Final predictions from the Kernel Sports Staff before the big game


UK fans cheer on UK during the game against EKU on Saturday, September 9, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky defeated EKU 27 to 16. Photo by Kaitlyn Gumm| Staff

Sports Staff

With the progression that UK football has shown this season, there is a chance that the Cats will upset the Florida Gators when the two square off at Kroger Field tomorrow.

Before the big game, the Kernel Sports Staff caught up to give their take of how they thought the game would unfold. Here’s what they had to say.

Who has the advantage on the offense and on the defense?

Chris Leach, Kernel sports editor: Offensively, Kentucky has the edge, while defensively, Florida has a slight edge. Florida ranks last in the SEC in total points and yards per game, and only has two touchdowns on the year. While Kentucky’s offense hasn’t blown the doors off yet, they average more points and yards per game than the Gators, and they should have the advantage offensively.

Defensively, it’ll be a battle of each team’s strengths. Kentucky has the third best rushing defense in the country, while Florida’s secondary has the ninth most interceptions in the country, even with playing one less game than most teams on the list. Both defenses should perform well against the opposing offense, but Florida’s defense gets the slight edge due to their athleticism.

Chase Campbell, assistant sports editor: UK has the offensive advantage. Not only have they scored more touchdowns, but offensive coordinator Eddie Gran’s ability to get eight or nine receivers involved in a game gives UK an offensive edge by making them unpredictable. He also has started to find success with the Wildcat formation, and that could be an effective tool as long as the offensive line doesn’t miss snaps.

Florida has the defensive edge. When a team can score only two touchdowns in two games and still be considered a Top 20 team, a huge nod has to go to the defensive unit. The UF and UK defensive lines are pretty comparable from what I’ve seen of the two teams, but the Florida secondary is far less susceptible to giving up big plays. UK will have to fight for their yards if they want to win.

Does the sellout crowd put more pressure on the players, instead of pumping them up?

CL: I think it does, but I also expect them to handle it well. Kentucky handled the pressure and hostile crowd very well at South Carolina, and now will have the home crowd on their side. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them struggle on their first couple of drives, but find their rhythm not long after kickoff.

CC: I think UK is thrilled to get the chance to earn respect. Nick Haynes was talking after practice about how tired he was of feeling disrespected. Nothing gets you attention and respect like breaking a 30-year losing streak in front of a sellout crowd at home.

What’s the one thing UK needs to control in order to pull off the victory?

CL: The time of possession. When the Cats went on those long drives at South Carolina, it felt like momentum was on the Cats’ side, and that’s what they’ll need when playing Florida. Luckily for the Cats, Kentucky averages over 32 minutes of possession a game, while Florida averages under 27 minutes.

CC: Turnover margin. UK has been excellent so far at taking as much as they give away, if not more. However, Florida is a different beast entirely than what the Cats have faced so far. Their secondary is unforgiving, and there are no plays where the Cats can afford to be lazy. If UK wins the turnover battle, they win the game.

Prediction and final score:

CL: Not following the narrative of breaking the losing streak, I do think the Cats have a shot of winning, and take advantage of it in front of the sellout crowd. 20-17, Kentucky.

CC: I don’t think the Cats will win the turnover battle. However, because of long drives, quality yards and short yardage stops, kicker Austin MacGinnis gives the Cats another miracle to give UK a 17-14 win.