The Florida football Gators were sloppy against the Vanderbilt Commodores this past weekend. Could they beat Kentucky while playing sloppy football again? Of course they could… but it’s not a habit they want to develop late in the SEC season. As Florida moves toward the SEC East title, here is what the Gators need to focus on the most against Big Blue:
By Matt Zemek
1 – Offensive line
Florida loves to throw the ball… and it should, because Kyle Trask is in the thick of the hunt for the Heisman Trophy and is an excellent passer. This is Florida’s strength. Yet, when a team has such a strong passing game, it still has to be able to carve out enough of a running game that the quarterback isn’t thrust into second-and-long or third-and-long situations. An offensive line can’t get soft when it is asked to pass block on many occasions. Against Vanderbilt, the UF offensive front had one of its worst games of the season. The energy and passion weren’t there – at least not to the extent they were in previous games, when the offense flourished.
Florida’s offensive line was angry and nasty in the first three quarters against Georgia and Arkansas, and this offensive line has generally been very good in front of Trask this season. It has supported the running game well enough to take some heat off Trask as a passer. Against Vanderbilt, that standard of performance slipped. The Gators need to pick it right back up against Kentucky. The Gators know that if they start slacking, Tennessee (coming up later on the schedule) or especially Alabama in a possible SEC Championship Game could take advantage. That can’t be allowed, and Dan Mullen knows it.
2 – Stuff the run
Kentucky just doesn’t have the horses on offense this year. The Wildcats have been held to three points in their big games against Georgia and Alabama. Florida’s defense isn’t nearly as good as UGA’s or Bama’s, but the Gators nevertheless have to do enough on defense to make this game manageable. The Gators can’t let Kentucky control the ball for 37 or more minutes. They have to keep time of possession relatively even – not a dead tie, but a 32-28 split would be fine, given how quickly the Gators can score. Stuffing the run will make Kentucky less of a ball-control team. That will shape the game the way Florida wants it to unfold.
3 – Strong first quarter
Florida’s road trip to Tennessee is just around the corner. The Gators are a better team than Tennessee, but the Vols are known to start quickly. Before that UT game arrives, Florida – having sleepwalked through the first quarter of the Vanderbilt game – needs to jump on Kentucky and prove to itself that it is capable of starting a game with letter-perfect precision. That’s an important goal for this team right now.
Saturday‘s game kicks off at 11:00 AM CT (12:00 PM ET). You can watch this Florida football game on the ESPN Network.