We are a little under 24 hours from kickoff, where the Kentucky Wildcats have the opportunity to end this God-forsaken 31-game losing streak against the Florida Gators.
There have been several opportunities to crush it in the past, including their heartbreaking one-point loss last season against one of the worst Florida teams we’ve seen over the past few decades. We’ve been through this time and time again, found false optimism time and time again, but it has to stop at some point.
Here are 31 reasons the streak will end at 31:
1. No more sick Benny Snell
125 yards and two touchdowns with a high fever and viral infection against Central Michigan? Ridiculous. Snell at 100% set to take on a Florida defense that allowed 222 rushing yards to Charleston Southern last week? Even more frightening.
2. Florida talked more trash to Snell
Remember last week when Central Michigan’s Jonathan Ward said, “I don’t think there’s anything too special” about Snell and that he didn’t really know who he was?
The star Kentucky running back went out of his way to make sure he knew exactly who he was.
And it looks like Florida didn’t learn from CMU’s mistakes.
Florida linebacker Vosean Joseph still needs convincing.
“He’s alright,” he said. “It ain’t nothing we haven’t seen before. We’ve done played against Sony Michel and everybody. If you’re better than Sony Michel, you’ve gotta tell me that.”
He’ll be sure to let you know, chief.
3. And Kentucky’s lead back has a star running mate
Remember how fun it was in Snell’s freshman season when he got to share the workload with Boom Williams? Now, AJ Rose is finally giving the Cats another dominant option in the backfield.
After a 104-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Chippewas and increased optimism by the coaching staff, fans should expect another impressive outing by the sophomore back.
4. Josh Allen will wreak havoc
The cream always rises to the top, and Kentucky’s star pass rusher will find a way to dominate on the big stage. Florida saw zero pressure against Charleston Southern, so they’re in for a rude awakening with Allen.
He finished with ten tackles, three tackles for loss, and one sack against Central Michigan, and he should be able to match or top those numbers against the Gators.
5. Mike Edwards is the star in the secondary
Mr. Versatile will provide the perfect cushion for the secondary in case anything gets into the third level. He may not be accurate, but Feleipe Franks has a rocket of an arm, and they’ll need Edwards back there to snag an interception or three.
6. CJ Conrad will be unleashed
We only saw nine reception yards out of Conrad last week, and a lot of it had to do with most of his targets coming at or around the line of scrimmage.
When Gran opens things up and Baby Gronk has the opportunity to get open in the middle of the field on Saturday, we should see a major spike in his production.
7. Terry Wilson started to get comfortable
His three turnovers in the first half were rough, but he started to get much more comfortable in the second half through the air and on the ground. He admitted he had first game jitters, and despite this game being in the Swamp, the coaches and Wilson both say there will be a significant leap in quarterback play on Saturday.
8. They’re playing for Josh Paschal and John Schlarman
The Wildcats have someone to play for on both sides of the football. With Paschal and Schlarman each battling cancer, Kentucky is already wearing wristbands and helmet stickers to show support. In their first major game of the season, they’ll have the perfect opportunity to put on a show.
9. Eddie Gran will open up the playbook
As mentioned above, Kentucky’s offense was extremely vanilla against Central Michigan, as they were obviously saving some of their best plays for Florida this week.
Trick plays, deeper home run balls, etc. We’ll see it all tomorrow.
10. And so will Matt House
Like the offense, we didn’t see House’s full defensive playbook, specifically on different blitzes and coverage schemes. They’re going to have to make Feleipe Franks uncomfortable in the pocket, and with elite pass rushers at his disposal, we’ll be certain to see a few more tricks up his sleeve.
11. (Recent) history tells us it’ll be close
Three of the last four matchups against Florida have been decided by one possession. And if you take out the blowout in 2016, three of those losses have been by a combined 12 points.
12. … and Kentucky has finished well in close games overall
Not necessarily against Florida, but the Cats have turned it around in recent history in close matchups. Austin MacGinnis has been a big reason for it, specifically in game-winners against Louisville and Mississippi State, but the team as a whole is executing down the stretch significantly better than past years.
13. Despite his reputation, Kentucky is solid against Dan Mullen
Four of Kentucky’s last nine games against Mullen have been decided by one-possession. They were blown out in Starkville last year, but took home the victory at Commonwealth Stadium two years ago.
14. Feleipe Franks isn’t a dual-threat
Kentucky’s biggest kryptonite in the Mark Stoops era has been against running quarterbacks. Franks is athletic and knows how to pick up some extra yards with his feet, but he’s a pure pass-first QB.
