You bet I was all set to write “Five reasons Kentucky football will beat Florida” or “Five ways Florida is beatable” or “Five signs the Florida losing streak will end now” with all the gusto, conviction and sound reasoning my typing fingers could muster.
And then, just like that, as I dove deep into my required research, those 31 consecutive Florida victories came crashing down like a ton of bricks.
So let’s take a different approach. After all, the old ones haven’t worked anyway. As Mark Stoops and Company prepare for Saturday’s renewal with the Gators in Gainesville, just when many believe this is UK’s best chance to finally, thankfully, belatedly stop one of the more embarrassing streaks in all of college football, let’s opt for the less-traveled road of reverse psychology.
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Five reasons Kentucky won’t beat Florida.
(Get it? Wink.)
1. This year, Florida has a real football coach. That would be Dan Mullen, who as Mississippi State’s head coach ran a master class (8-1 lifetime) on how to beat the Cats. After plunging from the Steve Spurrier/Urban Meyer days of superiority into the Will Muschamp/Jim McElwain myriad of mediocrity, the Gators now have a smart, organized proven winner who knows how to put points on the board. Florida football is back, or soon will be. What took so long?
2. Kentucky hasn’t won at The Swamp since 1979. Point of reference: Fran Curci was the UK head coach. (For our younger readers, ask your parents.) It’s not true the Gators happily greet the Kentucky plane at the airport, but the Cats have lost each of their last 19 trips to Gainesville. Many of those defeats could have been flagged for targeting. UK lost at Florida 73-7 in 1994, 65-0 in 1996, 63-5 in 2008 and 45-7 in 2016. Average margin of Florida victory: 25.3 points.
3. Florida still has talent. Lots of talent. Who says so? The NFL says so. It is true the Gators are just 34-28 over the last five seasons. It is true that two of those were losing seasons — 4-8 in 2013 which helped put Muschamp on the unemployment line; 4-7 last year which put McElwain out to sea. It is also true, however, that during that same stretch of time, the Gators have had 32 players selected in the draft. That includes five in this year’s draft, eight in 2017, seven in 2016 and eight more in 2015. So with all that talent, why haven’t the Gators won more games? See reason No. 1?
4. Kentucky missed its golden opportunity last year. We know this is painful, but those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. UK led Florida 27-14 with 11:33 to go at Kroger Field last September. The Gators won 28-27. Not once, but twice the Cats failed to cover a Florida receiver. Both times, the uncovered Florida receiver caught a touchdown pass. The first covered 45 yards with 3:16 left in the first half. The second covered 5 yards with 43 seconds left in the game. Without fail, those among the Big Blue Nation who doubt Stoops’ coaching acumen, use those two plays as Exhibit A. And if the Cats couldn’t beat the Gators that night, when can they?
5. The last time Kentucky ended a streak like this it was a surprise. The year was 2011. Joker Phillips was to be the Kentucky coach, but just for one more season before being fired. Matt Roark was the quarterback, only because the Cats couldn’t find anyone else after its top two quarterbacks got hurt. The opponent was Tennessee, which had beaten UK 26 straight seasons. To most everyone’s astonishment, Kentucky won 10-7.
If Kentucky wins Saturday night at The Swamp, no one should be astonished. UK should have won last season. It is coming off back-to-back bowl seasons while Florida went 4-7 a year ago. UK has 17 starters returning while Florida has a new coach. And, good or bad, all things must come to an end. Just believing it will happen doesn’t mean it will happen, however. You have to make it happen.