The Florida Gators host the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday, September 10th in the SEC opener for both teams. The Gators have won 29 straight meetings with the Wildcats, which is now the longest active winning steak in the FBS after Penn State’s run of 31 straight wins over Temple came to an end last year.
Florida opened 2016 with more offensive struggles, just like last year. It only beat Massachusetts 24-7 despite being 34.5-point favorites. The Gators actually only led 10-7 at the end of the 3rd quarter before outscoring the Minutemen 14-0 in the final period to pull away.
Kentucky is coming off a disheartening 35-44 home loss to Southern Miss last week. But the Wildcats were only 3.5-point favorites in that contest. They were outscored 27-0 after intermission to really give the game away.
Kickoff inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is scheduled for 3:30 EST Saturday afternoon with CBS providing the television coverage. Taking a look at the odds in Las Vegas, I find Florida as a 17-point favorite over Kentucky with a total set of 47.5 points.
My Early Lean: Kentucky +17
There’s no question that a home loss to Southern Miss is a little concerning for Kentucky fans, but considering they were only 3.5-point favorites, it shouldn’t be that much of a shocker.
This was a Southern Miss team that returned 13 starters and 55 lettermen from a team that went 9-5 and made the Conference USA Championship Game. That includes sensational QB Nick Mullens, who threw for 4,476 yards and 38 touchdowns against 12 interceptions last year.
And the Wildcats were dominating this game with a 35-10 lead with less than a minute to play in the first half. They completely fell apart from that point-forward, getting outscored 34-0 the rest of the way by the Golden Eagles.
I still come away with some positives as Kentucky’s offense really got going behind talented sophomore Drew Barker, who threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns. This is an offense that returned nine starters from last year, and Barker wasn’t even one of them. This offense can keep them in the game against Florida.
Yes, Kentucky’s defense left a lot to be desired, but the good news is that its up against a Florida team that once again has no offense in 2016. I’m way more concerned with Florida’s lackluster 24-7 opening win against UMass as 34.5-point favorites than Kentucky’s loss to Southern Miss.
Florida is a team I am way down on this year. It got very lucky to win the SEC East last yearwith so many close wins. Five of its 10 wins came by a touchdown or less, including a 31-24 home win over ECU, a fluke 28-27 home win over Tennessee, an ugly 9-7 home win over Vanderbilt, and a 20-14 (OT) win at home against Florida Atlantic.
In fact, the Vols only outgained teams last year by 24 yards per game and outscored them by 4.9 points per game. The Gators’ true colors showed against the big boys in their final three games with a 25-point loss to Florida State, a 14-point loss to Alabama, and a 34-point loss to Michigan in the bowl game.
Florida’s offense managed just 334 yards per game and 23.2 points per game last season. That offense looked shaky in the 24-7 win over UMass again. The Gators only managed 363 total yards, including 107 rushing and 3.7 per carry.
The Gators were only leading UMass 10-7 at the end of the 3rd quarter before winning the 4th 14-0 to pull away. This was a UMass team that went just 3-9 with 19 starters back last year, and it only returned 10 starters this year.
The Gators were only leading UMass 10-7 at the end of the 3rd quarter before winning the 4th 14-0 to pull away. This was a UMass team that went just 3-9 with 19 starters back last year, and it only returned 10 starters this year. It’s also a team that gave up 31.4 points and 448 yards per game to opponents last year.
Kentucky will be highly motivated to end its 29-game losing streak to Florida. It has come close each of the last two years. It lost 30-36 (OT) at Florida as 17.5-point dogs in 2014, and 9-14 at home as 3.5-point dogs last year. The Wildcats weren’t overmatched in either game, and they certainly won’t be overmatched enough to lose by more than 17 points in this 2016 meeting.
Florida is 0-7 ATS in home games after allowing 14 points or less last game over the past three seasons. The Gators are 0-5 ATS in their last five home games. Florida is 0-6 ATS in its last six home games vs. a team with a losing record. The road team is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings.