UK Football

How Kentucky and Florida match up

How the Gators and Wildcats match up for Saturday's game at Florida:

Quarterback

Kentucky: Saturday night we'll find out just how far Mike Hartline has come as an SEC quarterback. Hartline has yet to throw an interception in three games, but he'll face a Florida secondary that has already picked off 10 passes. Hartline needs 199 yards to pass Dusty Bonner for eighth place on UK's all-time list, and if he does that, the Cats will be in excellent position to make a game of it.

Florida: John Brantley arrived at Florida with a lofty high school pedigree but is still trying to find his way as Tim Tebow's replacement. Brantley has prototypical size and arm strength and is a more natural passer than Tebow, and it seems like it's only a matter of time before he breaks out. He has thrown 140 passes without an interception.

Summary: Hartline has made more plays than many expected, while Brantley has been a little slower out of the gate. Hartline's numbers are better, but Brantley has faced stiffer competition.

Advantage: Even

Running back

Kentucky: Derrick Locke leads the SEC in rushing and can put himself on the national map with a big game. Donald Russell and Raymond Sanders have looked good as backups. A big key is whether fullback Moncell Allen (strained hamstring) will be able to play, as Allen's crunching blocks have helped spring Locke loose on the perimeter.

Florida: Jeff Demps has pretty much been the Florida offense so far, as he leads the Gators in rushing, ranks second in receiving and is also dangerous on kick returns. Sophomore Mike Gillislee ran for two TDs at Tennessee, and senior Emmanuel Moody will also get carries.

Summary: The two most dynamic backs in the league will be on display in Locke and Demps. Both are home-run hitters. This one's a wash.

Advantage: Even

receiver

Kentucky: UK's pass catchers continued to make big plays last week against Akron, with tight end Jordan Aumiller also emerging as a threat. The top four receivers have all caught at least one pass for 30 yards or more. Florida's starting cornerbacks are both under 6 feet, so look for Hartline to target 6-foot-6 Chris Matthews on some jump balls.

Florida: You know there's talent and speed here, but the Gators' receivers have been underwhelming. The only receiver who has caught a pass for 25 yards or longer is Chris Rainey, and he's not expected to play after being accused of stalking a woman earlier this month.

Summary: UK's receivers might not be more talented, but they've been more productive.

Advantage: Kentucky

Offensive line

Kentucky: The Cats lead the league in fewest sacks allowed, but the line suffered a blow when Stuart Hines sprained his ankle against Akron. He won't make the trip. First-year left tackle Chandler Burden faces a big challenge dealing with Florida's speed off the edge.

Florida: The Gators have also pass-protected well, but Florida's running game hasn't been overwhelming and Mike Pouncey has had serious issues snapping the ball after moving from guard to center.

Summary: The loss of Hines slightly tilts things toward the Gators.

Advantage: Florida

Defensive line

Kentucky: End DeQuin Evans finally got on the board last week with his first tackle and his first sack of the season. He'll need to get in the backfield to keep Brantley from standing in the pocket and picking the secondary apart. The line could use another big play or two from tackle Luke McDermott, who already has two sacks and an interception.

Florida: Florida lost a pair of All-SEC ends in Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham, who were both NFL second-round draft picks. Seniors Justin Trattou and Duke Lemmons might not be as talented, but they're battled-tested and tough. Tackle Jaye Howard leads the team with two sacks.

Summary: The Gators line isn't as imposing as the past couple of years, but they still have speed and know how to stuff the run.

Advantage: Florida

Linebacker

Kentucky: Junior Danny Trevathan has been all over the field in UK's first three games, although now he'll be forced to play in a cast after breaking his hand against Akron. The Cats are still looking for playmakers at the other two spots.

Florida: The Gators don't have any household names after losing Brandon Spikes, but senior A.J. Jones has assumed leadership of the unit. Middle linebacker Jonathan Bostic has two interceptions.

Summary: Trevathan fits the mold of the fast, speedy Florida linebackers, but the Gators are superior at the other two positions.

Advantage: Florida

Secondary

Kentucky: The way Akron beat UK's corners several times in man-to-man coverage opened some eyes. Don't expect defensive coordinator Steve Brown to leave Randall Burden and Martavius Neloms without help too much at Florida. Safeties Winston Guy and Mychal Bailey will have to be sure tacklers in order to prevent big plays.

Florida: The Gators are experienced and have plenty of play makers. Strong safety Ahmad Black has three interceptions; cornerback Janoris Jenkins has two. Jenkins also has four pass breakups.

Summary: The Florida secondary looks like one of the nation's best, while UK is still searching for answers.

Advantage: Florida

Special teams

Kentucky: The Cats can strike in the return game at any moment with Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke. Ryan Tydlacka leads the league in punting, but special-teams coach Greg Nord would like to see him put more touch on the ball when trying to pin opponents deep. Craig McIntosh went 2-for-3 on field goals in his first action as place-kicker, but the pressure will be dialed up Saturday.

Florida: Nobody has been better at blocking kicks than Florida over the years, and since they've blocked three UK punts in the past two years, you know Coach Urban Meyer will be hot and heavy after another one. The Gators also lead the SEC in kickoff returns and net punting, although kicker Caleb Sturgis is just 2-for-4 on field goals.

Summary: The Cats will feel like winners if they escape The Swamp without getting a kick blocked.

Advantage: Florida

  Comments