GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we preview the Florida Gators’ top-25 match-up against Kentucky on Saturday night in the Swamp.
Andrew Spivey and Nick Marcinko breakdown the keys for the Gators to knock off Kentucky as the Wildcats knocked off Florida last year in Lexington.
Andrew and Nick also make their predictions on several games around the country, plus we predict the Gators score against Kentucky.
Andrew: Your man, Andrew Spivey, back with Nick. Nick, it’s Kentucky week. What a difference a week makes. #12 in the country. That’s surprising, I will say. I didn’t expect it to go that high. #12 in the country, and this week’s favorite against Kentucky. What a thing a week makes.ut for an unranked team since:
Let’s think about that for a second. They don’t want to put the Gators tremendously low, because then it makes them look bad. They’re holding their ground with their Utah take. Utah’s 13, right behind the Gators, which is a fair ranking. Utah’s a really good team. The more I sat there and thought about the ranking, the more it made sense to me.
Andrew: It did. Someone asked me before the poll came out. They said, where do you see Florida? I said 18. You look at the Coaches Poll, they were 19. I think they’re somewhere in that range. Here’s the deal. It doesn’t really matter. Florida’s 12. At the end of the day, the SEC will shake out how it’s supposed to shake out. If Florida is as good as the polls want them to be, then they’ll be fine. If they beat #20 Kentucky this weekend, they’ll be a top 10 team, and everyone will be declaring that they’re back and everything else. Again, we’ll see. The schedule definitely opens up a little bit easier, per se, after Kentucky, with South Florida and then Tennessee.
I think the biggest thing for me, Nick, is this. When we were all doing our preseason picks, and I mean everyone, national guys, local guys, everybody, if you would have said Florida had a chance to start 2-0, you would say great start. Because most people I think would have been very happy with a 1-1 start. Florida goes into this game with a pretty good opportunity to go 2-0, and you look back, and you say, that’s a great start.
Nick: Not only that, Andrew, but I believe when the Gator Country employees were giving their season previews, I know I for a fact picked Utah as the most important game in the season. Andrew, I believe you picked Kentucky. Is that correct?
Andrew: Yeah. I did.
Nick: There you go. Gators are starting off, they have a chance to start off 2-0 against what me and Andrew think are the two most important games of the Gator’s season. Let’s think about that for a second. That is huge. That’s a huge momentum shift for the Gators. If they can start off 2-0, like Andrew said, everyone’s going to be talking about the Florida Gators even more than they already are. It could lead to great things for Billy Napier.
Andrew: Yeah. I think the biggest thing for me heading into this game, as we get into talk about this game, is how do these players- #12 in the country, everyone’s rubbing their head, kissing them on the cheek, telling them how great they are after a big Utah game. It’s another sellout coming in. How does this team take that? How do they take all this loving they’re getting after, let’s face it, a year where they were beaten down, talked about as being terrible.
How does this team take a little bit of success? How do they build off that? Billy Napier is doing his best. He’s said multiple times throughout that the film was ugly. It was a good, bad, and ugly film. There was a lot to improve on. The guys are saying the right things, but do you go into this game with the mindset of it’s underdog, it’s us against them kind of mentality? You have to go in with that mindset.
I think the biggest thing for me is Kentucky has, let’s just say it, they’ve whipped Florida around a lot. Even in some of the wins where Florida snuck away with wins, Kentucky’s whipped them around a little bit. Had to have an uncovered guy in the endzone when Jim McElwain was here, Josh Hammond. That kind of stuff. I think that that helps this game a little bit, just because of what Kentucky’s done to Florida lately. It should keep them focused, motivated, and eyes on the prize.
Nick: I agree. I don’t think any player in the Gator’s locker room right now is forgetting what happened last year at Kentucky. They got beat. I do think it’s harder. I think it’s harder to keep the kind of underdog mindset as you keep winning. Billy Napier’s trying. He’s trying to get these guys to say, look, if we play like this again, we’re going to get beat multiple times this season, but as the wins keep coming, they’re thinking about that in the back of their head. So, they can sit there and say all they want, it’s a business trip, all this and that, but at the end of the day, the win is in the back of their minds. Time will tell whether they can keep this underdog kind of dog mentality going forward.
