Florida at Kentucky
Time: 6:30 PM CT, Saturday
Spread: FL -1
Odds c/o 5dimes
Respect is coming at long-last to Lexington. The Kentucky Wildcats now have a football program. As owners of a 3-0 record the Cats will take to hosting SEC rival and No. 20 overall ranked Florida on Saturday at 6:30 PM (Central Time) on Saturday. Early odds listed Florida as 1-point favorites in college football odds, with an over/under set low at just 44 total points.
The total belongs that low. Kentucky (3-0) has done it with defense through three weeks this season, giving up just 17, 16, and 13 in its three contests to Southern Miss, Eastern Kentucky and South Carolina. But this matchup against the Gators represents its first true test. Upcoming games against Mississippi State and Tennessee add some strength to its conferences schedule, but a win today would be a huge step forward for Kentucky.
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Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson has been strong. He has 569 yards on 62.7 percent passing with two TDs and one interception, good for a passer rating of 140.9. Johnson has also been the most successful ball carrier, arguably, with an effective 7.3 yards per carry and a 54-yardrun, in addition to two touchdowns rushing. Benny Snell Jr. has been a workhorse, but is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry on his 71 total attempts.
Snell’s three touchdowns lead the team in rushing TDs. At WR, the Cats have spread the wealth, as Kentucky boasts three receivers with 100-plus yards on the season. CJ Conrad leads the team with two receptions for touchdown. Kentucky has not been overwhelming its opponents offensively, but scoring 24, 27 and 23 has been enough with how strong its defense has been.
Florida (1-1) has played just two games on the season, a Week 1 loss to then-No. 11 Michigan and a Week 3 loss to now-unranked Tennessee (but No. 23 at the time). Week 2 was derailed, of course, by Hurricane Irma.
Kentucky may be a tougher matchup for Florida than Tennessee, and this game is also being played on the road like the 26-20 win over the Vols. Florida had 168 rushing yards divvied up between Malik Davis, Lamical Perine and Mark Thompson.
The Gators rushed 29 times at a rate of 5.7 yards per carry, and Davis had a 74-yard run in the game. Tyrie Cleveland was a machine at receiver, with five catches for 93 yards, a touchdown, and a long-reception of 63-yards. Florida will find Kentucky DTs and DL a bit more trying though this week. Can Davis continue to make big plays, or will the outside LBs of Kentucky rack up a lot of tackles for loss? There is a reason the over/under is set low, expect these teams to give the respective offenses a lot to handle in a defensive affair.
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Florida has failed to rush for a TD since it defeated Georgia on Oct. 29. It has gone eight games without an end zone rush, and Kentucky has not begun a season 4-0 since 2008. This is historically good for the Cats, who are 10-4 since it lost to Florida in Week 2 of last season. The program is on a tremendous upswing, and Florida will be luck to escape wit ha narrow victory.
Covers predicts Florida to win 17-16, but we are going against the grain: The momentum of a home crowd and a Wildcats defense eager to sink its teeth into OL should be the difference in the Wildcats pulling what will be a much-discussed upset.