For 31 years we’ve been saying “there’s always next year” and once again, ‘next year’ is here. But how do we as fans approach this year’s game against Florida? Do we go in with the same level of optimism we’ve held for the last several years or should we tread lightly to stop ourselves from getting heartbroken?
Why am I so torn? Well, for one there is a lot of reasons to be optimistic about Saturday. Kentucky has talent across the board and Kentucky will be lining up against practically the same team they lined up against last year as Florida is returning 17 of their 22 starters. But, last year was too much to bare and I’m not sure I want to put myself through that again.
This year, I’m stuck. Last year was the year, and we couldn’t do it. I guess I’ve reached that age of Kentucky fandom where the optimism starts to dwindle away…but maybe, just one last time, I want to get optimistic for the Florida game.
Reasons to Feel Good about the Florida Game
Florida Struggles against the run
In week one against FCS Charleston Southern, Florida gave up 222 yards on the ground. CSU averaged 5.2 yards in the route, but you have to imagine that if Florida is giving those kinds of numbers up to an FCS team, Benny Snell, AJ Rose, and with maybe a few designed run plays for Terry Wilson and Lynn Bowden, Kentucky should run wild on Saturday. That should open up a few passing plays, as well.
Filipe Franks is Probably the Worst SEC Quarterback Kentucky will Play this year
Last year Filipe Franks did not play well at all against Kentucky. So much so that he was benched in favor of Luke Del Rio, but Florida does not have Del Rio to rely on this year, and quite frankly I was shocked to see Franks listed as QB1 on the Florida depth chart. Yes, I know Dan Mullen is the “quarterback whisper” (whatever), but you can only do so much with so little. Last year Franks just threw for 85 yards and had a quarterback rating of 34.5, this year he’ll face the same defense, if not a more improved defense.
This Kentucky Team is a Vengeful Group
It’s no secret what happened last year. Kentucky was better than Florida, and the cats gave it away, but you can’t convince me that has set well with guys like Benny Snell, Josh Allen, or Kash Daniel. This team prides itself on having a giant chip on their shoulder, and I have a good feeling they’re itching to get to the swamp on Saturday to avenge last year’s heartbreak.
Now, My Concerns
Kentucky’s Poor Quarterback Play
This is less of a concern Florida, but more as a concern in general. If Kentucky has any shot at beating Florida, the quarterback play must be better next week. Whether it’s working in some short passes to get Terry comfortable early or rolling with Gunnar, we need to see some better passes. We may see a big jump or a least that’s what we’re hoping, and Stoops thinks the same. In the presser, yesterday Stoops said he expects to see the most improvement from week one to week two.
Uncertainty at Kicking
There’s a big void in the absence Austin MacGinnis, naturally, but without his leg, Kentucky doesn’t get their only win over Dan Mullen nor do they go into overtime in the swamp in 2014. So with in-between yardage scenarios, we won’t have his leg to rely on, and we didn’t get a good look at Miles Butler or Chance Poore yesterday. Going for it on 4th and eight when the field goal distance is 48 yards isn’t a great sign.
The Streak Itself
It’s hard to convince anyone that after 31 years of the same result that something will change. I’ve never seen it in my lifetime, and I’m sure that’s the case with most of you reading this. After last year, it’s hard to see another outcome.
If you are going to be optimistic this week in preparation for Florida, I don’t blame you. You’ll see me drinking blue kool-aid all week and on the way down to the Swamp. Don’t get me wrong, I will ALWAYS believe in blue, but last year just taught me to tread a little more lightly this year.
Follow me on twitter: @BrentW_KSR