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Take Five Breakdown: Florida-Kentucky Preview
After a massive win over the Utah Utes on Saturday, the Florida Gators will look to get their conference schedule off to a winning start. Jon Hale of the Lexington Herald-Leader gave Inside the Gators an inside look at this week’s opponent, the No. 20 ranked Kentucky Wildcats.
Five Kentucky Wildcats to Know
Will Levis, Quarterback, Senior
- It was Cam Rising last week for the Gators, and now it’s Will Levis. According to Hale, Levis comes into this 2022 season with the most hype around a Wildcat QB in over 15 years and maybe even farther back than that. Many mock drafts have Levis as an early first-round pick, and he has the physical attributes to be one. Despite some accuracy issues in the season opener against Miami (OH.), Levis threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. Hale said there is no way Kentucky walks out of The Swamp with a win unless Levis shows up.
Tayvion Robinson, Wide Receiver, Senior
- A transfer from Virginia Tech, Robinson came in with the expectation of just being a fraction of his predecessor Wan’Dale Robinson. He showed his promise in the Wildcats’ first game with 136 receiving yards on just six catches. Hale said he expects around 10 targets for the transfer on Saturday.
Keaton Upshaw, Tight End, Senior
- The Gators faced the daunting task of containing one of the more talented tight end rooms in the country last week. A task that many could argue Florida failed at completing. Hale said Kentucky’s offensive coordinator, Rich Scangarello, left a lot off the table in Week One, including the tight ends. Kentucky may look to exploit that weakness on Saturday and Upshaw will be one to keep an eye on. His 6-foot-6, 246-pound frame makes Upshaw the most dangerous threat in the tight end receiving game, but there is a lot of depth and diverse play styles in the tight end room, according to Hale. The tight ends seem to be the position group to keep an eye on in opposing offenses moving forward for the Gators.
DeAndre Square, Inside Linebacker, Grad Student
- The Florida run game was on full display against Utah and Kentucky will look to slow it down from all three levels of the defense on Saturday. Hale said the Kentucky staff feels good about their linebacker crew, with three of the four starters being “super-seniors.” Square led the team with seven tackles last week. Outside linebacker Jordan Wright was suspended for the opener, and Hale said they haven’t gotten an answer on if he will return for the trip to Gainesville.
Kavosiey Smoke, Running Back, Senior
- Chris Rodriguez is out, so Smoke will be the starter. Hale said he is the fastest running back the Wildcats have and is known for his home run hit-ability out of the backfield. Redshirt freshman La’Vell Wright will be the backup and is the closest resemblance of Rodriguez, in terms of play style, according to Hale.
Five Fast Facts
- The Gators are 53-19 against the Wildcats including a 29-5 mark at home.
- UF went from NR in Week 1 to No. 12 in Week 2 – the largest jump in school history in the current AP Top-25 format and the Gators’ fourth-biggest ever.
- The Gators are 7-2 against Kentucky since HC Mark Stoops took over in 2013, with the only losses coming in 2018 (home) and 2021 (away). Those are UF’s only losses in the head-to-head series dating back through 1987
- This is the first meeting between UF’s Billy Napier and UK’s Mark Stoops as head coaches. » The two previously met in 2013 and 2016, when Napier was the WRs Coach at Alabama. A No.1-ranked Alabama team won both matchups over Stoops’ Wildcats, 48-7 (2013) and 34-6 (2016).
- New UF head coaches are 10-6 in their SEC openers including a 3-0 mark vs. ranked opponents in such games.
Five Gameday Storylines
The Running back Situation in Lexington:
- With three of the top five running backs out, Kentucky will need to find another form of production on the ground. Last week, Levis stuck to the passing game and refrained from the scramble and any designed runs. Hale said he believes the Wildcats will have more quarterback-designed runs in the playbook, but that Scangarello has emphasized minimizing the hits on Levis.
Making it two-straight against the Gators:
- Last season, the Gators lost on the road in Lexington. “They’re confident, for sure,” Hale said. He said the expectation is to push for that second spot in the SEC East and winning games like this are necessary to do that. Winning last year has increased the confidence level, and with players on the roster that have a win against the orange and blue, they feel they can do it again.
Replicating The Swamp:
- Nothing can artificially replicate Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, but teams must try. Hale said it’s normal for the team to pump in noise at practices during a road week but said Levis asked for it to be even louder than last year. Hale said the noise will be even more significant this time around because of the youth and inexperience on the offensive side of the ball. Two of Kentucky’s wide receivers are true freshman and have never played in a hostile environment like The Swamp. Add that on to an almost entirely new offensive line and the crowd noise could be a major factor, just as it was for the Gators last year.
The Anthony Richardson Explosion:
- It was the two-point conversion against Utah that put Richardson on the national stage of incredible athletes in college football. But it’s a relatively new face for Kentucky fans. Emory Jones was in the drivers’ seat in 2021, but now it’s Richardson’s turn to take a crack at the Wildcats. “Kentucky has a long history of struggling against dual-threat quarterbacks,” Hale said. Richardson is the player that Kentucky coaches are losing sleep over how to gameplan against. With that said, Hale told Inside the Gators that there are still fans that are skeptical of his skills as a passer.
The Kentucky Offensive Line:
- This is the BIGGEST question going into Saturday. Miami (OH.) got four sacks against the Wildcats in the opener. With three starters leaving the program from the 2021 season, Kentucky averaged just about two yards per carry in Week One. The Kentucky staff continues to shuffle around the line to prioritize the protection of Levis and their next challenge will be the Florida Gators. “They struggled against a MAC team in Week One,” Hale said, “So, you would think that Florida would be able to exploit some of those same weaknesses if they don’t get things fixed.”
- Hale- UF 27-24
- Chris Will- UF 35-21