Across the (By)Line: Florida Gators


Florida Gators safety Rashad Torrence II (22) tackles Utah Utes running back Tavion Thomas (9) during the Florida vs. Utah football game on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. Photo by Rae Riiska | The Independent Florida Alligator

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

The “Across the (By)Line” series will give Kentucky football fans an in-depth look at their opponent for this week — from the mind of the opposing school’s sports editor. 

This week: The Alligator, Joseph Henry, Florida

Now that you’ve beaten No. 7 Utah, do you think Kentucky fans have underestimated Florida as a threat?

Henry: The release of the latest AP top 25 definitely showed them the caliber of team the Wildcats are facing this weekend. The Gators showed up big time last Saturday against the Utes, and they got rewarded with a jump to No. 12 in the nation. With so much hype surrounding the season opener it would not have been too shocking for Florida to have a let down.  

The Gators did just the opposite of that, however. Behind an eclectic performance by quarterback Anthony Richardson, Florida upset a top-10 team in its first game under head coach Billy Napier. Now, UF enters its matchup with the Wildcats as the higher ranked team. 

If Florida’s run game — which racked up 284 yards against Utah — continues to rumble, it can keep pace with almost any Southeastern Conference team. The Gators are favored heading into this weekend and considering they are playing at home, I think they deserve to be. 

What is it about Florida that Kentucky is going to have the most issues with on Saturday?

Henry: Gators fans aren’t very fond of the Wildcats after last season’s loss. Plus, after the ridiculous energy of last weekend, the Swamp is going to be crazy yet again this weekend. 

That’s just off the field, though. Florida’s offense has already proven to be a force to be reckoned with. Richardson is a certified superstar and will be the best player on the field 90% of the time this season. He’s a highlight reel waiting to happen. He’s Vince Young, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel … Tim Tebow. 

The addition of a three-headed monster in UF’s running back room makes the offense potentially one of the best in the country. Transfer Montrell Johnson Jr., redshirt sophomore Nay’Quan Wright and freshman Trevor Etienne were all heavily involved during the Utah game. If your team’s front seven is not ready for that challenge, good luck bringing down the Gators. 

There weren’t many pointing to Anthony Richardson as one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC, but after a strong week one what should Kentucky expect from him?

Henry: The flashes of greatness have always been there with Richardson. Everyone in Gainesville knew he had the ability to be great. It wasn’t until the Utah game, however, that the rest of college football got put on notice. 

The calls for Richardson to receive more playing time over former Gators quarterback Emory Jones were constant last season. The fans and members of the media were ready to see what kind of developments he would make under Florida’s new coaching staff. 

Napier has seemed to unlock Richardson’s full potential. Yes, I don’t think that is an overreaction after one week. The Heisman buzz should be there. How can you watch him make the impossible possible on that two-point conversion and not agree?  

Richardson is a true dual-threat. He rushed for three touchdowns last week, but you can’t overlook the handful of times he stood strong in the pocket and showed off his arm strength. As the season grows and Richardson builds more chemistry with his wide receivers, I believe his passing will become even more prolific.

What are you personally expecting to see this Saturday in the game? Who comes out on top?

Henry: I’m most interested to see how Kentucky’s offense matches up with Florida’s defense. The Utes gashed the Gators on the ground week one. The Wildcats are entering this weekend with some major question marks in the backfield, though. 

With that being said, seeing how the Florida secondary competes against the UK’s passing game led by quarterback Will Levis is what I’m looking at most. Some sports on the defense aren’t very sound — the linebackers really struggled in coverage of Utah’s tight ends — but UF’s defensive backs are clearly its bright spot.

Their positional coach Corey Raymond, who came over from Louisiana State, has done wonders with the group, and their improvement from last season to last Saturday was evident. Missed tackles weren’t as big of an issue as they were last season. The physicality of starting safeties Rashad Torrence II and Trey Dean III was on full display against Utah, so how the Wildcats’ wide receivers handle them will be interesting to watch. 

In the Swamp, Florida is going to be just a bit too much to handle. Kentucky is going to keep it close, but not as close as Utah did. The Gators are poised to make a move into the top 10 a lot sooner than any UF fan would’ve ever thought.

Score Prediction: 31-24 Florida