Kentucky Wildcats (3-0, 3-0 ATS) at No. 9 Florida Gators (3-0, 1-1-1 ATS), Week 4 College Foots, Saturday September 25th, 7:00PM Eastern The Swamp at Ben Griffith Stadium Gainesville, F.L.
By Jay Horne, Professional NCAA Football Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: University of Kentucky +14.5/University of Florida -14.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
The no. 9 ranked Florida Gators have been slowly progressing to get back to their dominating type status. After some lackluster starts earlier in the year, the Gators are slowly getting back to form and are certain to once again be factors in the SEC Championship. Florida took care of Tennessee last week in Knoxville in what started off as a defensive game, but the Gators offense found a way to pull away late for a 31-17 victory. Even though the Gators offense has yet to fire on all cylinders, the Florida defense is still among the best in the nation and should give them a huge advantage for the rest of the season.
The Gators now get the luxury of hosting their SEC East foes in the Kentucky Wildcats. The Wildcats are sporting an undefeated record at 3-0 and have also posted a perfect 3-0 record against the books. Kentucky has not played any respectable teams in their last two outings, (Western Kentucky and Akron) but did get a solid win over Louisville in the opener 23-16. The Wildcats offense is averaging 44.3 point per game through their first 3 contests to rank them as the 11th best scoring offense in America at the moment. However, those numbers may reflect the level of competition through the first 3 games more than anything. Still Kentucky has some experienced guys at the skill positions and they will try to do something very few teams get to accomplish in getting a win at The Swamp.
In fact, the Gators have not lost a home game in their last 15 outings at Ben Griffith Stadium and also won 20 of the last 21 games at home as well. Add to the fact in this series, the Gators have not lost to the Wildcats since 1986 and have not lost in Gainesville to Kentucky since the 1979 season. However, the Wildcats will attempt to end any such ongoing streaks this weekend. UK QB Mike Hartline has posted very solid numbers this year completing 72% passing for 680 yards, 5 touchdowns, without a single interception. Hartline is the conventional quarterback behind center, but do not be surprised when you see star wide receiver Randall Cobb behind center as well. Cobb will run some plays in the “wildcat” formation and Kentucky has been effective in doing so. Cobb has 108 rushing yards on just 9 attempts while also leading the team in receiving yards with 12 catches for 160 yards. Cobb is simply a playmaker and Kentucky needs to get him the ball often to make some things happen on the offense.
Another solid performer on offense is Kentucky running back Derrick Locke. Locke has posted 372 yards with 5 touchdowns while achieving 5.1 yards per carry so far this season. However, I would not put Locke into any type of fantasy starts this week going up against the Florida defense. After all the Gators defense held a solid rushing offense in Tennessee to just 26 total yards on the ground last week which is just remarkable. Let’s just be straight forward in saying there is no way Kentucky will just line up and run over that talented Florida defense. Therefore, I really expect Kentucky to mix it up with the unconventional type plays like the “wildcat” formation and some other similar passing situations in attempt to confuse the Gators defense.
On both teams other side of the ball, Florida’s offense has yet to really “click.” Sure they are showing signs of progress, but there remains some dullness in the passing attack. Freshman QB John Brantley has not made any mistakes, but has not posted any big numbers either. Brantley has completed 62% passing for just 452 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 0 picks this season. However only 1 Florida receiver has over 100 yards receiving through the first 3 games and that is Deonte Thompson who has 162 receiving yards on the year. Still, that is a long way from what we are accustomed to witnessing out of the Florida wide outs.
Rather than having a ton of production on the passing side of the offense, the Gators remain very strong when running the football. The Gators have a stable of tailbacks that are lightning quick and can make things happen in a hurry. Running back Jeffery Demps is sporting a 6.1 yards per carry average and is a big play back. Demps is a very explosive runner that is extremely dangerous in the open field. Therefore, the Kentucky defense must bring him down quickly. Speaking of the Kentucky defense, there are still some unknowns heading into SEC action. The Kentucky pass defense has been very solid holding opponents to just 109 yards per game. However, the defensive front has appeared a bit “soft” against some mediocre teams thus far as well. It will be interesting to see if Florida can run the ball at will or if the Kentucky defense will be up to the challenge come game time this Saturday.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I have been gun shy to pull the trigger on Florida this year due to their sputtering offense. However, I think they will cover this week. Look for another similar game where things start out close and the Gators pull away again. Take UF minus the points.