Florida vs. Kentucky prediction, pick, odds, spread, how to watch live stream, game time, TV channel

By OnlyGators.com Staff
September 30, 2023
Florida vs. Kentucky prediction, pick, odds, spread, how to watch live stream, game time, TV channel

Image Credit: Michael Nash

In a rare turn of events, the No. 22 Florida Gators visit the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday afternoon as underdogs. It’s not necessarily a surprising development given Florida’s recent struggles at Kentucky, though the Gators do have the far better win on the season and the higher-rated defense coming into the game.

In other words, many still lack belief that this Florida team is improved from a year ago.

To some degree, that’s understandable. The Gators appear to have turned it around defensively under new coordinator Austin Armstrong. They are 23rd nationally in third-down defense (.314) and first nationally in first downs defense, only allowing 46 first downs in four games this season. UF is also 17th nationally in scoring defense (13.5 points per game) despite facing a pair of top-15 opponents to kick off the campaign.

It’s on offense where Florida is struggling. It is 116th (out of 133 FBS teams) in third-down conversion percentage (.333), an issue certainly fueled by going 1 for 9 last week against Charlotte, which was in Conference USA just one season ago. More to the point is that UF is 128th in seconds per play with the offense only snapping the ball once every 31.0 seconds. That pace of play gives both the Gators and their opponents fewer opportunities, which is fine when you’re winning but problematic when you’re losing or attempting to run a 2-minute drill.

Head coach Billy Napier said Florida was better in practice this week than last as it prepared for its first SEC road game of the season. While the Gators have won 39 of the last 42 meetings, the Wildcats have prevailed in two straight and are seeking to put a three-game streak on Florida for the first time since Bear Bryant was their coach (1948-51).

If the Gators pull it out, they would be 4-1 with an inside track at 6-1 entering the bye week. If not, Florida’s season would already be on the brink just over a third of the way through the campaign.

What will go down Saturday afternoon? Let’s find out.

Don’t miss our Florida Football Friday Final covering thoughts from Napier and multiple Florida players entering this Week 4 showdown. Plus, take a look at the updated Gators depth chart.

Tale of the tape

No. 22 Florida GatorsKentucky Wildcats
Head coachBilly NapierMark Stoops
Record3-1 (1-0)4-0 (1-0)

Injuries and absences

Active (2): C Kingsley Eguakun (ankle), WR Eugene Wilson III (shoulder)
Questionable (2): WR Marcus Burke (upper body), WR Thai Chiaokhiao-Bowman (lower body)
Out (5): DB Ja’Markis Weston (upper body), TE Keon Zipperer (lower body), TE Tony Livingston (upper body), OL Caden Jones (foot), TE Dante Zanders (lower body)
Out for season (2): DL Justus Boone (knee), RB Cam Carroll (knee)

Viewing information

Date: Saturday, Sept. 30 | Time: 12 p.m. ET
Location: Kroger Field — Lexington, Kentucky [61,000]

TV: ESPN (Joe Tessitore, Jesse Palmer, Katie George)
Live stream: ESPN+ | SiriusXM: 104/202 | Radio: WRUF, TuneIn
Live updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

Game notes

» Florida is 53-20 all-time against Kentucky, 33-3 int he last 36 meetings and 22-11 in Lexington.
» The Gators have lost two straight in the series for the first time since 1976-77 (plus three of the last five), and they are looking to avoid losing three straight for the first time since 1948-51.
» UF is on its first winning streak (3+ games) since late 2020.
» Florida is 1-4 on the road and 1-6 away from home under Napier.
» The Gators are one of 11 teams nationally with two games against AP Top 25 opponents already this season; they are one of only two with at least one win in those games (Alabama).
» Florida enters ranked No. 22 in the AP Top 25, its highest such ranking since Sept. 18, 2022.
» The Gators entered the season with 35 new scholarship players on the roster, tied for 12th most in the FBS. It also had just 115 combined starts returning, second-fewest in the nation, and only 69 returning players, ninth-fewest in the nation.
» Florida under Napier is 8-0 when leading after the third quarter and 8-2 when rushing for at least 150 yards. However, UF is 3-5 when opponents score first, 1-4 when scoring less than 21 points, 3-8 when allowing 21+ points, 1-8 when tied or trailing after the third quarter and 1-5 when being outrushed.
» Florida is 8-16 against ranked opponents (2-5 vs. top five teams, 5-7 vs. top 10 teams) and 33-10 against unranked opponents since 2018. UF is 2-6 against AP Top 25 teams under Napier.
» The Gators have scored in 440 consecutive games, an NCAA record.

Prediction and analysis

Spread: Florida +1 | O/U: 44

They say “defense travels,” and the Gators certainly hope that is the case Saturday afternoon. While Napier stated this week that he does not care about kickoff times — just winning — Florida has historically gotten off to slow starts in road games starting at noon ET or earlier. And given UF’s procedural issues at Utah in its lone road game this season, we have yet to see whether those issues have been fixed.

So again, if Florida is going to win this game, its improved defense under Armstrong better travel. Particularly against a Kentucky offense that has averaged 38 points per game this season (even if its best opponent to date was Vanderbilt with no opponents having winning records). There’s no question the Gators are more battle-tested a third of the way into the campaign, but season experience and momentum has mattered little in this series of late.

This should be a legitimate back-and-forth game, which makes the spread appropriate. Florida has not been a poor third-down or red-zone offensive team this season … but it sure looked like one last week against Charlotte. The Gators’ offensive balance and defense should serve them well to cover, and while the low total makes sense, I expect it to ultimately go over.

2023 records: ATS picks 2-2 | O/U picks 2-2 | Underdog SU picks 1-0

Odds and ends

» Uniforms: Florida will wear white jerseys, white pants and orange helmets. (Fun fact: UF will not wear orange jerseys or pants at all this season.)

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