As Kentucky prepares to enter The Swamp tomorrow evening, there is optimism among the Kentucky players and Cats fans that this could in fact be the year that UK breaks a 23-year streak of ineptitude against the Gators. Most will admit that they don’t expect UK to win the game, but there’s a prevailing feeling that it wouldn’t be incredibly shocking. Part of this is because Kentucky’s offense, which has had major struggles the past two seasons, finally appears to be in sync and functioning as a unit. But, most of the optimism appears to be stemming from the notion that the 2010 Gators, no longer sporting Superman under center, appear to be as vulnerable as any unit under Urban Meyer. The offense has struggled to make plays and has had issues all season long in simply keeping their hands on the football. The Florida Gators have been far from perfect so far this season and, in Kentucky, might face their first real test of the year.
That’s a thought not lost on the people at the Orlando Sentinel, who looked at one of the major questions facing the team this year – the struggles in consistenly moving the ball. In their story (and graphic above), the Sentinel explains that one of the biggest strengths of Tim Tebow and Co. was the ability to take the ball from any spot on the field and put six on the board not long after. Outside of a couple of big plays from Jeff Demps, that long-drive ability has been missing in Gainesville.
But, that got me thinking. How does that play into the Cats advantage? Well, you decide. Below are the drive statistics from Florida’s offensive possessions in their last three games against Kentucky, two of which were merciless beatings.
Average Drive Distance: 57 yards
Average Drive Distance: not really important, is it?
Made Field Goals
Average Drive Distance: 61 yards
Missed Field Goals
Average Drive Distance: 47 yards
Average Drive Distance: 18 yards
Average Drive Distance: 32 yards
Now, there are some other factors within the numbers (like TD drives of 1, 3 and 8 yards) that skew the numbers a bit and a lot of this has a “duh!” factor to it, but the prevailing them is that, over the past three years, Kentucky has had issues in allowing the Gators to hold on to the ball and move it down field with nearly no opposition. In the handful of times that the Cats forced a punt, it was within the first five or six plays of an offensive possession. Those five or six plays, much to the Cats delight, are where Florida is struggling to move the ball this year on offense. For a team that has committed zero turnovers this season while putting up huge points, Florida’s issues in putting together lengthy drives means that controlling the clock with three talented running backs and using special teams to win a field position war might just be enough to shock the world. That wouldn’t be enough in 2007, 2008 or 2009. But, in 2010, against these Gators, it might just be the right recipe.