Andrew: Yeah. I hate that whole we have to play with an underdog mentality. I hate that. I can’t stand it. That us against the world. It just kind of gets old to me.
Andrew: Maybe I’m old-school.
Nick: I think at the end of the day, I know I saw a lot of fans saying, I wish that the Gators were ranked lower. That doesn’t make sense to me. These guys are putting in a lot of work and a lot of effort. Of course, they want to see a high ranking. I don’t think any player on the Florida Gator roster was like, I wish we were ranked in the 20s. No. They want to be ranked as high as possible, because they put in the work for it.
Andrew: Right. Again, it’s one of those things where it’s going to work out how it’s supposed to work out. It’s Week 2 of the season. Nobody really cares about the rankings and everything else. Obviously, if Florida goes into Jacksonville undefeated, beats Georgia, then, by God, Florida better be 1 or 2 in the country. That just is what it is.
Nick: They will be.
Andrew: I’m just saying that’s where you start to worry about the rankings and that kind of stuff. This Kentucky team though comes in kind of beaten up a little bit. Lose Ramon Jefferson, the running back, to a torn ACL. It likes Chris Rodriguez is probably still out. We’ll see. They have some injuries going into this game. You never want to see a team beaten up, but you’re always okay if they’re missing a couple guys, especially a guy like Chris Rodriguez, where he’s not out for an injury. He’s out for an NCAA problem. You’re catching this team at the right time.
When look at Florida, they can’t go up against a running football team every week and expect this defensive line to continue to hold up. That’s their problem. That’s their weakness is depth on the defensive line. If it batters up Kentucky’s running game a little bit injuries and guys out, then Florida’s okay with it, because this is a team that is going to want teams to pass against them, just so they don’t have to line up and go up against the run like a Utah team did and get beaten down and worn down and gassed.
Nick: Absolutely. When you look at Kentucky’s running back room right now, you have Kavosiey Smoke, and he is a guy that, Andrew, he’s played in a ton of games, 34 games for Kentucky, but he’s only made one start. This is untested waters for him. He’s returning for his fifth year, and he’s only started one game. He’s not going to be used to the volume that he’s going to get, and let me tell you, he’s going to get a lot of touches on Saturday night. The backup running back, La’Vell Wright, just 11 career carries, and that includes two from Week 1. I don’t believe they have another scholarship running back after that. I could be wrong, but I believe it’s just those two. It’s going to be a lot of carries for Smoke. I’m not saying he’s not prepared for it, but it’s something that he hasn’t seen before.
Andrew: Smoke, by the way, what a name. From Alabama, a guy I know pretty well. Listen, he’s a good ballplayer. There’s zero doubt about it. He’s a good ballplayer. Obviously, he’s not Rodriguez at all, but you’re not going to get a Chris Rodriguez. You’re not going to get anybody that’s close to that. You go into this game, and you see what Kentucky did against Sam Houston State, where they only had 59 total yards of rushing.
Nick: Miami of Ohio.
Andrew: Miami of Ohio. Sorry. Sam Houston State was Texas A&M. You go in with Miami Ohio, and they only have 59 yards rushing. You look at that, and you say, Florida can have that success against Kentucky. I know Billy Napier is getting the whole Will Levis is legit and everything else, and he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC. I think he’s a good quarterback. I think he’s legit. I don’t think he deserves all of this that everybody wants to give him. You see some of these picks where they’re saying, he could be one of the top 1-2 quarterbacks drafted in the country. Bull crap. He ain’t that good. Let’s slow the roll there.
Nick: I agree. The bottom line is he’s going to have to be really, really good to beat the Gators on Saturday, and let me tell you why. The running back room is all beaten up. They didn’t perform well against Miami of Ohio, but it was not due to the running back room. That offensive line was bad, and that’s me being really nice about it. They were horrible. Levis was sacked four times, knocked down a few. They were creating no holes in the run game. They better hope they improve, because if not, things could get ugly in Gainesville.
