New-look Gators can make a statement in their first test as Florida hosts Kentucky

By Adam Silverstein
September 7, 2018
New-look Gators can make a statement in their first test as Florida hosts Kentucky
Football

Image Credit: ESPN Images

Plenty has been said and written about Florida Gators football’s 31-year winning streak against the Kentucky Wildcats. It has been noted far less how close Kentucky has come to ending it.

For as much pride as Florida has taken in its winning streaks over the years, it has seen two come to a disastrous end recently as UF fell to Tennessee in 2016 after 11 straight wins and crumbled against Vanderbilt in 2013 following 22 consecutive victories. And let’s not forget that the latter contest went down inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Still, the Gators’ 31 straight wins against the Wildcats is different. This winning streak has occurred over parts of five decades dating back to a 27-14 victory in 1987. Once Florida hired Urban Meyer as its head football coach in 2005 — in the middle of Rich Brooks’ tenure at Kentucky — UF’s victories were no longer substantial but dominant.

Over the last 13 seasons, the Gators have defeated the Wildcats by an average of 24.4 points per game. Among the big-time victories by UF include wins of 58, 38 (three times) and 34 (twice) points.

But in the last four years? Let’s just say it has been a different story as UK has come within six (2014), five (2015) and one (2017) point of taking down its long-time rival.

Two of those games, though, were not played inside The Swamp where the Gators have been truly dominant over the same span. In games played on Florida Field, the hosts have won by 32.2 points over the last six such meetings.

New Gators head coach Dan Mullen can consider that a measuring stick.

Yes, this Florida team is going through a significant transition — not just schematically but environmentally and culturally. But you cannot tell me the Jim McElwain-led Gators of a year ago would have hung five first-half touchdowns on Charleston Southern. Hell, it may not have scored five touchdowns all game.

Florida is not guaranteed to win Saturday, let alone roll Kentucky. The fact, however, is that the Wildcats had four or five years where they could have defeated the Gators and few would have truly been surprised.

Now, in 2018, with Mullen at the helm? That would be a head-scracther … to say the least.

In a rare Week 2 game against a Southeastern Conference foe, Florida has an opportunity to make a statement. No, it will not assert their dominance over the league or even their division no matter the size of the victory, but the Gators can let those who think this team is a pushover know that is no longer the case.

Beating an FCS program by 47 and ending that game at halftime was a nice glimpse of what Florida football used to be. Taking down Kentucky without pause or major worry would be a nod to what the Gators may be on their way to becoming again.

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