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Florida Football

Staff Roundtable: Florida-Kentucky Predictions

September 7, 2018

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Inside the Gators staffers Kassidy Hill and Mark Wheeler take a closer look at this weekend's match-up between Florida and Kentucky, including predicting a winner.

1) Heading into game two, which position group concerns you the most?

Hill: The safeties; it's not necessarily that I think the unit is hurting, it's just that we didn't get to really see them in action against Charleston Southern and their triple option offense. With the return of Jeawon Taylor from injury, Shawn Davis likely still out due to injury and fairly untested Donovan Stiner starting opposite Taylor, the group still has a ton of questions for which we don't have many answers. We should learn more in this game with a Kentucky offense that will take shots downfield.

Wheeler: Despite six Florida offensive linemen grading out as Champions in the win over Charleston Southern, while I did think they did well pass blocking, I didn't see much push up-front from the Gators in the run game. They, without question, need to show more this weekend if Florida expects to run the ball against Kentucky.



2) What Florida player is on the spot to produce Saturday night?

Hill: Florida place kicker Evan McPherson; as you'll see in my prediction below, I think a large part of this battle will come down to the freshman kicker's leg. This game has been historically close and with a recovering Florida team and a young Kentucky team, I believe it will be the same story this year. Whether it be an earlier field goal that pays off or a last drive desperation one, Evan McPherson will have to be perfect when Dan Mullen calls upon him to deliver.

Wheeler: The easy answer here is Feleipe Franks. However, after his miserable tackling performance last year, which was mocked nationally, this is a chance at redemption for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. You can rest assured that there will be some one-on-one situations where CGJ will have to bring down Bennie Snell Jr. on his own. If he wins those battles, making up for his effrontery (yes, that is actually a word) to tackling last year, Florida is almost certainly going to win this game. If he gets run over, trucked, dismantled (pick your poison) once again, the outcome may hang in the balance once again.

3) Where does Florida hold the biggest advantage and where are the Gators at the biggest disadvantage?

Hill: I believe the biggest advantage is at defensive end. The Wildcats quarterback, Terry Wilson, stumbled during the Cats first half last week with a fumble and two interceptions. He also didn't have a touchdown on the day. As our Kentucky guest reporter pointed out this week, Wilson settled down in the second half but he was flustered against a lesser opponent during a home game. He's about to step into a hostile environment with a defense that has already made it clear they'd be aggressive. Between Jachai Polite, Jeremiah Moon, Jabair Zuniga and more—and now including Chauncey Gardner-Johnson!—the Kentucky backfield could see more action from Gators than Cats.

Disadvantage: Offensive Line; unfortunately for the Gators that goes both ways. The offensive line looked much better on pass protection during the first game. It was against a lesser opponent however and the run blocking left something to be desired. Franks showed better pocket awareness during the first game so if the pass pro stays even close to the same, he could be ok but with the defensive ends that Kentucky has, there's more pressure coming. And even with stout running backs, if the line can't help create any sort of lane, the backs are going to have a challenge against a SEC defensive line.

Wheeler: In my opinion Florida's biggest advantage is in pass defense. Last week Kentucky quarterback – junior college signee Terry 'Touchdown' Wilson (who Florida offered and made a run at) – struggled against Central Michigan. He was 11-of-18 for 78 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions throwing the ball mostly underneath. He is in for one hell of a gigantic jump in competition level, facing in the Gators what is likely the top secondary he will play this season. If Florida can take away the pass and make Kentucky a one-dimensional threat, this could get out of hand.

As for as biggest disadvantage, as was mentioned above, Florida's offensive line had a poor showing in run blocking last week. There is a big difference between a Big South defensive front and an SEC defensive front. If the Gators struggle run blocking on Saturday, and UK can make UF one-dimensional, then this game could be closer than you might expect.

4) Game prediction

Hill: Both teams still have questions that need to be answered and will be facing a tough test with a league game in week 2. The Gators defense will also be tasked with stopping a running back, Benny Snell, who is making a case to back up his claim that he's the best back in the SEC. I believe Snell makes his presence known early and scores twice. Having heard him speak enough, I think he gator chomps after one of those scores and gets a flag to give Florida good field position on the ensuing drive and they are able to score. The game will come down to a McPherson kick (as mentioned above) and the true freshman begins to endure himself to Gator fans as the hero.

My Score: 24-21 Florida

*Second Prediction: If Florida and Franks can score on the first drive and the defense gets a turnover in the first quarter, all bets are off and Florida wins something like 42-14.

Wheeler: Not enough is made out of momentum when it comes to football. Unlike the recent past, Florida comes in this week believing they are the better team and knowing they are going to win. It is reminiscent of the Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer eras. No, Florida's talent level isn' back to the 'name the score' days, but I do believe the Gators are significantly better across the board, most notably, on the sidelines, and if they play to their potential, this shouldn't be close.

My Score: 34-10 Florida

Staff Roundtable: Florida-Kentucky Predictions

3,386 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 3 yr ago by Mark Wheeler
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Thank you to Mark for letting me cheat and give two predictions
Mark Wheeler
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KassidyHill said:

Thank you to Mark for letting me cheat and give two predictions

I figured as long as you weren't hedging your bets by giving a score predicting a Florida win and then another with a Kentucky win - then what's the harm.
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