Andrew: I think that leads us to our point here. The key to the game may end up being Florida’s pass rush. That was kind of nonexistent in the Utah game. I say nonexistent. They had some hurries in the game. Obviously, in that game you didn’t have a ton of opportunities to just straight up rush the passer. Utah did a good job of getting the ball out quickly. Going into this season, we kind of wondered how Florida’s pass rush was going to be. Obviously, Princely and Brenton Cox are going to be the two main guys there, but when those two guys aren’t in, you’re going to need Justus Boone, Tyreak Sapp. You’re going to need those guys to really step up there and get you some pass rush.
You cannot allow Levis, if you allow him to sit back there and have all day to throw, guess what? He might look like a top five quarterback in the country, especially with the secondary that is a little unproven. Devin Moore’s unproven. Avery Helm, he’s had his ups and downs. Jason Marshall’s had his ups and downs. Rashad Torrence is coming off of a bad game there. Trey Dean we all know is an up and down kind of guy in pass coverage at safety. You need a pass rush to get there. Maybe this is the game that Shemar James and Diwun Black show up as well and show just what they’re capable of at linebacker, because you’re hoping that you can get those guys in pass coverage against the tight ends and running backs, against a Kentucky team who on 3rd down, especially if it’s 3rd and long.
Nick: Absolutely. I wasn’t overly concerned with the Gators not recording a sack in Week 1, because like we’ve talked about, Utah game planned around that. They ran the ball a lot. They threw a lot to their tight ends. They got the ball. Cam Rising did a great job getting the ball up quickly. The Gators defensive backs just weren’t really tested all game long. I think Jason Marshall allowed one catch, I think. Two maybe. The Gators, their defensive line has to get to Will Levis, because, like you said, if the Kentucky offensive line can hold up, and he’s sitting back there all day long, he’s good enough to beat you. He has all the physical tools to play in the NFL, so if you let him sit back there, he's going to kill you.
I don’t see the game going that way. Like I said, I watched the Kentucky offensive line struggle mightily against a not very big Miami of Ohio defensive line. They had miscommunications all over the field. But Will Levis still threw for over 300 yards. He’s a guy that’s going to drop back to pass 30, maybe 40, times against the Gators. The Gator defensive backs, they have to be prepared for that.
Andrew: Right. Again, I wasn’t overly concerned with them not getting a pass rush. Like you said, there was an emphasis on getting the ball out quickly for Utah. You hit on Marshall, and I didn’t think he had a bad game at all. You hit on Devin Moore. Obviously, Ventrell Miller, that tight end for Utah, that’s a first round Draft pick. That’s what you want, Brant. I don’t know how to pronounce his last name. Not even going to try. That’s what you want out of an NFL tight end. That dude’s for real. You’re okay with what he did against Ventrell Miller, because, again, Ventrell Miller, if you’re asking him to guard a tight end or running back, you’re going to have problems there. That just kind of is what it is there.
Again, not concerned too much about that there. I am a little worried about Marshall and Moore in coverage, just to kind of see what they can do. Tayvion Robinson had 136 yards receiving in the game, so how do they stack up against that there? Also, I think a big key in this game for me is this. I know we talked a lot about this in our roundtable. Florida’s going to have opportunities to throw the ball in this game. We know that. We just do. We know that Kentucky’s going to put eight in the box. They’re going to want to stop Richardson and the rushing attack of Nay’Quan, Etienne, Montrell Johnson. They’re going to want to stop that. So, you’re going to have downfield passing attempts there.
I think it’s also key for Florida, and it’s going to be key all year, that they’ve got to be able to run the ball, simply for a keep away situation. You do not want this Florida defense on the field a ton for depth reasons. Not because they’re not good, but for depth reasons. They want to run the ball, milk the clock. They want to own time of possession in this game, or all season, to hide that lack of depth on the defensive line.
