Mark Story

Blue Preview: Your guide to the Kentucky football game vs. Florida

Kentucky vs. No. 9 Florida

When: 7 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 14)

Where: Kroger Field (capacity 61,000)

TV: ESPN (play-by-play, Steve Levy; analysis, Brian Griese and Todd McShay; sideline, Molly McGrath)

Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, XM Channel 202, Sirius Channel 78, Internet Channel 964.

Records: Kentucky (2-0, 0-0 SEC); Florida (2-0, 0-0 SEC)

Series: Florida leads 51-18 and has won 37 of the past 39 meetings

Last meeting: Kentucky ended a 31-game losing streak vs. Florida with a 27-16 win over the Gators on Sept. 8, 2018, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville.

Favorite: Florida is favored by 8.5 points.

The story line

Forced to play without injured starting quarterback Terry Wilson (out for season with torn patella tendon in his left knee), Kentucky will seek to run its win streak over Florida to two behind former Troy Trojans quarterback Sawyer Smith.

Terry Wilson on cart
Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson (3) left the field via cart after suffering an injury during UK’s 38-17 victory over Eastern Michigan Saturday. It was announced Sunday that Wilson tore the patella tendon in his left knee and will miss the remainder of the 2019 season. Alex Slitz

The big threat

Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks comes to Lexington off a razor-sharp performance. In UF’s 45-0 win over Tennessee Martin, Franks completed 25 of 27 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-foot-6, 238-pound redshirt junior might feel he has a point to prove against Kentucky. Two seasons ago, Franks got pulled after completing seven of 12 passes vs. UK and watched backup Luke Del Rio rally the Gators from 27-14 down to a 28-27 victory. In last year’s UK win, Franks completed only 17 of 38 passes, threw an interception and lost a fumble.

Josh Allen pressures Feleipe Franks.JPG
In two prior starts vs. Kentucky, Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks (13) has not fared especially well against the Wildcats. Monica Herndon Tampa Bay Times/TNS

On the spot

Sawyer Smith will make his first Kentucky start at quarterback vs. an attacking Florida defense that has recorded a whopping 15 combined sacks in its first two games (10 in 24-20 win over Miami; five vs. UTM). A redshirt junior and graduate transfer, Smith figures to need all the veteran moxie he acquired while making seven starts last year for Troy against Gators defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s many blitz packages.

The mood

Is apprehensive. The season-ending injury to Terry Wilson brought dark clouds over what has been an unusually sunny stretch for the UK football program. Kentucky’s reliance on Sawyer Smith, a quarterback largely unknown to the commonwealth until only months ago, adds an unanticipated mystery to the Wildcats’ bid to start a winning streak of their own in the series with Florida. If Smith fares well against the mighty Gators, he will reinvigorate a concerned fan base.

Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.