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Mike Hartline appeared to take a step back in Saturdayâ€™s third-quarter meltdown against Louisville. Tim Tebow was underwhelming against Tennessee, but is still one of the all-time greats in college football. Even if Hartline improves drastically, itâ€™s hard to see him outplaying Tebow, who can help as a runner more than Hartline can.
Even with Derrick Locke back at full speed and with Florida tailback Jeffery Demps battling the flu, the Gators have more depth here. Either Emmanuel Moody or Chris Rainey could probably start for the Cats, so Florida gets the nod.
Chris Matthews has hardly been the big-play threat most envisioned thus far. His longest catch is for 22 yards. Randall Cobb is fun to watch, but Floridaâ€™s platoon of wideouts and talented tight ends is just better than what UKâ€ˆputs on the field. Donâ€™t expect a dominating performance from either receiving corps, but Florida should spread the ball around more efficiently.
UK hasnâ€™t given up a sack all season, and is solid at every position on the line. Florida has great interior players, led by the Pouncey twins, but doesnâ€™t have the bookend tackles or the chemistry that the Cats have with seniors Justin Jeffries, Zipp Duncan and Jorge Gonzalez leading the way.
The Cats had question marks all over the defensive line before the season, and theyâ€™ve answered few of them. DeQuin Evans had two sacks against Louisville, but the pass rush just isnâ€™t consistent enough. Florida returns all four men up front from last year, and thereâ€™s plenty of depth behind those guys.
Florida has a ton of talent at every linebacker position. UK is solid, but not spectacular at any one spot â€” possibly excluding Micah Johnson in the middle. But Florida even tops UK there, as long as Brandon Spikes is healthy.
Trevard Lindley is one of the top corners in the nation, but Florida may have the top corner tandems in the nation. Joe Haden and Janoris Jenkins can shut anyone down at any point. Floridaâ€™s safeties, Major Wright and Ahmad Black, are also elite playmakers in the Southeastern Conference.
The special teams game usually comes down to depth, and while the Cats have improved their depth in recent years, they donâ€™t stockpile like the Gators. Year after year of stellar recruiting means Florida should outplay the Cats here again this year after a dominating performance last year.
Rich Brooks has done a lot in his time at UK, but thereâ€™s still a long road ahead before the Cats have a real chance of knocking off the Gators. Thatâ€™s no knock on this yearâ€™s team, because Florida is too good for just about any team in the country to stick with for four quarters.