Nick: Right. Kentucky’s defensive line is bigger than Utah’s. Kingsley said that in a press conference the other day. They asked him, what’s the difference between Kentucky and Utah? And he said, Kentucky’s bigger. They’re just bigger. They’re going to be harder to move around. I think we’re going to see a similar game plan. I think that Richardson’s going to throw the ball a bit more and maybe test Kentucky downfield, especially when they’re stacked in the box and things like that.
The Gators, their bread and butter this year is the run game. I’ve said it all offseason. The offensive line is the strength of the team. The running backs are there with them as well. They’re going to try to run the football. If Kentucky does stack the box and kind of disrespects Richardson’s arm, he’s going to try to beat you over top as well.
Andrew: Right. That’s going to be a key this year is when forced to throw the ball deep, or when forced to make a play throwing the ball, you can do it. Him and Ricky Pearsall had multiple 3rd and 4th down conversions where they connected there. For me, it’s not so much of a question of can they, because I absolutely think they can. I think it’s even in the Utah game, when Utah was starting to bring the safeties in a little closer, and they were going to more of a base defense there, Billy Napier just didn’t air it out, and that was simply because he thought he could still run, and that’s a good thing.
You just have to remember that against teams like Kentucky, and as you go on throughout the year in the SEC, teams are going to make you pass the ball, so they respect it. So, let’s see it a little bit. Maybe a play action where they chunk it deep one time will push the defense back a little bit and allow this running game to keep going. I mean, we know the running game’s going to be there, just simply because I think that this is an offensive line that’s built for it. This is an offense that’s built for it. Montrell Johnson is a guy that’s done it under Billy Napier for a while.
Again, I understand people are going to want to throw the ball, and they’re going to say, they’re daring you to throw the ball. Okay. But it’s okay, because that’s the game plan. It’s in their back pocket if needed.
Nick: Right. This kind of off topic, but there was a clip that I saw earlier this morning of J.J. Weaver, the Kentucky Wildcat linebacker.
Andrew: He needs to shut his mouth, by the way.
Nick: Yeah. I thought it was funny, because he was saying, we’re just going to put a spy on Richardson, and it’ll all be good. Good luck with that. I don’t know if there’s a single player in the country that could bring down Richardson in open field. We saw the Utah safety try to tackle Richardson on a 45-yard scramble, and he didn’t even come close.
Andrew: That poor linebacker got toasterized on the two-point conversion, where it’s like he’s hanging on him, drooping on him, giving him a bear hug.
Nick: It’s going to take more than one spot. You don’t think Utah had spies out there? It’s going to take more than a spy to stop Richardson from running the football. I thought that was funny. It reminds of, who was that DB three years, or two years ago, that was talking a bunch of crap to Kyle Pitts, Kentucky?
Andrew: Oh yeah.
Nick: He got drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in like the second or third round.
Nick: I’m blanking on his name right now.
Andrew: Kelvin Joseph.
Nick: Kelvin Joseph. Yeah. This kind of game reminds me so much of that, because Kelvin Joseph talked all this crap to Kyle Pitts, and I think Kyle Pitts went for three touchdowns on his head.
Andrew: Two or three. Yeah.
Nick: Yeah. I thought it was funny, because it just reminds me of that. I know Anthony Richardson’s thinking about it.
Andrew: Weaver was in headlines last year anyway for the ankle, right?
Nick: No. That’s Cash Daniel, right?
Andrew: Oh yeah. Daniel. Okay.
Nick: Weaver’s a good player. I think he was All-Conference last year. I know he has some accolades. I’m blanking on the exact one. I know he has some accolades. He’s a veteran player in their defense. If Kentucky’s defense is playing great, he’s probably one of the reasons why.
Andrew: This game didn’t need any more motivation, for sure.
Andrew: I did think it was funny the players kind of reacting a little bit to Dan Mullen and his predictions a little bit. All those guys were saying, we seen it. They’re probably thinking, thank God you’re not our football coach.
