Lexington, KY – The 15th-ranked Florida Gators have dominated the Kentucky Wildcats for the past three decades, and they will attempt to continue that trend on Saturday night when the SEC foes meet in Lexington.
Will Muschamp, the first-year head coach of the Gators, saw his team crush Florida Atlantic and UAB the first two weeks of the season by a combined score of 80-3. Last weekend, Florida experienced a significant spike in competition level when rival Tennessee came to town, but the club was able to remain unbeaten with a 33-23 triumph. That victory was the seventh in a row for the Gators over the Vols.
"Our guys understand what's at stake playing in the SEC, and playing well in the SEC, it's certainly a different buzz around here," said Muschamp. "This counts for one, and next week counts for one. We need to wake up tomorrow and get ready for Kentucky."
Speaking of the Wildcats, they managed double-digit victories over Western Kentucky and Central Michigan to open the campaign. Unfortunately for the 'Cats, they were unable to take care of business at home last weekend, falling to rival Louisville by a 24-17 final. After that defeat, head coach Joker Phillips was clearly disappointed.
"It was a game of missed opportunities," said Phillips. "In a hard-fought game like this you cannot miss the opportunities."
Florida is 44-17 all-time against Kentucky, which includes a staggering 24 consecutive victories over the Wildcats.
Chris Rainey rushed 21 times for 114 yards and added two catches for 104 yards and a score as Florida earned a 33-23 victory over rival Tennessee in Gainesville this past weekend. Rainey was named the Bowl Championship Subdivision National Offensive Player of the Week and also registered his school-record fifth blocked punt.
"I don't know if there is a more versatile player," said Muschamp of Rainey. "Playing for Florida is very important for him, and that's important for me. He's a guy that's an example of what you want as a player and competitor, as far as I am concerned."
John Brantley finished 14-of-23 through the air for 213 yards and two touchdowns for Florida,
While UF was able to run for 134 yards in the tilt, it limited the Vols to minus-nine yards rushing and came up with a pair of interceptions. Florida was called for pass interference seven times and yielded three passing touchdowns, but the defense played well overall.
Through three outings, UF is generating 37.7 ppg and 442.3 total ypg, thanks in large part to the efforts of Rainey. The team's leading runner and receiver, the senior has 520 total rushing and receiving yards to his credit and has found the end zone four times. As for Brantley, he has connected on 65.3 percent of his passes for 637 yards with three scores and two picks.
Opponents are managing a mere 8.7 ppg against Florida, and that average was far more impressive before Tennessee put up 23 points a week ago. The Gators are yielding a minuscule 30.7 rushing ypg at a clip of 1.2 yards per carry and they are also holding foes to less than 10 yards per pass completion.
Facing that Florida defense will be a Kentucky offense that managed a mere 290 total yards against Louisville last week. The Wildcats struggled mightily to establish the run, finishing with 35 net rushing yards on 32 attempts. As for the passing attack, Morgan Newton kept things close by completing 27-of-41 passes for 255 yards and two scores with no interceptions. La'Rod King paced the receivers with seven catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.
"We're gonna bounce back," said King after the loss. "We've got Florida in SEC play next week and we are going take this feeling and put it in our back pocket and use this motivation to our advantage."
Kentucky put forth a mediocre defensive effort last week against Louisville. The Wildcats surrendered three passing and 12.2 yards per pass completion. They also yielded 181 rushing yards and failed to generate a turnover.
Overall this season, Kentucky is posting 19.3 ppg and 274.7 total ypg, numbers that can certainly stand a boost. Defensively, the 'Cats are yielding just 13.3 ppg and 314.7 total ypg, but they are clearly coming off their worst effort to date.
Newton has connected on a modest 55.8 percent of his passes for 466 yards and four touchdowns with four interceptions, and King has 14 catches for 226 yards and three scores. As for the ground attack, Josh Clemons leads the way with 193 yards and two touchdowns.