GAINESVILLE, Fla. — After a last-second win against Tennessee to open SEC play, the No. 20 Florida Gators (1-1, 1-0 SEC) will travel to Kroger Field face the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats (3-0, 1-0 SEC) at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday.
The Gators are looking to stay undefeated in conference play and make a run to their third consecutive SEC Championship Game. The Wildcats are looking to end a 30-game losing streak in the series.
Florida beat writers Zach Abolverdi, Jordan McPherson and Ryan Young make their predictions for how the game on Saturday will unfold.
Abolverdi: ‘This should be a close game’
Florida and Kentucky won big games last Saturday, but both teams had deficiencies to harp on in practice this week. The Gators and Wildcats have two of the worst scoring offenses in the SEC and a lot of youth in their starting lineups. Randy Shannon and Mark Stoops will be dialing them defensively, so I don’t expect either offense to help their points-per-game average.
This should be a close game, and there’s a lot of belief in Lexington that the 30-year losing streak comes to end this season. I don’t see it happening. Stoops and his staff have done an incredible job at Kentucky, especially in recruiting. But at the end of the day, this is still Florida-Kentucky and the Gators simply have more talent on their roster. That doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to be the better team Saturday, but I think they will be. Florida, 24-23.
McPherson: Look for the defense to save the day
This probably is Kentucky’s best chance to end its 30 years of despair against the Florida Gators. Coach Mark Stoops arguably has his best team out of his five seasons in Lexington. The game is being played at Kentucky, and the Gators are still finding their identity on offense while also fielding a young defense.
However, I’m still not ready to say the Wildcats are going to win it.
This game, to me, is going to come down to two things. No. 1: Can Feleipe Franks find success on the road against a Kentucky team that is going to try to rattle him early and often? No. 2: Can Florida’s young defense — which might be without senior cornerback Duke Dawson (concussion) — contain Wildcats dual-threat quarterback Stephen Johnson and running back Benny Snell Jr.?
At the end of the day, it’s going to be a close game and probably a low-scoring one at that. Franks is going to continue to improve on offense and I think this is going to be the game where we see Florida’s defense hold strong for a full four quarters.
Florida wins, 17-10.
Young: Gators will improve upon their mistakes
While it’s routine for coaches to trump up their next opponent and emphasize the challenge ahead, I kind of agree with Jim McElwain in this case. I do think this Kentucky team is a better version than that of past seasons. I think the Wildcats might well end up better than Tennessee in the SEC East standings, and I think they have a definite shot at snapping their 30-game losing streak to Florida.
That said, I’m still picking the Gators this week.
They’ll continue getting better and will improve upon their mistakes. The game plan for quarterback Feleipe Franks should be more aggressive against a vulnerable Wildcats secondary. Look for him to have his best game yet, and for freshman playmakers Kadarius Toney and Malik Davis to be more involved and for the Gators to make it 31 in a row.
I’m going Florida, 24-14.
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