The Florida Gators-Kentucky Wildcats rivalry has been an exciting one the last half-decade or so.
Although Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops is 1-7 against Florida, three of the last four games have been particularly close. In 2019, a year after the Wildcats broke their 31-game losing streak to the Gators, Kentucky lost a 13-point lead and fell 28-27. This year's Wildcats are undefeated (4-0, 2-0 SEC) entering Saturday's game.
On the other side, Florida (3-1, 1-1) is in the top 10, bouncing back nicely from a tough, close loss to Alabama two weeks ago by thumping another SEC East rival, Tennessee 38-14 at the Swamp. Now, the Gators will look to extend their 16-game winning streak on Kentucky's turf. Kroger Field is reportedly sold out for Saturday night's nationally televised game.
This will be the 72nd meeting in the series, which Florida leads comfortably, 53-18. The Gators are in the midst of a 33-1 run against Kentucky.
No. 10 Florida at Kentucky
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. ET
Spread: Florida -8
When Florida Has the Ball
Quarterback Emory Jones has turned a corner ever since the 31-29 loss against Alabama two weeks ago. Last Saturday in the convincing 38-14 win over Tennessee, Jones completed 21 of 27 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns. He also posted 144 rushing yards, becoming the first Gators quarterback since Tim Tebow in 2009 to throw for 200 yards and run for 100 in a game.
Jones has thrown five interceptions in four games (104 attempts), tying him for the most in the SEC with his counterpart in Saturday's game, Kentucky's Will Levis. But Levis has piled up more yards (902 to 668) and touchdowns (7 to 4) through the air. It's critical that both quarterbacks minimize their mistakes, but especially for Jones considering the Wildcats have just two takeaways in four games.
But Kentucky is giving up less than 18 points per game (sixth in SEC) in part because of how stingy it's been against the run. UK is only giving up 87.5 rushing yards per game, good for third in the conference and 21st nationally. This will make for an interesting matchup considering that the ground game has been Florida's bread and butter thus far. The Gators are averaging 322.5 rushing yards per game alone. Not only is that good enough for third in FBS, it's more yards than 16 teams are averaging on offense as a whole, a group that includes fellow SEC East teams South Carolina and Vanderbilt as well as No. 5 Iowa and No. 25 Clemson.
When Kentucky Has the Ball
If the Wildcats want to pull off the upset, they need a big game from Levis. After throwing five touchdown passes in his first two games as starting quarterback, Levis has tossed just one compared to three interceptions in his last two outings. He also has fumbled six times this season.
This could potentially be problematic against a Florida defensive line that can generate a ton of pressure. The Gators are tied for second in the SEC with 14 sacks, averaging nearly four per game. Kentucky is in the middle of the conference with seven sacks allowed through four games.
To take pressure off Levis, the Wildcats will need a big game from their rushing attack. Kentucky is averaging 204.5 yards per game on the ground, with Christopher Rodriguez Jr. leading the SEC at 522 rushing yards. Last week, he put up 144 yards on 26 carries in the hard-fought, 16-10 win over South Carolina as the Wildcats had trouble moving the ball through the air consistently. Levis was just 15-for-22 for 102 yards and an interception against the Gamecocks.
Kentucky did precisely what it was supposed to do: beat up inferior opponents in the month of September. However, October will bring new challenges starting against Florida at home.
Turnovers could be a big factor in this matchup with the two teams combining for 17 giveaways. Levis has been sloppy with his decision-making at times, while the Wildcats ball security issues have them last (out of 130 teams) in FBS in both turnovers (11) and margin (-9).
The Gators have historically dominated this series, but Saturday could be another close contest. Kentucky should be able to feed off of home-field advantage and have some success running the ball, but Florida's more diverse offensive attack and pressure from its defensive front will likely be the difference as the Gators make it 17 wins in a row in Lexington.
Prediction: Florida 31, Kentucky 28
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— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.