Florida at Kentucky: Prediction, pick, line, odds, live stream, watch online, TV channel, game preview

By Adam Silverstein
September 23, 2017
Florida at Kentucky: Prediction, pick, line, odds, live stream, watch online, TV channel, game preview
Football

The No. 20 Florida Gators enter Saturday night’s showdown with the Kentucky Wildcats feeling disrespected. They have to feel that way, right? How else do you explain a team with a 30-game series winning streak barely being favored over another that has only beaten middling competition to this point?

Here’s what you need to know and how you can watch Florida-Kentucky.


Viewing information

Date: Saturday, Sept. 23 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Kroger Field – Lexington, Kentucky [Capacity: 61,000]

TV: SEC Network (Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers, Cole Cubelic)
Live stream: WatchESPN.com | Watch ESPN apps
SiriusXM: 137, 190 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

Tale of the tape

No. 20 Florida Gators Kentucky Wildcats
Head Coach Jim McElwain Mark Stoops
Record 1-1 (1-0 SEC) 3-0 (1-0 SEC)
Conference Southeastern Southeastern

Four things to know

1. The audition is over: Redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks is the Gators’ starter. Yes, this has been known since Week 1, but he is now relatively entrenched in that role after doing just fine against Tennessee prior to making a historic throw for a walk-off touchdown. Franks completed 64.3 percent of his passes last week, and his only interception was a tipped ball. His talent and ability is not the issue; rather, it’s whether his offensive line — and perhaps even more importantly, his running backs — can provide him some time with pass protection. If so, Franks may be able to flash his ability and prove to be even more effective this week.

2. Don’t underestimate the hosts: That’s what South Carolina did a week ago, and it got whooped 23-13 by Kentucky, which converted 9-of-16 third downs and rushed for 184 yards. What UK did not do was hurt USC through the air. Its ball-possession offense kept the Gamecocks off the field, and QB Stephen Johnson made enough plays with his legs (10.6 yards per carry) to keep his opponent honest. The Gators struggled with Vols running back John Kelly a week ago, but they should be ready for Johnson after graduate transfer Malik Zaire likely played that role during practice this week.

3. Take some (calculated) risks for a change: Florida does not need to go crazy opening up the depths of its playbook at Kentucky, but it should not assume it can get by with the same play calls it rolled out against Michigan. Not only that, the Gators need to be aggressive on special teams, which means called block attempts on punts — it’s not like they’re able to return for large gains anyway. Remember: UK was supposed to put up a fight against UF last year and lost by 38, 22 points more than the spread. The Wildcats’ usually defense usually gets up for home games (it has held the Gators to 38 points combined in 2013 and 2015), but the visitors have seen tougher this season.

4. Get the running game going: Yeah, we can point to Florida’s stats when scoring first (17-4) or leading at the half (16-2) under McElwain, but even when the Gators’ offense was humming back in the day, it was a rushing attack that kept defenses honest. UF is 14-0 under McElwain when outrushing an opponent, which it has not done for quite some time. UK enters Saturday with the nation’s No. 2-ranked rushing defense at 57.0 yards per game, though again, let’s look to its first three opponents. Florida absolutely must use freshman Malik Davis more and allow both freshman Kadarius Toney and redshirt junior Dre Massey opportunities to touch the ball behind the line of scrimmage. The explosion outside the tackles should open some holes inside, which will be necessary for victory on Saturday.

Prediction and analysis

Spread: Florida -2 | O/U: 44.5

The Gators have struggled to start the season, but just like a week ago when I told you their line was an overreaction to an abhorrent performance in Week 1, this is an overreaction to the Wildcats’ dismantling of their Week 3 opponent. Florida has not exactly faced slouches to this point, and though it is only averaging 21.5 points per game, that’s against a stout Michigan defense and extremely talented Tennessee team. Kentucky, on the other hand, is averaging 24.7 points per game against Southern Miss … Eastern Kentucky … and South Carolina.

Though the road game is a first for the Gators this season — and the Wildcats are arguably more talented than they’ve been in quite some time — this is still Florida’s best opportunity at a win at the early point of the season after not hosting Northern Colorado. The suspensions are no longer an open wound but one in the midst of healing. Franks is no longer a completely inexperienced starter. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is back comfortable in the booth. The extremely young secondary has a better idea what it takes to be a cohesive unit.

Look, I’m not saying the Gators are going to blowout the Wildcats like they have in prior seasons. But if you’re asking me whether Florida is going to cover a short spread against an opponent its beaten for three straight decades, well, that answer is “yes.” UF is 16-1 against unranked opponents under McElwain and 19-0 when holding an opponent under 21 points. And while I would probably stay away from the total, over is a better bet than under.

2017 records: ATS picks 1-1 | O/U picks 2-0

Injuries and absences

Suspended (9): WR Antonio Callaway, RB Jordan Scarlett, DL Keivonnis Davis, DL Richerd Desir-Jones, DL Jordan Smith, WR Rick Wells, LB James Houston IV, LB Ventrell Miller, OL Kadeem Telfort

Active (1): Duke Dawson (concussion)
Questionable (1): LB Kylan Johnson (hamstring)
Out (2): WR James Robinson (heart), DB Marcell Harris (Achilles – season)

Game notes

» Florida is 50-17 all-time against Kentucky with a 28-4 mark when playing in Lexington. UF has won 30 straight games against UK dating back to 1986, which makes it the longest active winning streak nationally against an annual opponent in an uninterrupted series. It is the fourth longest such streak of all-time.
» A 14-9 win by the Gators in 2015 was the first victory of less than a touchdown during the streak since 2003, but Florida beat Kentucky 45-7 in 2016. UF is currently a 2-point favorite at UK.
» Florida is 43-6 in the month of September since 2005.
» With their victory last Saturday, the Gators have now won 28 straight home openers. McElwain is 12-1 at home after a 5-0 campaign in The Swamp last season.

» Florida is 214-11 since 1990 when an opponent scores 21 points or fewer in a contest, including 19-0 under McElwain.
» Also under McElwain, the Gators are 16-1 against unranked opponents and 4-7 against ranked opponents. UF is 14-0 when outrushing an opponent, 17-4 when scoring first, 16-2 when leading at half and 10-1 when winning the turnover battle.
» Florida owns the nation’s longest streak of returning either a kickoff or punt for a touchdown, doing so in 12 consecutive seasons. It has yet to do so in 2017.
» The Gators have the second-most wins in the nation since 1990 (259).
» Florida has scored in 363 straight games, the longest active streak in the nation and second-longest all-time (Michigan). UF can break that record if it does not get shutout through the LSU game.
» McElwain is the first coach in SEC history to play for the conference title in his first two seasons at the helm of his program.

Uniforms

Florida will wear white jerseys, orange pants and orange helmets against Kentucky, its typical uniform against a primarily blue opponent.

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