Nick: Dan Mullen’s all over the place with these predictions. One moment he’s predicting Florida to finish fourth in the SEC East, and the other one he’s picking Richardson as a Heisman finalist. Which I’ve said this before on our message boards at Gator Country, I don’t understand that, Andrew, at all. I don’t understand how you can pick Richardson to be a Heisman finalist, and then also have the Gators going 6-6 or 7-5. That makes no sense. If Richardson’s a Heisman finalist, Gators are winning 9 games at least, probably 10. That’s not the only poor prediction Mullen’s had. He’s all over the place with his predictions. I don’t even know what he’s doing anymore.
Andrew: He doesn’t either.
Andrew: Just remember. He’s the smartest man in the room. He always will be. Always will be. We talked a lot about this in the lead up to Utah, and I think it’s especially true with Kentucky too. Kentucky usually plays a pretty sound fundamental game overall. Obviously, they’ve had some dumb penalties in the past, but overall they usually play sound football. You look at Billy Napier. He talked about it. He said, the penalties on kickoff, he said, can’t happen. He was not happy about the penalties on kickoff and that kind of stuff. I think that it’s another key for Florida is to win that penalty thing. Not have false starts, not line up offsides. Continue to play disciplined football, win the turnover battle, and hope that the Swamp, that’s sold out again for the second straight weekend, can produce some penalties and confusion for this Kentucky team.
Obviously, Kentucky’s prepared for it. They’ve played there before. Not in front of a sellout, but they’ve played in front of a hostile crowd everywhere else. Just play disciplined football in this game, because this game has come down to one possession game so many times in the past. A dumb penalty or a silly turnover could be the difference in the ballgame.
Nick: Absolutely. We talked about it last week on the podcast. The Gators had seven penalties for 38 yards. It’s not ideal, but it’s not terrible. We’ve seen a lot worse, trust me. Speaking of a lot worse, I believe last year, Andrew, we had 15 penalties against Kentucky.
Andrew: Yes. I believe seven of those were false starts.
Nick: Seven false starts. That is what cannot happen, and it won’t happen. But it cannot happen this week for the Gators. They need to play fundamentally sound football. You nailed it on the head with the special teams, because let me tell you something, Kentucky’s special teams unit is really good, and they were good last year, and they’re good again this year. They blocked a punt, and they returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Gators got to get it figured out on special teams. The penalties can’t happen, because that just kills your drive. Starting at the 10 yard line is not only bad for your offense, but it's bad for your defense, because if you got to punt, you’re now giving Kentucky excellent field position.
Andrew: Yeah. You go back, and you look at the Utah game. The fumble where they had 25 yards to go, and then the punt where I believe Utah started at the 38 or 40. You had two possessions right there where you gave Utah short field position. Can’t have that against Kentucky. I know we’re nitpicking, and I don’t want people to say you guys are being negative. I don’t want that to happen. I’m just saying that’s the taking the next step in being a disciplined football team.
Like you said, seven penalties, I’m okay with it. The one penalty I think that was a penalty that Billy Napier would love to have back was the 12 men on the field. He was not happy about that, but he also said that he would take that penalty and have the right guys over not having the right guys and then having an easy score. Florida ended up getting the stop there. That was the goal line stand possession.
That was the one that was kind of the unforced penalty there. The holding on kickoffs, they’re forced a little bit there. Holdings on offense. He even said one of them was on Anthony Richardson. He should have stepped out in the pocket instead of not. Billy Napier said this, and I completely agree. Holding on kickoffs can’t happen. You can’t have those. You’re the guy. You know where the return is being set up, so there’s no sense of holding or anything else. Get to your spot, set up the return, and be done with it.
Like you said, having the starting at the 10, starting at the 15, that kills drives. That kills momentum. That hurts the defense if you have to punt. It flips field position, and you can’t do that against good teams.
Nick: I will say this. The Gators defense did not play as badly as a lot of people are making it out to be. They really didn’t.
Nick: Especially in the first half, where we saw an incredible field position difference between the Gators and Utah. When you give a team the ball at the 25 yard line on their first drive of the game, they’re going to score. It’s the first drive of the game. It’s a scripted drive. They’ve practiced these specific plays all week long. They’re going to score. They’re going to score a touchdown.
