Optimism around Football. A new day has truly dawned in Lexington. The Cats have a top recruiting class, an excellent staff, and finally hope of a real chance of knocking off the Florida Gators. For 26 years the Gators have found a way to win the game but this time they are the ones with injuries all over the field and a first time starting QB on the road. Maybe this hope is all false but a sense of dread has begun to spread in Gainesville. Here’s what the media around Florida have to say about the Cats:
For the second time in as many weeks, the nation’s No. 2 defense is preparing for a two-quarterback system. No. 20 Florida will play Kentucky on Saturday and will face both Wildcats signal callers: sophomores Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow. Smith is a more traditional drop-back passer, leading the Wildcats in yards (544) and touchdowns (four) with zero interceptions. Whitlow, a duel-threat quarterback, has attempted 44 passes this season but is second on the team in rushing yards (160).
“They play both of them in all the games,” Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. “Both guys have maybe a different skill-set but a strong skill-set.”
With Smith bouncing back from a shoulder injury it will be interesting to see just how ready he is to lead the Cats to an upset over the Gators. Smith has been the go to guy for the air raid attack as he leads the team in yards and TDs. However it may be all on Whitlow tomorrow to get in there, settle down and get the job done.
Watch out for …
Florida will be without starting QB Jeff Driskel and DT Dominique Easley who each suffered season-ending leg injuries this past week. Murphy, a redshirt junior, will be making his first collegiate start, and how he’ll respond in a hostile environment is a major question mark. The defense must also regroup after the loss of Easley. And although coach D.J. Durkin said the Gators’ depth makes it possible to compensate for Easley’s loss on the field, filling the emotional leadership void and the experience may not be nearly as easy. Kentucky is second in the SEC in pass defense, while the Gators are No. 1. Look for Florida to try and rush the ball often as the Wildcats are ranked No. 13 in the league in rushing defense, allowing 187 yards per game.
With Murphy under center the Gators will have a hard time slinging the ball through the air so they will have to find a way to score on the ground. Bad news for the Cats who have struggled to hold any capable running back to short yardage this year.
With possible first-rounders for next year’s NFL draft in cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson, the Gators own the SEC’s top corner duo, but it doesn’t stop there. Add freshman Vernon Hargreaves III, who might be the most talented pure corner on the team, and cross-training fourth-year safeties in Watkins and Cody Riggs, and this is quite a formidable starting defensive backfield. Florida can rotate eight quality guys in the secondary in each game.
- Florida ranks first in the SEC in pass defense, allowing 157 yards a game;
- Through three games, the Gators have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete just 44.3 percent of their passes and QBs average only 4.9 yards per attempt. Quarterbacks have a passer rating of 82.95, lowest in the nation, when facing Florida;
- Florida has had an interception in six consecutive games, dating to last season;
- Florida had seven pass breakups in last week’s 31-17 victory over Tennessee, which matched the team’s total for the year entering the game and the most in a game since recording seven against South Carolina last year.
Yeah, maybe we should focus on running the ball with Jojo and the rest of the rowdy gang. The further we can keep the ball away from getting intercepted the better.