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September 21, 2012

UK looks to avoid 26th straight loss to Florida

Coach: Joker Phillips
Record: 12-16 (4-12 SEC) in three seasons at UK, overall
Last game:WKU 32, Kentucky 31
Next game:South Carolina, Sept. 29
Roster | Depth chart
FLORIDA (3-0, 2-0 SEC)
Coach: Will Muschamp
Record: 10-6 (5-5 SEC) in two seasons at UF, overall
Last game: Florida 37, Tennessee 20
Next game:LSU, Oct. 6
Roster | Depth chart
Game/Series Information
Game Information
Site: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (88,548)
TV: SEC Network (Dave Neal play-by-play, Andre Ware analyst, Cara Capuano sideline)
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Jeff Piecoro analysis; Dick Gabriel sideline); Sirius channel 94
Internet: Audio | Video
Favorite: Florida by 24

Series Information:
Series record: Florida leads 45-17
At Gainesville: Florida leads 25-4
Coaches' records:Phillips 0-2 vs. Florida; Muschamp 1-0 vs. UK

Last meeting
Florida 48, Kentucky 10 (Sept. 24, 2011, in Lexington
The Gators jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter before cruising to a win. Running back Jeff Demps scored on an 86-yard run, the sixth-longest in program history as Florida finished with 405 rushing yards on 46 carries. Demps had 157 yards, while Chris Rainey had 105 and third stringer Mike Gillislee had 84 yards.

Keys to the Game
1. First things first: Florida has outscored Kentucky 94-3 in the first quarter of the last four meetings, ending any chance of an upset bid before the Wildcat offense could even get rolling. Leaving the first quarter in a scoreless tie would be a huge victory for Kentucky. If Maxwell Smith turns the ball over early as he did last week, Florida could run up the score and put UK away early.

2. Backed in a corner: Florida might be undefeated, but it doesn't have the talent across the board like there was in some recent years. There's no Joe Haden or Janoris Jenkins in the secondary. Junior Jeremy Brown is the most talented of the group, but he hasn't made a significant impact while recovering from an ACL injury suffered in 2011. Junior Jaylen Watkins and sophomores Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy will see the most action, but they have just one interception this year among them. Kentucky will have to exploit the secondary to stand a chance.

3.Watch Gillislee go: Gator tailback Mike Gillislee leads the SEC and ranks 20th nationally in rushing with 115 yards per game. By contrast, Kentucky as a team averages 106 yards per game on the ground. If Florida can seize an early lead, expect for the Gators to sit on it. Gillislee is explosive enough to score anyway, and he'll get help from Trey Burton in the Wildcat formation. Add in the struggles of the UK defense against the rush, and Florida could be able to run the opposition into the ground.

Staff Predictions
Ben Jones, Staff Writer: Florida 52, Kentucky 20
Remember some of the shootouts from this series around the turn of the century? Florida won 55-28 in 1997, 51-35 in 1998 and 59-31 in 2000. This game should look similar, if Smith can cut down on interceptions from last week. He'll probably finish with another 300-yard passing day regardless, but don't expect Kentucky to threaten to end the streak.

T.J. Walker, Staff Writer: Florida 49, Kentucky 21
After last week's debacle against Western Kentucky, the Wildcats are banged up and have no time to rest heading into The Swamp. Don't expect Maxwell Smith to throw four interceptions again, but the offense will struggle against its first test against an SEC defense. The biggest problem for UK will be stopping the run. If the Cats can't stop Western Kentucky's running game, how will it handle Florida's top 20 rushing attack?

Aaron Smith, Staff Writer: Florida 45, Kentucky 20 Kentucky will, as usual, fall behind the Gators early (the Wildcats have been outscored 94-3 in the first quarter in the last four meetings) and never catch up. This is the game where UK's defense gets really exposed, and this is the game in which it becomes apparent UK will suffer more ugly losses than close ones in SEC play.

Brett Dawson, Publisher: Florida 49, Kentucky 24
Could this be the year the streak snaps? Not UK's 25-game losing streak to Florida, of course. That seems safe. But maybe the Wildcats could score a first-quarter offensive touchdown for the first time since 2010. Or be competitive with Florida in the first quarter, which has been even more rare. The Gators have too much speed and size for the Wildcats, and the outcome is unlikely to be in doubt. But a competitive start would be a small victory for Joker Phillips.

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