Tennessee Review / Kentucky Preview

Another inconsistent offensive effort, another solid defensive effort, and great special teams play led to another road win in Knoxville.  That’s 6 in a row over the Inbreds, 3 straight on Rocky Top, and 15 out of 21 since 1990.

The hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing continues in Gator Nation another week.  I’m going to wait until after the Homecoming game to decide if the offense is really going to perform this sporadically all season, but the coaching staff has to start giving these kids a better chance to make plays.  It is living dangerously to rely on the passing game to convert so many 3rd-and-long situations.  Also, Jeff Demps is not a 20+ carry a game RB……he’ll wear down quickly and lose the big-play capability he has shown so far this season.  Mike Gillislee has to be given more carries, and he has earned them.  At least Thompson and Moore came up with some big catches to sustain drives, but Hines needs to get more throws his way.  The run-blocking of the OL has been a disappointment so far, as many felt that this would be one of the best groups in the country in 2010, including me.  I can only hope they wind up playing that way by season’s end, but they have a long way to go.

The Florida defense unveiled a 5-2 look on the defensive front that completely shut down the Vol running game, effectively putting the outcome in Matt Simms’ hands.  Checkmate.  There were 2 breakdowns on coverage – one involving inexperienced Jeremy Brown, but he came right back with a big interception leading to a TD.  The other was on Will Hill, seeing his first action of the season after suspension, and he obviously looked rusty.  That can be corrected, however, and the overall play was very good.  Florida leads the nation in interceptions with 10, and the end zone pickoff by Jon Bostic really turned the early momentum of the game to the Gators.

The Gator special teams were just that again.  Chas Henry is money in the field position game, and the kick coverage units were excellent.  Demps is always a home run threat on kickoff returns, and has consistently given the Florida offense great field position.

Kentucky comes to Gainesville undefeated and looking to end a 23-game losing streak to Florida.  New Coach Joker Phillips talked a big game over the summer about how he was going to bring the Mildcats to another level……he gets his chance with a night game at the Swamp.  The one playmaker on Kentucky is Randall Cobb, who will line up at WR and occasionally take direct snaps, being a former QB.  Mike Hartline has not distinguished himself at QB in 3 years, and doesn’t worry the Gator defense.  Derrick Locke leads the SEC in rushing, but so did Tauren Poole of Tennessee, until he ran into (repeatedly) the Gator defense.

The Mildcat defense has a lot of new starters this year, and less experience than you would want for an SEC road game.  The stats are good, but against weak competition.  I have to believe they will come up with as many new looks as possible to confuse the Gator offense, which hasn’t needed much help in that department to date.  But I really feel that the night crowd at the Swamp, plus the incentive to ramp up the intensity with a huge game looming at Alabama next week, is enough to get the players to elevate their level of play.  The OL has had 2 weeks of practice together now in it’s original projected starting lineup, and has to clean up the various missed assignments.  The WR corps looks like it’s ready to take up some slack, with Hammond back and Hines looking for more throws his way.  Demps can’t survive 20+ carries a game, and I have to think Gillislee will get more carries this week – he’s earned them.  Brantley can play better at QB, and I think he would agree……and I also think he will show that improvement this week.

Prediction – Florida 34    Kentucky 14