Football is going back to Kroger Field in Lexington as Kentucky returns home to host Florida in Week 5. The second league game for both teams, the Wildcats are a slight betting favorite, but the Gators are the ranked team at No. 22 in the country, marking the first time a top-25 Florida team has been an underdog to an unranked team.
This SEC East meeting used to be an annual reminder that Florida owned Kentucky in the series, but the script flipped when Kentucky snapped a three-decade losing streak in 2018. Kentucky has since won three of five, including the last two. A win on Saturday, if Kentucky can do it, will mark the Cats’ first three-game win streak against Florida since 1949-51.
Will it happen? We’ll find out together when Kentucky and Florida kick off Saturday at noon on ESPN. For now, the KSR staff will do its best to predict the outcome.
Gone are the days of Steve Spurrier taunting the Kentucky Wildcats. That era is a distant memory. We’re past the gimmicky “Here’s the price of gas and milk the last time Kentucky beat Florida” pieces that ran each year during the streak. This is a new age, and in this new age, Kentucky’s football program isn’t afraid of anything coming out of the swamps in Gainesville. The intimidation factor is gone. The losing talk is gone. And on Saturday, Kentucky will be the aggressor and the better football team for four quarters. Will it be perfect? Of course not. The Cats are sloppy. But it will be clear that Kentucky is in a better place than Florida, and that was hard to imagine not all that long ago.
Cats win with defense while the offense does enough to finish the job.
Score: Kentucky 23, Florida 17
Florida is the first real test for Kentucky. The season officially starts on Saturday. A win over the Gators sets up the possibility for College Gameday in Athens next weekend and likely pushes the ‘Cats into the Top 25 national rankings. There’s a lot riding on this one.
With that said, Kentucky will come away with the win in front of rowdy Kroger Field. Florida’s rushing attack is the top priority for the Wildcats’ defense — head coach Billy Napier will look to eat the clock and hold possession. The Gator running backs will eclipse 150 yards on the ground, but Brad White’s bend-don’t-break defense will prevent any explosive plays or consistency in the red zone. UK will get enough pressure on quarterback Graham Mertz to force him into his worst game of the season.
Look for a big day from QB1 Devin Leary. He’s slowly beginning to find his rhythm and Saturday is the perfect opportunity to put it all together for four quarters. Florida is not a great tackling team, doesn’t get to the quarterback all that often, and hasn’t created many havoc plays. A clean game from the ‘Cats should result in a third straight win over the Gators. Leary will throw for over 300 yards and at least two touchdowns.
Score: Kentucky 27, Florida 20
This is when the regular season really begins for the Kentucky Wildcats. Three walkthroughs and a win in construction playland mean nothing more than a 4-0 start to the season. The players and coaches have said all the right things up to this point, but make no mistake about it, this is the game that has been circled on the calendar from day one. And the focus and intensity will reflect that.
Kentucky is nearing full strength with the anticipated returns of Kenneth Horsey and Josh Kattus. The defense has been rock-solid all season long and they’ll be ready to slow down Graham Mertz, Trevor Etienne and Ricky Pearsall for the Gators. Barion Brown and Dane Key take another step forward and lock in for the prove-it matchup in Lexington, helping Devin Leary find confidence with two safety nets on the outside. Ray Davis takes a step back in this one to let the passing attack take off.
It’s go time, the one we’ve all been waiting for. And the Wildcats live up to the hype to extend the winning streak over the Gators to three games.
Score: Kentucky 24, Florida 14
A swing game in the SEC East has arrived for both Kentucky and Florida. For the first time in over three decades, the Wildcats are laying points in this series. The unranked team is the favorite over the ranked team for a reason.
Kentucky has the more explosive offense and will hit some big plays in both the run and pass game against an aggressive Florida defense. However, the Gators will win their fair share of battles on this side of the football. On the other side, Florida has a good ground attack that sputters just a little too often. Kentucky will be able to create passing downs for Graham Mertz and that is where this game could flip.
Kentucky’s defense forces a big takeaway in the second half and a big explosive run play from a Wildcat starts the party in the fourth quarter at Kroger Field. The game will look like a slugfest for much of the afternoon, but Kentucky is the more explosive team with a defense that has been better at creating game-flipping havoc plays.
That ultimately leads the Big Blue to another victory over Florida.
Score: Kentucky 28, Florida 17
How many times have we heard folks say the Cats gotta, “clean it up” offensively? Too many to count. Through four weeks of the season, you kind of are who you are, even if it was against subpar opponents. There is one exception: we have yet to see the best from Devin Leary. It’s taken the QB a while to get warmed up, but this is the week he finally gets cooking and has a breakthrough performance.
Even if Leary isn’t playing like an All-SEC quarterback, the best unit on the field is Brad White‘s Kentucky defense. The Wildcats will force Graham Mertz to beat them through the air, something that’s not in his toolbox. A close game gets out of reach when the Gators try to play catch-up in the second half and the BBN parties like it’s 1951.
Score: Kentucky 27, Florida 13
Score: Kentucky 24, Florida 21
Want more coverage of the Cats? Join the KSR Club.
KSR has been delivering UK Sports news in the most ridiculous manner for almost two decades. Now, you can get even more coverage of the Cats with KSR+. Join the club for premium articles, inside intel, in-depth scouting reports, bonus recruiting coverage, and access to KSBoard, our message board featuring thousands of Kentucky fans around the globe. Just $1 gets you one month of access, and with the Florida game coming up, we’re taking 50% off the annual price. Hurry, this offer won’t last long!