Nick: Almost every single time. You cannot sit there and blame the defense for giving up that touchdown. We mentioned the penalties on the kickoff, the bad punts. Special teams makes a difference in the game, for both sides of the ball. Gators need to get that squared away. I just don’t believe that the Gators defense played as poorly as a lot of people are making out. They weren’t great. In the second half, they did get gassed. They were really tired. You could tell. They just didn’t play as poorly as a lot of people are saying.
Andrew: The first half was really good overall half of defense. In the second half, some of the keys that kind of stood up were the Dexter on the reverse, where you were shaking your head saying, stay in position. Keep the edge. That was a big one there. Des Watson jumping up a lot, concerning there. You saw some penalties that for me I think were forced a little bit by being tired. You never want tired to be the reason you’re in position. I think that was.
Again, the second half Florida just got worn down. It is what it is. I think the biggest thing to remember is this. Utah’s a very good football team. Utah’s going to win the Pac-12 or be close to winning the Pac-12. They got three players in Rising, the running back, and the tight end, that are all NFL football players. Like I said, the tight end, outside of Georgia, you’re going to face a better tight end in the country. That kid’s good. That kid’s really good. That running back is an SEC running back.
Nick: I tell you what, Utah’s second tight end, I know he didn’t light up the stat sheet, but Dalton Kincaid, he’s a really damn good player too.
Nick: He made a couple of blocks in that game that were jaw dropping. He’s a great player. I think he’s playing on Sundays too, because I know the NFL they’re always looking for a blocking tight end, and I think he fits that description perfectly. They’re both really good players, and I think they’re going to be playing on Sundays.
Let me ask you this, Andrew. Were you surprised by how much Desmond Watson played on Saturday?
Andrew: Yes. In a way.
Nick: He logged 28 snaps, which is I think the exact number Jalen Lee logged. I think they were one off from each other. I can’t remember if he logged one more than Jalen or if Jalen logged one more snap than Desmond, but they played basically identical amount of snaps.
Andrew: Right. I was shocked. I thought Des played up and down. I thought Des did a good job of clogging the middle at times, but I think Des’s biggest problem is he has to stay low. Des is a guy that when you’re playing teams like Utah, he can be a factor. He can be a big factor, but he has to stay low to understand his goal is not to just get to the backfield. His goal is to clog the middle and make plays there. So, I was surprised there. I really was. I thought Lee and Chris McClellan would play more in the game. I think it ultimately came down to Spence and those guys thinking maybe he can draw a double team and help out a little bit.
I need to see Des play with better technique. I need to see him play with better technique. Honestly, I want to see Gervon Dexter play to Gervon Dexter level. I know I’m going to take some heat for this, but Gervon Dexter gets a lot of praise. I’m ready to see Gervon Dexter play up to that praise.
Nick: I agree. I think at the end of the day, it was good to see Desmond out there playing a significant amount of snaps, because the Gators need him this year. They need him not only to produce, but they just need him as a number. The Gators are thin at defensive tackle. Having him out there playing as many snaps as Jalen Lee was surprising, but it was a good thing. The Gators need him to go out there, and they need him to play football, most importantly, but they do need him to produce as well.
Andrew: Right. Again, you want to see this unit continue to improve because of depth. I say this all the time, but these guys are not going to instantly have more gas in the tank. You only have so much gas in your tank, at the end of the day. Big Des Watson, I’m glad to see he’s out there being able to play 28 plays, because that was a career high, but it doesn’t matter how many games he plays this year. He’s not going to be able to play 50 snaps a game. It’s just not.
So, you need some of this depth to step up. You need McClellan to step up to be a liable participant. You need Jalen Lee to get to that level. You need guys to continue to step up, and I think they are, for sure. I think McClellan played pretty good in the goal line stand that was Jalen Lee and McClellan playing defensive tackle when they made the stop. That was big to see in that game. I just wish Des would play lower. I know it’s hard for him, being a bigger guy, but I just wish he would play lower. Just understand that, listen, don’t pop up. Just stay bent at the waist and make them push you.
