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September 27, 2013

Cats look to snap streak of 26 straight losses to Gators

Coach: Mark Stoops
Record: 1-2 in first season at UK and overall
Last game:Louisville 27, Kentucky 13
Next game: at South Carolina, Oct. 5
Roster | Depth chart
No. 20 FLORIDA (2-1, 1-0 SEC)
Coach: Will Muschamp
Record: 20-9 in third season at Florida and overall
Last game: Florida 31, Tennessee 17
Next game: Arkansas, Oct. 5
Roster | Depth chart
Game/Series Information
< Game Information
Site: Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington (67,942)
TV: ESPNU (Clay Matvick play-by-play, Matt Stinchcomb analysis, Dawn Davenport sideline)
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Jeff Piecoro analysis; Dick Gabriel sideline); Sirius 135/XM 200
Internet: Audio | Video
Favorite: Florida by 13

Series Information:
Series record: Florida leads 46-17
At Lexington: Florida leads 18-10
Coaches' records: Stoops 0-0 vs. Florida; Muschamp 2-0 UK

Last meeting
Florida 38, Kentucky 0 (Sept. 22, 2012 in Gainesville, Fla.)
Both teams struggled early offensively, but the Gators kept the clamps on the Wildcats throughout, holding UK to 219 yards of total offense and just 60 passing yards. Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel passed for 203 yards and a touchdown, running for another, and two other Gators had rushing touchdowns. Florida also scored a defensive touchdown, with Jaylen Watkins returning his interception of Morgan Newton 26 yards for a score.

Keys to the Game
1. Down and out: There might not be a bigger key to Saturday's game than Kentucky's third-down woes and Florida's stifling third-down defense. Opponents are converting 18.9 percent of third downs against the Gators' defense, lowest in the nation. The Cats' offensive rate of 35.6 percent third-down conversions is seventh-worst nationally. Said Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown: "We haven't executed as well on third down as we'd like. And there's a few play calls that I'd like to have back on third down as well."

2. Take it Easley: As daunting as Florida's defense is, it will be without perhaps its best weapon on Saturday. Defensive tackle Dominique Easley wil miss the remainder of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Easley had five tackles this season, including two for loss. He was tied for the team lead in quarterback hurries with four. Still, Brown said, Florida is stacked up front: "They can just run 'em in. They've done a great job recruiting at that spot, so it will be… a good measuring stick."

3. QB curveball: Both teams will enter the game with some quarterback uncertainty. Kentucky has yet to announce whether Maxwell Smith or Jalen Whitlow will start, though both are expected to play. Either will face a challenge against the Gators' secondary. Florida redshirt junior Tyler Murphy will start for the first time. He subbed in for starter Jeff Driskel last week after Driskel went to the sideline with a season-ending injury. It was the first action of Murphy's career. He's a strong runner, but a bit of a mystery.

Staff Predictions
T.J. Walker, Staff Writer: Florida 31, Kentucky 28 The Gators' 26-game winning streak against UK might not die on Saturday, but the Cats will perform well enough against the Gators to leave the fans knowing the future of UK football is alive and well. For once the breaks have fallen in UK's favor: Florida has a first-time starter at quarterback and Easley is out. But the Cats won't be able to overcome the talent gap just yet.

Aaron Smith, staff writer: Florida 24, Kentucky 10 Florida's offense, operated by a backup quarterback who hadn't completed a pass in three years before last week, won't move the ball very well. But Kentucky's offense will be even more stagnant going against one of the best defenses in the nation. Too many drives stall for UK to put up points and keep its defense off the field, and the streak lives on.

Justin Rowland, Football Recruiting Analyst: Kentucky 17, Florida 16 I picked this as my upset before the season so for the sake of consistency let's stick with it. Florida's offense should be one-dimensional and the quarterback situation won't allow the Gators to exploit UK's secondary. It's tough to imagine UK scoring much on the Gators but it might not need to score a lot.

Brett Dawson, Publisher: Florida 23, Kentucky 13 There's something to be said for beating the spread against the Gators, given the recent and not-so-recent history of the series. The guess here is that the Cats can take that step this time around. And the upset doesn't seem impossible. But it's just too tough to pick Kentucky against one of the nation's elite defenses.

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