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We’ve got an early-season SEC matchup here as the Kentucky Wildcats host the Florida Gators. Both teams are 2-0, and it’s safe to say this is an extremely pivotal game. The Gators are ranked #9 in the latest AP poll, while Kentucky is unranked. Oddsmakers have Florida as more than a touchdown road favorites for this one, which will be nationally televised on ESPN.
Florida brought back a lot of talent to this year’s team, and just about everybody has been excited to see what they can do under head coach Dan Mullen this season. Feleipe Franks is back under center, and there’s hope he can show real growth during SEC play. Florida won a big season opener in a very sloppy game against Miami that they almost choked away at the end, then beat an FCS school last week.
Kentucky had their best season in a long time in 2018, when they shocked everybody to finish ranked in the top 15. They won ten games, which nobody saw coming, and most observers are expecting them to take a step back in 2019. Kentucky has started the season 2-0, with wins over Eastern Michigan and Toledo.
Florida football might be officially back. This looks like the best Gators team in years, and they enter this one ranked #9 in the nation. I’m a big fan of head coach Dan Mullen, and I love what he’s been able to do for the program. We’ll know for sure if this team is legit in part by how they look here. They beat Miami in Week 0, but that was a really sloppy game played a week before most other teams kicked off. The thing I’m watching here is the Florida defensive line. The defensive front was dominant against Miami, and they have NFL-caliber talent up front. Against the Hurricanes, they racked up an absurd ten sacks and 16 tackles for loss, and they practically lived in Miami’s backfield. If they can get that type of pressure again, they should win easily.
— Overtime Heroics (@OTHeroics1) September 8, 2019
I’m not overly high on Kentucky’s offensive line, so they stand a good shot. The real key to unlocking the heights this team can reach is the development of quarterback Feleipe Franks. All offseason, we heard positive stories about how Franks was evolving past his erratic prior performances. Franks was shaky against Florida, averaging 9.4 yards per attempt but also throwing a pair of interceptions. If Franks can get consistent, this Florida team is going to be elite, it’s as simple as that. To help him out the Gators will need to get more out of their ground game, and they’ll be going up against a solid Kentucky defense.
“He’s adapted and grown with everything that we’ve thrown at him. I’ve been really proud of his overall development the last year and a half and, you know, he’s continued to make progress and shown an unbelievable desire and work ethic to become a much better player. The results are starting to show.” — Gators assistant coach Brian Johnson on QB Feleipe Franks
Kentucky Expected To Regress
Kentucky is coming off one of the most successful seasons in recent program history. They weren’t supposed to be that great in 2018 but surprised everybody, ultimately knocking off Penn State in a bowl game and finishing the season ranked inside the top 15. Despite the success they’re coming off, most observers have expected them to be just average this year. When you dig in, it makes some sense as to why. Kentucky lost defensive end Josh Allen, by far their best player, who was the seventh overall pick in April’s NFL draft. Allen finished with 17 sacks last year, and that’s a lot of production to replace.
Kentucky didn’t have much of a passing game last year and they mostly relied on their defense to carry them, so if that unit takes a step back they’re in big trouble. That side of the ball wasn’t the only one where they had notable departures, as they also lost the heart and soul of their offense in running Benny Snell Jr., who rushed for 1,449 yards last year. Kentucky was the rare team that ran the ball nearly twice as often as they passed, so they can’t afford for the ground game to take a step back either. The defense certainly hasn’t looked like its old elite self so far this year, as they gave up 24 points to Toledo in their opener and 17 points to Eastern Michigan last week. They’ll be playing a significantly tougher offense here.
- 5-14 ATS in their last 19 home games
- 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games on grass
- 1-4 ATS in their last 5 conference games
- 5-1 ATS in their last 6 road games
- 5-2 ATS vs. a team with a winning record
- 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games following a ATS win
Updated on Sep 14 at 8:45am EDT
Update prepared by our editoral staff
Public Money / Line Movements
The Gators have gone from -8.5 up to -9 while grabbing 65% of the bets. The Sharps are on the side of the Wildcats a bit.
Injury / Weather Report
Florida’s Impact Injury Report
Doubtful: DB C.J. Henderson
Out: UT Kadarius Toney
Kentucky’s Impact Injury Report
Out: Starting QB Terry Wilson & DB Kelvin Joseph
Gametime Weather: 80 and partly cloudy
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I think the Gators are going to win this one in a blowout. Florida is back, and the defensive line is dominant while Franks has shown major growth. Kentucky’s defense clearly isn’t as good as it was last year, as evidenced by the fact that they just gave up 24 points to Toledo. Kentucky is just 5-14 against the spread in their last 19 home games, so we don’t have to worry about much of a home-field advantage here.
Prediction: Florida -8
Full-Game Total Pick
I also like the over in this spot. Oddsmakers are still treating Kentucky totals like this is 2018, while the team has changed radically. They’ve actually been playing pretty fast, with 62 total points being scored in their recent game against Toledo. Franks has a cannon, and he likes to air it out which will help keep the clock stopped.