After a sloppy road victory over winless Vanderbilt, the No. 6 Gators will return to the Swamp for perhaps the final time in 2020 on Saturday to take on Kentucky (3-5). Florida’s magic number to clinch the SEC East is down to two, which means they could clinch a berth in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday with a win and a South Carolina upset of Georgia.
Here are three observations, two questions and one prediction as UF (6-1) enters Kentucky week.
1) The backup tight ends are more than capable of carrying the load without Kyle Pitts. A week after Keon Zipperer caught two touchdown passes against Arkansas, Kemore Gamble turned in a two-score game of his own against Vanderbilt. Gamble tied his career-high with three catches against the Commodores and established a new career-best with 66 yards. Both of them have also executed their blocks well in the running game. Obviously, the Gators are better with Pitts making freakish plays and drawing double teams, and they’re hopeful that he might be back this week, but Zipperer and Gamble are holding down the fort well in the interim.
2) Trevon Grimes is finally starting to play like you would expect a 6-foot-4, 218-pound receiver to play. Too often throughout his career, he’s seemed content to wait for the ball to land in his hands instead of going up and snatching it out of the air. He’s also had problems with the ball getting dislodged on contact. That’s starting to change. He made an incredible touchdown catch against tight coverage in the Georgia game when he went up and high-pointed the ball, and he made an equally impressive touchdown catch between two defenders against Vanderbilt. With Pitts out, he’s assumed the role of 50-50 ball magician. The Gators need him to keep that up when Pitts returns.
3) The defense cannot figure out how to play against up-tempo offenses. They struggled mightily against tempo in the opener against Ole Miss, but their next five opponents only used tempo sparingly. Then Vanderbilt smartly used it early and often. It’s not even so much the actual covering and tackling that’s giving them issues. They can’t even get lined up correctly and on the same page about who to cover most of the time. They’ve had almost two months to get this corrected, but the problem still lingers. Opponents will continue to ramp up the pace until they prove they can stop it.
1) Will the Kentucky game be Kyle Trask’s final home game? Florida is tentatively scheduled to host LSU on Dec. 12 following the postponement in October, but the Tigers also have a game against Alabama that they need to make up. If both Florida and Alabama have clinched their respective divisions by then, there’s a good chance the SEC will cancel both the Florida-LSU and Alabama-LSU games to give both Florida and Alabama the same amount of rest prior to the SEC Championship Game. It also seems unlikely that Trask will return to UF next season. He already has his degree and his draft stock isn’t going to get any higher than it is now, so there’s little reason for him to come back. This could be his Swamp swan song.
2) Where will the Gators be ranked in the first College Football Playoff poll of the season when it is released on Tuesday? Sixth seems like the most logical answer, with UF behind Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Clemson, and Texas A&M. However, while Clemson has more NFL-caliber talent than Florida and has earned the reputation of being one of the nation’s top programs, Florida has a more impressive resume than Clemson, with the Tigers’ best win coming against a decent Miami squad. Is there a chance that Florida is ranked ahead of Clemson? Also, what does the committee do with BYU and Cincinnati, who have bludgeoned just about everybody in their way but haven’t played very challenging schedules? Is there a chance one or both of them are ranked ahead of UF?
Right or wrong, people are going to compare the score of the Florida-Kentucky game to Alabama’s 63-3 beatdown of the Wildcats this past weekend. It’s just human nature to compare the results against a common opponent when the games are only one week apart. However, don’t buy into the whole transitive property logic, as it has frequently proven to be a faulty way to predict the outcomes of future games. And you can play the game both ways. If Florida only beats Kentucky by 17, the sky will be falling and the Gators will have no shot at beating Alabama. However, those same doom-and-gloomers will conveniently overlook the fact that the Gators scored more points on Georgia than Alabama did and held the Bulldogs to nearly 150 fewer yards. The SEC Champion will be determined on Dec. 19, not on Saturday.