After hanging 38 points against a MAC team for the second straight week, Kentucky football takes a big step up in competition as No. 9 ranked Florida comes to Lexington. The Cats have the opportunity to pick up a victory in front of the home crowd against the Gators for the first time since 1986. A win would also give Kentucky its first winning streak against Florida since 1976-1977. Here’s what you need to know about the rival Gators:
Dan Mullen is in his second season as Florida’s head coach, following a nine-year stint as the lead dog at Mississippi State. Prior to that, he spent four years as the Gators’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks’ coach. Florida went 10-3 under him last season with a victory over Michigan in the Peach Bowl, and is 2-0 so far this season.
Junior quarterback Feleipe Franks is coming off a brilliant performance against UT-Martin, where he went 25-for-27 passing with 270 yards and two touchdowns, breaking Tim Tebow’s school record for completion percentage in the process (minimum of 20 completions). In Florida’s game against rival Miami – a Power Five foe – he was 17-of-27 for 254 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He brings some rushing ability to the table, ranking second on the team with 13 carries.
Senior Lamical Perine is the Gators’ main running back, but has gotten only 20 carries through two weeks, picking up 93 yards and a touchdown. He makes an impact in the passing game as well, leading the team with nine receptions. Sophomores Dameon Pierce and Malik Davis will contribute out of the backfield as well.
Wide receivers Josh Hammond and Van Jefferson are the top two weapons on the outside. The seniors combined to catch 13 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown in the opening weeks. Junior receiver Kadarius Toney, who started Florida’s first two games, will miss the contest due to a left shoulder injury. According to the AP, redshirt freshman Jacob Copeland is expected to replace him in the lineup.
The pass rush for the Gators has been merciless, picking up 15 sacks to pace the FBS through the early portion of the season. Senior defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga has been the main force, leading the SEC with three sacks and three tackles for loss. Linebackers Ventrell Miller and Jonathan Greenard, each with two sacks, will play a big part in the disruption of Kentucky quarterback Sawyer Smith, who is making his first start as a Wildcat.
In the secondary, junior Shawn Davis is tied for second on the team with eight tackles, and has one pass defended. Senior Jeawon Taylor is tied for fourth in tackles with six. Starting defensive back CJ Henderson, the team leader is passes defended with two, is doubtful for the game with a sprained left ankle. According to the AP, one of three true freshman – Kaiir Elam, Jaydon Hill or Chester Kimbrough – will fill in for him.
Florida and Kentucky will square off for a 3-0 start on Saturday night. Game time at Kroger Field is set for 7:00 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on ESPN, and can also be seen on the ESPN app.