15. Open-field tackles have been impressive for the Cats
Remember just a few years ago when opposing offenses would rack up yards after contact because Kentucky simply couldn’t make a tackle? We’ve seen it more times than I care to remember. Remember the Mississippi State play a few years back? Ugh.
Against Central Michigan, the Cats made several impressive plays in the open field. If they can continue to do that against Florida’s elite playmakers, we’re in good shape.
16. It’s homecoming for several Wildcats
There are 19 players on the roster from Florida including Chris Westry, Derrick Baity, Josh Ali, and Clevan Thomas, among others. With family and friends in attendance, you’ll be getting Sunshine State-natives’ A-games.
17. One very special guest will be in attendance
Kentucky freshman wideout Akeem Hayes will have his father in attendance for the first time in his entire football career when the Cats play in the Swamp on Saturday. Tell me that’s not good luck.
First game my daddy ever coming too ??
— 1979 (@one1nine9_) September 7, 2018
18. And two more special guests, too.
2019 Kentucky football commitments Nik Scalzo and tight end Nik Ognenovic, two Florida natives, will be in attendance to see their Cats defeat the Gators.
19. Lynn Bowden is due a touchdown
At receiver, running the ball, or on special teams, Kentucky’s star playmaker is set to find his way in the end zone. Might as well make it happen in The Swamp.
20. David Bouvier is a stud in the slot
It’ll be tough to replace Charles Walker’s clutch plays in the slot, but Bouvier has already managed several game-changing plays in a Kentucky uniform. If Wilson can get into a rhythm with him the same way Gunnar Hoak did, the offense can spread it out a bit more and keep the Florida defense on their toes.
21. Max Duffy is the greatest punter in the history of all punters
Self-explanatory. 50 yards per attempt last week. Zero mistakes.
22. They’re honoring the 1993 SEC Title team
You remember the Florida team still managed to defeat Kentucky, despite throwing seven interceptions in a single game? That same Kentucky team that went on to play in the Peach Bowl?
They’re honoring them tomorrow.
Time to rain on their parade.
23. Grant McKinniss is a stud on kickoffs
McKinniss had a rough start to his punting career at Kentucky, but he’s found a way to redeem himself as a kickoff specialist. Last week against Central Michigan, the junior out of Ohio sent just about every kick into the end zone, and even made one killer tackle on a deep return.
Can’t return one to the house if he booms them out of the end zone each time.
24. Kash Daniel is a leader on defense
He had big shoes to fill with Courtney Love gone, but he managed to do more than enough in his starting debut last week. He finished with a team-high 11 tackles, including several huge hits.
25. Jordan Jones is back
Last year was quite the adjustment year for linebacker Jordan Jones.
After a stellar sophomore season, Jones followed it up with inconsistent play, injuries, and couldn’t control his temper.
Against Central Michigan, the Jones we need showed up, playing disciplined football and making huge plays for the defense.
That needs to continue tomorrow.
26. Young fellas stepped up
How about young guys like DeAndre Square, Boogie Watson, Josh Ali, Clevan Thomas, and Phil Hoskins making plays? They may not all be freshmen, but they don’t have much game experience and still managed to help out the Cats all over the field on Saturday.
Let’s keep that trend going forward.
27. Dorian Baker looks great back from injury
He only made one catch against CMU, but it was a massive one that eventually led to a Kentucky touchdown. He also found himself wide open on several occasions, so he’ll have more opportunities as Wilson gets more comfortable making reads.
Following a season-ending injury last season, it’s great seeing Baker back out there thriving on the outside.
28. EJ Price and Naasir Watkins were solid
With Landon Young out for the year, Price and Watkins both have to step up at left tackle this season. In game one, they each did some good things, certainly enough to work with going forward. Mark Stoops pointed out a few simple mistakes from each of them, but he was overall impressed with their performances.
The Gators have an elite defensive line, but with one game under each of their belts, Price and Watkins are ready.
29. Florida struggles on third down
Florida went just 2-9 on third down against Charleston Southern and 1-2 on fourth. Last season, the Gators finished the season just 32.5% on third down conversions. If the Cats can make Franks uncomfortable and get him off the field, the offense will have an opportunity to find their groove.
30. No one believes in the Cats
Like last year against South Carolina, most people are chalking this one up as an automatic loss for Kentucky. The Gators are cocky and talking trash, something our Wildcats thrive off of.
31. 31 is way, way too many years