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Kentucky's football season begins Saturday vs. Florida Gators

Head coach Joker Phillips gets his first crack at the Florida Gators as a head coach
Head coach Joker Phillips gets his first crack at the Florida Gators as a head coach
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Here’s what’s going around the Big Blue Nation on Tuesday:

-Don’t look now, but the Kentucky Wildcats football season begins Saturday with the team’s matchup against hated SEC East rival Florida Gators.

Kentucky has yet to play a team like Florida on the season—Louisville did provide some intriguing matchup problems most notably with the Cardinals ground game—making Saturday’s rivalry game much more interesting.

The Gators have defeated the ‘Cats 23 straight times, almost as bad as Kentucky’s losing streak against Tennessee, but this year could be different.

The Wildcats have shown an offensive prowess that has only been seen during the Tim Couch era in the early 2000’s and during Andre Woodson’s tenure as UK’s quarterback just several years back.

Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline has done an outstanding job of running the offense and the numbers don’t lie: 54-of-75, 680 yards for five touchdowns and no interceptions. What’s been most impressive is Hartline’s ability to move around the pocket and find the open receiver. Far too many times in the past, Hartline forced his throws—usually into double and triple coverage—making it nearly impossible to find a rhythm on offense.

Despite boasting the 15th ranked rushing game in the nation, along with scoring 44.3 points a game—good for 11th in FBS play—Kentucky will have to deal with Florida’s top-rated defense which is allowing just 14.3 points a game, good for 16th in the country.

The Gators also pose several problems for the ‘Cats because of Florida’s overall team speed. Kentucky has faced three cupcakes thus far, who don’t possess the same kind of talent as the Gators.

If Kentucky is to get the job done, it will have to be a varied attack, both on the ground and through the air. Should Kentucky win this Saturday in Gainesville, look for them to jump into the Top-25.

-If the ‘Cats are going to win the game against Florida on Saturday, they’ll have to do so without two of the team’s best blockers. Both Moncell Allen and Stuart Hines suffered injuries during the game against Akron, which could spell disaster for Kentucky going forward.

Allen suffered a hamstring injury, while Hines dealt with an injury to his ankle. Both players are huge factors in Kentucky’s offensive schemes, providing some of the best blocking on the offensive line. At this point, both Allen and Hines are listed as doubtful, which will have Kentucky’s coaching staff scrambling to figure out what packages will work against Florida’s outstanding defense.

It’s certainly disappointing news, but not the end of the world. Kentucky has a lot of depth at several positions this year and head coach Joker Phillips will expect other guys to step up in the absence of Allen and Hines.


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