1. What Makes the Florida Defense Good
The stats are deceiving — Florida is ranked near the the bottom of SEC defensive statistical category –but do not be fooled, Florida has a fantastic defense.
“They’re really good up front,” Eddie Gran said on Tuesday. “They’re really stout at linebacker, have a great secondary. It’s gonna be a a challenge for us. They do a really good job.”
Florida’s surrendered so many yards because they’ve been forced to stay on the field for so long, eventually wearing out late in the game. Kentucky must possess the ball for long periods of time. There’s no gimmicks to having success against this defense.
“We’re gonna have to create some stuff to get some yards whether that be formationally or just coming off and whipping somebody’s tail,” Gran said. “We’re gonna have to finish, we’re gonna have to compete and we’re doing that right now. We’re playing at a high level, meaning our intensity, we’re giving effort. When you do that you have a chance.”
2. The Strengths of the Florida Offense
The Gators are ranked last in the SEC in total offense with just 286 yards per game. Kentucky is taking nothing for granted. Matt House sees plenty of potential on the Florida offense.
“I see a quarterback that really throws good deep balls. They’ve got a couple wideouts that can blow the top off of coverage. They’ve got a couple quick wideouts, and they’ve got the same backs that ran for a bunch of yards on us last year. I think they’re big up front.”
3. Florida’s Best Offensive Threat
Florida has their own version of Lynn Bowden. No. 17 Kadarius Toney is a Wildcat quarterback who primarily plays in the slot. In two games he has just five rushing yards, but he has 67 receiving yards, some of which are accounted for on jet sweeps. Speed is the true freshman’s greatest weapon.
“He’s fast,” House said. “Really fast and they do a good job getting him the ball in open spaces whether it be a screen or jets. They had him at Wildcat quarterback. They do a good job of trying to get him the ball. He’s a good player.”
4. Lightning Can’t Strike Twice
Florida enters Kroger Field after a victory over Tennessee, thanks to one improbable last-second play.
“That can’t be us,” cornerback Derrick Baity said. “That just can’t be us. You know what’s going to happen on the last play. They’re thinking about going into overtime, but you gotta keep everything in front of you.”
If the Hail Mary scenario presents itself this Saturday, it will not be anything new to the Cats. Matt House said each side practices the Hail Mary situation once a week.
5. Defensive Improvements from Game One
Matt House’s simple assertion: “Assignments, guys playing faster and leverage on the football.”
To elaborate, the defense knows what the hell they’re doing. It’s allowing them to play faster and it ensures they are in the right position to make plays on the football.
6. Get Nosy
“The best nose is a fresh nose,” is how Derrick LeBlanc once put it. The ability to rotate eight or nine guys on the D-Line has transformed the UK defensive line into a unit that moves the line of scrimmage.
“We got about eight or nine guys that can definitely play,” Matt Elam said. “You know somebody’s going to be ready to play, so you can give it your all and the next guy’s going to be up. It’s been working.”
Elam and the D-Line are playing with more confidence than ever before and that’s translating into production.
7. Gran’s Script
Did you know offensive coordinator Eddie Gran scripts plays? Me neither. Gran said he’ll script the first 15-20 plays of each game. It gives the offense confidence in what they will be doing and it shows the coaches upstairs how the defense will react.
“A lot of the times it’s maybe giving them different formations maybe that they haven’t seen, maybe different personnel groupings and then that way as we’re charting upstairs, we’re finding out how they’re lining up to certain things.”
As they chart the defense’s response upstairs, they determine what worked well and use that, plus a few things they hadn’t shown, in the second half.
8. All Chrome Everything
For the first time in 2017, Kentucky will rock the Chrome Domes Saturday night. There’s a council of 15 players that will periodically meet with Mark Stoops. Their input helps decide the uniforms. This week the players didn’t pick the chrome, Stoops did.
“I guess he wants to rock the chromes,” Charles Walker said. “I think this week was more of him saying, ‘We’re bringing out these bad boys.’ Everyone likes them. I’m glad we’re wearing them.”
9. Childhood Fandom
I spoke to two guys from the state of Florida and neither grew up cheering for the Gators. Denzil Ware was closer to the panhandle, which made him favor Florida State. Derrick Baity hears crap about the Gators when he returns home, but as a child he was too busy playing outside and watching Dragonball Z to pay attention to football.
Surprisingly, the only childhood Florida fan grew up about three hours from Lexington. Bowling Green native Eli Brown loved the Gators as a child.
10. Vegas likes the Cats
Florida opened as four-point favorites. Three oddsmakers have lowered the line all the way down to 1.5, essentially a pick ’em. That’s gotta be a good thing, right?