Two SEC 2-0 teams will play on Saturday night. One is a perceived as a former national power. The other is Kentucky. While I do think that the Wildcats could end the ugly losing streak, we may need to pump the brakes a little before ordering the 3-0 t-shirts. Florida is still an extremely talented team with a roster stocked with All Americans.
Here are some interesting points of interest:
Florida’s 1st year Head Coach Jim McElwain’ public tirade may act as a team bonding catalyst
The highly-viewed video highlights the Bull Gator belittling his legacy running back in an expletive laden coaching moment. RB Kelvin Taylor’s post-touchdown throat slashing gesture deserved correction. I’ve got no problem with what McElwain did nor the manner in which he did it. Just sometimes, incidents like that can bring a team together. It can also tear teams apart. We’ll see Saturday.
UF’s offense is highly inexperienced
This week’s opponent’s depth chart is fluid at best. Based on projection, the starting 11 have only 44 combined starts. Seven of the eleven have less than two career starts including two true freshmen running backs of which one will be starting on Saturday. RBs Jordan Cronkite and Jordan Scarlett may be young, but both were US Army All-Americans.
Gator defense is more seasoned
As a group, it has 121 combined starts; however, injuries have plagued that side of the football. LB Alex Anzalone is highly doubtful. All American corner back Vernon Hargreaves III is probable but will most likely play. LB Antonio Morrison is returning from last year’s season ending knee surgery but is back on the field. Safety Keanu Neal missed the first two games due to injury but is expected back for Kentucky. Much like UK, suspensions have also defensively factored.
The defensive secondary is the team’s most talented position group
And, on Saturday, you’ll see plenty of them. Florida employs a 4-2-5 defense. This means; four defensive linemen, two linebackers, and five defensive backs or more commonly referred to as the Nickel package. The Gators will at times input another DB in Dime packages. UK will see the Dime on 2nd/3rd and medium to long plays. Cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves III and Jalen Tabor are both elite. Most if not all of the starting five are considered NFL prospects. UK receivers have regularly been releasing from the line of scrimmage by out-athleting both Louisiana and South Carolina. Their fundamental and technical growth will be tested this weekend.
Florida’s defensive line is on average, smaller than UK’s past two opponents
The group goes 6’3″ 279 lbs. However it is fast, aggressive and highly disruptive. Patrick Towles will face the best secondary and defensive line he’s seen in 2015. Not included in the starting rotation is 5-star prospect turned Gator, CC Jefferson. At 6’2″ 255 lbs., he fits their outside pass rush intent.
The Wildcat slayer WR Demarcus Robinson was demoted to 2nd team in week two
The BBN best remembers Robinson by his 11-reception, 216-yard Swamp performance. He’s joined at receiver by yet another true freshman, Antonio Calloway. Sophomore Brandon Powell returns and is best utilized in the slot as well as on special teams.
Quarterbacks Will Grier and Treon Harris have started one game respectively.
In two games, Grier is 26-35 for 317 yards and 4 touchdowns. He’s completed 74% of his passes. Harris has gone 19-27 for 269 yards and 2 TDs. Harris’s completion percentage is 70.4%. On the ground, the pair are both averaging close to seven yards per attempt.
Preparing for both presents problems. While statistically similar, the games are noticeably unique.
McElwain’s offense features multiple tight ends, personnel groupings, and formations
Josh Forrest will be called upon to act as a linebacker and an assistant coach on the field. You will see more motions than in the first two games. By utilizing TEs, organic bubbles or natural running lanes are created against the 3-4 defense. Much like in Columbia, the Cats will be facing a team that features the running game.
What does all this mean? Florida is favored, but Kentucky is the fan and talking head favorite to win the football game. This isn’t the Spurrier or Meyer Gators, but they’re still dangerously skilled and desperately want to start the SEC season off 1-0. Kentucky is off to a fast yet second half inconsistent 2-0 start. Most proclaimed that a 2-2 September would be the best case scenario. I had the Cats 3-1 but did pick it to lose in Columbia. Something’s got to give. See y’all at Commonwealth Stadium.