The red zone: Florida doesn’t have many weaknesses at this point, but the red zone has been one of them. Coach Muschamp said the three red zone false starts and the sack given up because of missed protections indicated some inconsistencies.
First down: Florida is only giving up .69 yards per rush on first down. That’s a mere 25 yards in 36 attempts. It should be interesting to see how committed Kentucky is to running the ball on first down. So far, no one’s been able to do it.
How the Gators handle success: One of Will Muschamp’s concerns after the win over Tennessee was his players getting too complacent with their early success. In his words, “we had everybody pat us on the back this week and it was evident in Tuesday’s practice.” He’s a self-proclaimed “glass half empty” kind of guy, so I expect him to do everything in his power to prevent his team from overlooking this game.
Rick knows Charlie: Kentucky DC Rick Minter was Charlie Weis’ Defensive Coordinator in his first two seasons as Head Coach at Notre Dame. Anyone can look at the film and find tendencies, but Minter knows the way Weis thinks. Of course, that doesn’t automatically equal interceptions and sacks, but it’s definitely an advantage. This may still be a new offense for John Brantley, but it’s not new to Rick Minter.
The track meet: Saying Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps are fast is kind of like saying Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are rich. Coach Weis said in the 40, Rainey wins and in the 100, Demps wins (Demps clocked a 10.25 at the Junior Olympics). Either way, if these two guys consistently find big holes or catch the ball in space, Florida wins. Weis said that because they’re so similar, he doesn’t have two different packages for them and can use them interchangeably. That gives him the flexibility of not having to worry about one guy being tired or banged up and thereby limiting his play calling.
Brantley on the clock: When I asked him to name what he’s specifically working on with his QB, Charlie Weis said “having that clock in your head”. Weis noted that because Brantley is a perfectionist, he has to be reminded to get through his progressions and if nothing’s there, get rid of the ball. So far, he’s done a good job. The one sack he took was just a blown pickup.
Potential mismatch: Florida’s starting corners and safeties are young and small. The size of UK WR La’Rod King (6’4’’) is concerning. Roberson is the tallest in the secondary at 6’0’’ with Elam at 5’10’’, Riggs at 5’9’’ and Saunders at 5’8’’. Roberson and Saunders are true freshmen and Riggs and Elam are sophomores. Coach Davis said his safeties are actually his best cover guys, but if Newton has time to throw and King gets one on one coverage, he’ll be tough to stop. Even though he’s a true freshman and 5’8’’, Coach said Saunders “gets football… it comes easy to him. He gets leverage and can track it.” This young secondary is much better than it looks on paper.
Pass interference: Despite the 5 PI calls in the Tennessee game, Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn is confident that his secondary will still be able to stay physical and press. There were some techniques that needed to be fixed in practice, but he was encouraged by JR Josh Evans’ ability to bounce back and make big plays after an early penalty. Coach Quinn preaches think less, react more. He wants his young guys to play instinctive football, minus the penalties of course.
Dump it down: Kentucky plays a lot of man coverage and Coach Weis said UK’s defense will blitz around fifty percent of the time. UF RB Chris Rainey actually leads his team in receiving with 11 catches for 214 yards. If Gator receivers don’t get separation quickly, expect to see those numbers to greatly increase.
Game time is 7pm ET on ESPN from Commonwealth Stadium.