Kentucky at Florida: Keys to Saturday's game

mstory@herald-leader.comSeptember 21, 2012 

Kentucky visits Florida on Saturday in Gainesville. Here is Mark Story's breakdown of the game.

THE GAME

Kentucky (1-2) at No. 14 Florida (3-0)

When: 12:21 p.m.

TV: SEC Network (WKYT-27)

Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.

Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, Sirius Channel 136, XM Channel 199

Series: Florida leads 45-17

Last meeting: Florida won 48-10 on Sept. 24, 2011, in Commonwealth Stadium and has beaten UK 25 straight times.

Line: Florida by 24 points.

THE KEYS

1. Start fast

Kentucky is coming off a dispiriting defeat to Western Kentucky. In Florida, the Cats face a team they have not beaten since 1986 and have not beaten in Gainesville since 1979. Florida has outscored Kentucky a combined 200-36 in the last four seasons. For UK, a positive beginning to the game would be a massive step toward building some positive belief.

2. Foil the Gators' running game

Through three games in 2012, the UK run defense (allowing 188 yards a game) is 13th out of 14 SEC schools. A year ago, Florida ran for a whopping 405 yards against Kentucky. Last week in a victory over Tennessee, the Gators ran for 336 yards. Florida's Mike Gillislee leads the SEC in rushing (115.3 yards a game). Cat-killer Trey Burton (six TDs vs. UK in The Swamp in 2010) ran the ball three times against UT last week but scored two touchdowns on runs of 14 and 80 yards.

3. Find some balance

Kentucky sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith leads the SEC in passing yards (322 a game) but UK is last in time of possession (23:53 a game) and next to last in rushing yards (106.3 yards). Establishing more of a running threat would help keep elite SEC pass rushers off of Smith and keep the struggling Kentucky defense off the field.

THE MOOD

Is grim. After the Cats lost at home to WKU of the Sun Belt Conference on a two-point conversion trick play in overtime, most of the week has been filled with speculation on the future of Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips. It's probably too much to ask of UK to end its 25-game losing streak to Florida this year, but playing the Gators competitively for the first time since 2007 could provide Kentucky with a needed confidence boost going forward.

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