The Florida football team travels to Lexington this week to take on the Kentucky Wildcats in a matchup between two SEC East divisional rivals. The Gators enter the game with a record of 2-1 after a 31-17 win against the Tennessee Volunteers, while the Wildcats, with a record of 1-2, are coming off of a bye.
Florida has dominated the series between these teams for quite some time now and will enter the game looking to extend its 26-game winning streak against the Wildcats. Kentucky, under the leadership of new head coach Mark Stoops, will clearly be looking to put an end to Florida’s winning ways in this series.
Here are a few things to keep an eye on throughout the game.
Life without Easley
News broke Wednesday that the Gators’ defensive leader and arguably the best player on the team, defensive lineman Dominique Easley, would be out for the rest of the season after tearing his ACL in practice this week. Easley is the heart and soul of Florida’s defense and will not be easy to replace. Expect young players such as Darious Cummings, Joey Ivie and Bryan Cox Jr. to factor more into the rotation along the defensive line. Also, Ronald Powell and Dante Fowler Jr. will be more heavily relied upon to take their games to the next level.
One of the biggest headlines for the Gators moving forward will be the play of new starting quarterback Tyler Murphy. He was impressive against Tennessee, showing off his ability as a true dual-threat quarterback (134 yards passing, 84 yards rushing). In his first career start, it will be interesting to see how Florida’s offense adjusts to play to Murphy’s strengths.
Riding the ‘hot hand’
Matt Jones entered the season expecting to be the Gators workhorse at running back. However, a viral infection early in fall practice set him back a bit, and Mack Brown has taken advantage early in the season. After last Saturday’s game, head coach Will Muschamp said the Gators would ride the hot hand at running back the rest of the way. Both Jones and Brown had a rushing touchdown against Tennessee, but Brown was clearly more effective, and based on their total carries, 24 for Brown compared to 12 for Jones, the coaching staff felt the same way. Expect Brown to get the first crack against Kentucky.
Florida 24, Kentucky 10