UK football opponent preview: Florida

jclay@herald-leader.comJuly 30, 2012 

Florida head coach Will Muschamp talked with his players during the first half at Commonwealth Stadium Sept. 24, 2011 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Amy Wallot

AMY WALLOT

  • Florida's schedule

    Sept. 1 Bowling Green

    Sept. 8 at Texas A&M

    Sept. 15 at Tennessee

    Sept. 22 Kentucky

    Oct. 6 LSU

    Oct. 13 at Vanderbilt

    Oct. 20 South Carolina

    Oct. 27 Georgia (at Jacksonville)

    Nov. 3 Missouri

    Nov. 10 La.-Lafayette

    Nov. 17 Jacksonville St.

    Nov. 24 at Florida State

  • About this series

    This is the fourth in a summer series of articles by Herald-Leader sports columnist John Clay analyzing Kentucky's 2012 football opponents game by game.

When: Sept. 22

Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium ("The Swamp") in Gainesville, Fla.

Coach: Will Muschamp enters his second season as the Florida head coach. The former Texas defensive coordinator was 7-6 last year in his Gainesville debut. Muschamp is full of energy and enthusiasm, but it remains to be seen if he is the second coming of Urban Meyer (good) or a replay of Ron Zook (bad).

Offense: The Gators dropped all the way to 105th in the nation in total offense last year. That showing earned former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis the head coaching job at Kansas. New offensive boss Brent Pease, once the offensive coordinator at UK, must decide on a quarterback between sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel. Pease has some rebuilding to do. Florida averaged 458 yards per game in 2009, then just 329 last year.

Defense: Muschamp's defensive background was evident as the Gators finished the season ranked eighth in total defense. Defensive line stalwarts Sharrif Floyd and Omar Hunter return, as do linebackers John Jenkins and Jelani Jenkins. Safety Matt Elam anchors the secondary. What Florida did not do was turn opponents over last year. The Gators were 113th in the nation in turnover margin. That needs to improve.

Overall: The transition from Meyer to Muschamp was bumpy last season. Fact is, Meyer did not leave the cupboard as packed as one might assume. Things should go a little better this year, but few expect Florida to return to its dominating status. Not yet, anyway.

Series: Kentucky hasn't beaten Florida since 1986. It hasn't beaten the Gators in Gainesville since 1979. After UK's win last year over Tennessee, Florida has replaced the Vols as the school with the longest active winning streak over the Cats.

Schedule: A quirk in the schedule has the Gators ending conference play Nov. 3, with three non-conference games finishing out the season. The key stretch is Oct. 20 (South Carolina in Gainesville), Oct. 27 (Georgia in Jacksonville) and Nov. 3 (Missouri in Gainesville).

Trend: After winning 13 games each in 2008 and 2009, Florida won a combined 15 games over the past two seasons.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com

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