kentucky will try to air it out in the Swamp on Saturday. Smith has completed 102 passes to 13 different receivers—6 of which have caught touchdowns. Florida will need to put pressure on the Wildcat QB so they can disrupt the passing game. If Florida’s defensive line can put pressure on Kentucky’s quarterback, its going to be a long day for the Wildcat faithful.
Florida enters Saturday’s contest plus 3 in turnover margin. Two of those came last week in Knoxville. With the heavy pass attack of Kentucky matched up against a physical and fast UF defense, look for Maxwell Smith to make a mistake. Florida will look to confuse Smith with creative blitzes-much like the zone blitz that resulted in the Mccray touchdown a week ago.
5. Special Teams
Punter Kyle Christie was the unsung hero of the Tennessee game. Florida was dealt poor starting field position early against the Vols and when the Gators sputtered, Christie was able to flip the field position and give the UF defense more room to work. Andre Debose had a couple of nice returns, but still hasn’t broken one. Its possible Debose will break one against the wildcats. Look for Florida to win the field position battle with nice returns from Debose and crafty punting by Kyle Christie.