Take Five Breakdown: No. 22 Florida-Kentucky Preview

Kentucky Preview

by Chris Will
0 comment

Please Read: Welcome to the new-look Inside the Gators

It wasn’t a pretty win over Charlotte, but a win is a win. Florida heads into Week 5 with a matchup with the Kentucky Wildcats. The Gators travel to Lexington to face off with the 4-0 Wildcats, so Inside the Gators met with Jon Hale of the Lexington Herald Leader to preview the game.

Five Kentucky Wildcats to Know

Devin Leary, Quarterback, Redshirt Senior

  • The NC State transfer came in to fill the hole Will Levis left behind when he went to the NFL. Leary has the Wildcats at 4-0. He’s put up over 1,000 yards passing to go along with nine touchdowns and five interceptions. “You look at Devin Leary’s game against Vanderbilt, it was probably his worst game of the season, and he still threw for over 200 yards,” Hale said, “It’s just better than what the bad games for Kentucky quarterbacks have been for most of the last ten years.”

Ray Davis, Running Back, Senior

  • Davis has been the workhorse for this Kentucky offense. “He’s not a guy who’s going to get to break a bunch of tackles, but he’s really effective in other ways,” Hale said, “We’ve seen him have some explosive runs. His vision is pretty good, but he’s been a huge factor in the passing game.” Davis has gained over 300 yards on the ground and added another 137 receiving. He’s been involved in seven total touchdowns this season.

Tayvion Robinson, Wide Receiver, Redshirt Senior

  • Hale said it’s a three-horse race in the wide receiver room. However, Robinson leads the way on the stat sheet. He leads the team with 16 catches for 283 yards and three touchdowns. “He started really strong a year ago and then was just not very good in SEC play,” Hale said, “So all offseason the talk was ‘You’ve got to bring the effort on and off the field,’ How do you bring that consistency, so far he’s done it.”

Trevin Wallace, Linebacker, Junior

  • Wallace has been a major disruptor on the defensive side. He’s tied for second in the SEC with four sacks on the year to go along with a forced fumble. “He was a guy who relied on his athleticism the last two years in a backup role and now is starting to master what they want him to do in the defense,” Hale said.

Maxwell Hairston, Defensive Back, Sophomore

  • Hairston is fresh off an SEC Defensive Player of the Week honor. He had two interceptions returned for touchdowns against Vanderbilt to go along with three pass breakups. “He’s not perfect by any means,” Hale said, “Vanderbilt’s first touchdown drive Saturday, he had two different penalties that extended that. Feast or famine with him, but he clearly has the ability to make plays on the ball and get those turnovers when they’re there.”

Five Fast Facts

  • Florida has won 33 of the last 36 meetings in the series including victories in 16 of the last 17 games in Lexington.
  • Prior to Florida’s 20-13 loss in 2021, the Gators had not lost to Kentucky in Lexington in 35 years (1986), owning 16-straight road wins in the series.
  • Since 2018, Florida is just 2-3 against Kentucky. The wins came in 2019 in Lexington and in 2020 in Gainesville.
  • Florida is in the midst of its first winning streak of three games or more since rattling off six-straight SEC victories from Oct. 31 – Dec. 5, 2020 (def. Missouri, Georgia, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee).
  • Mertz has completed 80.0% of his passes (85-for-109), which leads the SEC and ranks third nationally behind Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and Oregon’s Bo Nix (a recent stat correction vaulted him just ahead of OU’s Dillon Gabriel).

Five Game Day Storylines

Kentucky on a Roll

  • The above fast facts kind of tell the story of this SEC matchup. Historically, Florida has dominated Kentucky. But recent history has a different story to tell. “I’m 36, and so for the first 31 years of my life, Kentucky never beat Florida,” Hale said, “And that was the story every single year was the streak. Most of the players on this team don’t know anything about that history anymore.”

Noon Game

  • It came as a bit of a surprise when this game was scheduled as a nooner by the SEC. In the past, this game had usually been a night game. Plus, with both teams doing well it seemed poised to be a top matchup for the weekend. “I mean, the fans were really disappointed when the game time came out two weeks ago,” Hale said, “I think they just assumed it was going to be a night game.” Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops said he expects fans to be out there and loud on Saturday, despite the early start.

Battle of Transfers

  • Graham Mertz and Devin Leary each hit the transfer portal this offseason and had their fair share of bidders. Kentucky, according to Hale, was big on Mertz. That is until Leary became available. Mertz is now at Florida. Leary is now at Kentucky. And Saturday they face off. “Obviously, Devin’s stats were way better at NC State than Graham’s were at Wisconsin, so they kind of went that direction,” Hale said, “But you can argue that Mertz has been the better quarterback through four games, especially with what Florida’s asking him to do.”

Top 25 Disrespect?

  • Florida at 3-1 with a win over Tennessee and the loss being to a Utah squad that is ranked in the AP Poll’s Top 25. Kentucky is 4-0 with a win over Vanderbilt. Kentucky enters as the slight favorite, so why aren’t they ranked? “I think that’s mostly just the people trying to come up with a storyline,” Hale said, “Are they better than some of those mid-major teams that are in the back half of the top 25? Almost certainly they are, but they just have beaten anybody to this point.”

Revamped Defense

  • Florida’s defense has continued to be a focal point of this Florida Gators team. They boast a top-five team in total defense, and it’s something Kentucky is very aware of. “They’ve talked a lot about the challenge this week,” Hale said, “It’s a different challenge than anything they faced so far because Florida’s run defense is so good. I’m interested to see how Kentucky approaches that.”


  • Jon Hale: Kentucky 24-21
  • Chris Will: Florida 27-24

Go to discussion...

Related Articles


Leave a comment

Please log in to your forum account to comment

Community platform by XenForo® © 2010-2022 XenForo Ltd. Style and add-ons by ThemeHouse