This weeks edition of the 2011 Florida Gators Football Predictions features the Kentucky Wildcats.
The University of Florida moves to its first road game of the season in Week 4, against an SEC team no less. Kentucky finished last season at 6-7 (2-6 SEC), however, they managed to beat the SEC East champion, South Carolina, in the regular season. Kentucky's offense was even one to be admired, ranking 27th in total offense and 23rd in passing. Where the Gators really need to watch out is in their passing game. Last season the Wildcasts had the 14th ranked pass defense in the country.
On top of that this Kentucky team should be improving quite a bit. Excluding the Florida game, Kenucky was close to winning in all its loses. Georgia was the second high deficit loss in the regular season, which was a mere 13 points. They only lost to the National Champion, Auburn, by 3 points. Kentucky could very well be a 2011 sleeper team. Especially in an SEC East that has lost so much power.
The Wildcats have one big problem moving into the fall, they don't have a named starting quarterback. To be fair, the Gators don't really either, but they have returning starters and the incoming number 1 rated quarterback in the nation. Kentucky's senior QB Mike Hartline, who posted the best stats of his career, has used up all of his eligability. Now it is up to either Junior-to-be Morgan Newton and redshirt-sophomore Ryan Mossakowski to compete for the starting position.
Newton is the likely starter since he has had experience in games before, even playing in Kentucky's bowl game against Pittsburgh. Against Pittsburgh, the only game he had a good amount of time to play in, he posted 211 yards off of 36 attempts and 21 completions. Also, Newton took hold of the 2009 Kentucky Wildcats team after Mike Hartline suffered an injury against South Carolina. Newton led the team on a 5-2 run in the regular season. He threw for 706 yards, 6 TD, and 3 INT. In addition, Newton has a bit of a tendancy to scramble. He does not do it very often, but he certainly has proven to be capable of it, rushing for 130 yards and 2 TD's in 2009.
Kentucky also loses senior RB Derrick Locke. That leaves a few possibilities for the Wildcats offense. Kentucky added running back Terrance Timmons from the Alabama Crimson Tide. They also have back-ups Raymond Sanders and Donald Russell. Moreover, WR Randall Cobb rushed the second most in in the 2010 season. Any of these players could be used as starting tailback for the 2011 season. My guess it that Randall Cobb will be kept at WR and will have a similar purpose to the last season, where he will be a supplemental runner. Russell and Sanders will probably share the majority of carries.
The biggest threat for the Gators right now is likely WR Randall Cobb. Not only did he post the second most rushing yards for the team, but he also posted the most receiving yards in a 1,000 yard season. Because he is so versatile, he becomes a huge threat to the Gators defense. Cobb will be the man who gives a big relief to whoever the starting QB will be, and will definitely become to go-to guy. Therefore, the Gators need to make sure they cover him well.
Speaking of defense, Kentucky has one last trick up their sleeve. LB Danny Trevathan ranked 9th nationally in tackles last season. He had 145 total tackles, ith 86 if them being solo. He also had 3 sacks and 4 forced fumbles in 2010. Talk about a scary guy, this man can terrorize an offensive line that is inexperienced. He is going to be the man to look out for when the Gators offense is on the field.
Keys for Florida: RUN THE BALL. This will not be the game to test how good your quarterbacks are doing. Not against the team who had the 14th best passing defense in the nation. Use the large base of running backs, such as Rainey, Demps, and Gillislee, to get the ball moving against Kentucky.(Kentucky ranked 85th in rushing defense).
Prediction: Kentucky gives a BIG scare to Florida, who will not be reliving the 48-14 thrashing of last season. Florida escapes a loss on a late touchdown to win 17-14.
2011 Football Schedule Prediction
9/24/2011 at Kentucky W
10/01/2011 vs. Alabama
10/08/2011 at LSU
10/15/2011 at Auburn
10/22/2011 Bye Week
10/29/2011 vs. Georgia*
11/05/2011 vs. Vanderbilt
11/12/2011 at South Carolina
11/19/2011 vs. Furman
11/26/2011 vs. Florida State