by The Associated Press
No. 20 Florida (2-1, 1-0 SEC) at Kentucky (1-2, 0-0), 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Line: Florida by 13.
Series record: Florida leads, 46-17.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Florida will try to remain unbeaten in the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division while extending its 26-game winning streak over Kentucky, which is coming off a bye and aims to beat the Gators for the first time since 1986 along with earning its first SEC win since November 2011 against Tennessee. Florida’s winning streak against Kentucky is the current longest in an interrupted series between two teams.
Florida leads nearly every SEC defensive category including yards per game (212.3), which ranks second nationally. The Gators will use every facet in an effort to shut down Kentucky’s pass-oriented Air Raid offense that’s tied for fourth in SEC total yardage (490 yards per game) and passing (276.7). But they must do so without disruptive DT Dominique Easley, who sustained a season-ending right knee injury on Tuesday. The Wildcats hope to establish a ground game with either senior Raymond Sanders or freshman JoJo Kemp, but Florida is allowing 55.3 yards per game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Florida: QB Tyler Murphy will make his first career start for the Gators, taking over after Jeff Driskel’s season-ending leg injury last week against Tennessee. He was solid in relief, passing for 134 yards and a touchdown and running for 84 yards and another score. Like Driskel, his ability to throw and run presents a dual threat for the Wildcats to defend.
Kentucky: MLB Avery Williamson and DE Za’Darius Smith rank among the SEC’s top tacklers. Williamson, whose 135 tackles ranked second last season, leads the conference with 35 so far. Smith, a junior college transfer, is second with 4.5 sacks and has brought a fiery intensity to the Wildcats’ defense.
FACTS & FIGURES
Florida wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Joker Phillips was Kentucky’s head coach the past three seasons before being dismissed last November with a 13-24 record. … The Gators’ defense has allowed 7 of 37 third-down conversions (18.9. … Kentucky has used 14 newcomers including eight freshmen this season. … The Wildcats are in the midst of a four-game stretch against ranked schools including three from the SEC. Twelfth-ranked South Carolina and No. 1 Alabama follow.
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