Friday, September 24, 2010

Game Day Prediction: The Gator Edition

Guess how many points Florida has put up in the first quarter in their first three games this year? ZERO. Guess what the combined records of Miami of Ohio, South Florida and Tennessee are? 4-4. Guess how many points have been put up against the Gators so far this year? 43. How many have they put up? 103. They have trouble scoring early but come on late and they are letting teams hang around only to put them away in the final two quarters.

What do these numbers tell me? They tell me Kentucky has a chance if they come out with guns blazing in the first half. Florida will get their points but it may come late. UK needs to get more points early on to cushion the lead. What are the keys to the game?

Locke and Cobb- Cobb and Locke have combined to score over half of Kentucky's total points this season. That means Florida will be keying on both players in order to neutralize their main scoring threats. The problem with that is it is almost impossible to neutralize Cobb because teams have no idea where he will line up from one play to the next. My hope is to see the Wildcat bust out early in the game to confuse a young but fast Gator defense.

Hartline Needs to be Perfect- Hartline has come a long way in convincing UK fans that he is the man at QB. A 3-0 start at QB with 5 TD's, no turnovers and the 8th ranked passing efficiency in the country will do that for a guy. But he needs to continue this trend. So far he has played the best season of his collegiate career and he needs to play the best game of his collegiate career. Limit mistakes and DO NOT GIVE the Gators free points. The Gators get at automatic 10 points for the home field advantage, don't give them anymore.

Compliments to Cobb and Locke- Hartline has been generous with the ball by completing a pass to nearly every receiver on the team. But the two guys that need to be the options besides Cobb and Locke are La'Rod King and Chris Matthews. In three games King has 9 receptions for 108 yards and a TD. Matthews has 7 receptions for 114 yards and 2 TDs. They are Hartline's favorite targets besides Cobb and Locke. Matt Roark has also come on strong. The numbers don't look that impressive but then again, Hartline has been spreading the ball around. Look for him to get his more talented receivers involved.

Breakout Players- The breakout players that need to step up on offense will be Donald Russell and Matt Roark. Russell needs to be that dynamic second option to Locke. He lacks Locke's speed but makes up for it in his size and tackle breaking ability. He could be a valuable third punch in the rushing attack. Roark should get free if the Gators choose to cover Cobb, Matthews and King. They can't cover everybody.

Defensive Worries- The run defense has been questioned but the pass defense is what scared me against Akron. I can't tell you how many touchdown balls were just flat dropped by the opposing team. The corners were burned at least 3 times I remember. Guess what? This ain't Akron. If they allow Brantley and his receivers to get into rhythm early then it's going to be trouble. Brantley looks indecisive at times and has had trouble hooking up with his talented receivers. Cover them up and confuse him. Which leads me to my next point...

Pressure, Pressure, Pressure- Dequinn Evans recorded his first sack of the season against Akron and was in the backfield all night. Ricky Lumpkin and the feel good story of the season Luke McDermott need to stuff the run so that Evans, Collins Ukwu and Taylor Wyndham can get in the backfield to pressure Brantley. IF we can pressure Brantley, confuse him, shake his confidence, get his home crowd to question him and remember that HE IS NOT Tim Tebow, then their offense will be limited to the run. If the Cats can force 2 or more turnovers then a victory will be had.

So what is my final prediction? I know what I want my prediction to be and I know what my heart says but it's tough to go against my head. 23 straight years of losing to these guys hurts. It doesn't help that it's in The Swamp. No doubt Joker will have them fired up and ready to run through a wall. All he has to do is show the upperclassmen the tape from the last four years, including last year when the Gators put up 31 in the first quarter at Commonwealth.

In the end I think the Cats fall 20-33. Close but no cigar. I hope for once they prove me wrong. Sportsthat will be at Big Blue Country. Come say hello and help us cheer on the Cats. If UK wins this expect Monster Mash and myself to paint this red town blue Saturday night.

Final Thought: Last night on the halftime show of the Miami/Pitt game Lou Holtz picked Notre Dame over Stanford as his upset alert. We dodged a bullet there. Who did Mark May choose? Kentucky over Florida. I hope you are correct mark.

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