Nick: I agree.
Andrew: Let’s go. Let’s go to some keys in the game. We’ll do two keys apiece. Give me your keys offensively for the Gators on Saturday, and then give me your keys defensively.
Nick: My key offensively is to make a big chunk play in the passing attack. It’s kind of been hinted at, rumored, that Kentucky’s going to stack the box and try to stop the Gators. Anthony Richardson needs to take advantage of that. I’m looking for Ricky Pearsall to get open, whether that be on a deep slant or a deep post. Get open over top of the field and make a big play. That’s my key offensively.
My key defensively, it’s going to be stopping Tayvion Robinson and freshman receiver Barion Brown. These are two guys for Kentucky that are a problem. They are fast. Let me make this point as well. Tayvion Robinson is returning punts, and Barion Brown is returning kickoffs. Those are two dangerous dudes back there. Barion Brown returned 100 yard kick in the opener for a touchdown, and Tayvion Robinson is just as fast. These are two guys that Kentucky’s going to try to get them the ball in open space. Will’s going to try to get them the ball quickly. Devin Moore, Jalen Kimber, Jason Marshall, Avery Helm, they’re going to have to be on their A game, and they cannot take their eyes off these two wide receivers.
Andrew: Yeah. For me, offensively is continue to push your will on the offensive line. They’re going to stack the box, but let people know. Let the world know that this is not Dan Mullen’s Florida Gators. This is Billy Napier’s Florida Gators. This is a physical football team that’s going to back down for nobody and not stray away from their gameplan. Want to see that as well. Just continue to be physical. Put a hat on a hat. Knock them back, and let them know that the Florida Gators are here to play physical football, and no matter what you try to do, they’re not going to get away from that gameplan.
Defensively, stop the run first. Force Kentucky to be one dimensional. Then when it becomes one dimensional, you take your chances. Force them to. Force them into that and allow your defensive linemen just to go get the quarterback. It’s a little bit easier to go get the quarterback than it is to stop the run on multiple plays. Those are my two keys. I just think that physical football is going to be the key to this game.
Nick: I agree. They’re going to have to. We’ve talked about it. We’ve talked about it all last week. We’re talking about it again this week. The Gators offensive line, they’re going to have to play well in order for the Gators to win football games this season.
Andrew: Yup. Let’s go pick some games around the country for this weekend. Let’s start our Friday prediction. Last weekend I was down for the count, so we didn’t get to do our Friday predictions. Let’s go around the country. Let me pull up some top 25 games around the country here.
I think the biggest one, and it’s not a top 25 game, but it’s a big one for the country, and that is Alabama goes out to Texas, out to Austin. Saban gets to face his old colleague, Steve Sarkisian. Bama’s a 20-point favorite in this game. I think we’ll both say Bama, so let’s pick against that spread here.
Nick: I’m taking the 20 points, and I’m taking Bama. I think Saban, he’s going to run this score up. I have Alabama by three touchdowns or more.
Andrew: I like it. I think so too though. I think it’s personal for Nick against Sark. It’s not like him versus Billy or Kirby, where he has respect for them. I think he’s lost a lot of respect for Sarkisian, the way Sarkisian’s made comments and did different things there. I think it’s personal for this team. We’ll see what Mr. Quinn Ewers, who has the multimillion dollar NIL, does when big Will Anderson decides he wants to come over there and knock you out in the face.
Andrew: That’ll be interesting, for sure, because I think that’s a game that Texas needs to win. Maybe not just win, but stay close into that game to get some respect back.
Nick: I just don’t see it. I don’t see it. Jahmyr Gibbs could be Alabama’s best player. He had nine carries for 90-something yards. They didn’t do anything offensively. They didn’t show Texas anything offensively Week 1. I don’t see it. I think Bama by three touchdowns is a safe bet.
Andrew: I agree. And they’re pissed off. I don’t know if you’ve seen the story or not. Texas would not let the Million Dollar band sit in the lower bowl. They were going to make them sit in the very upper deck of the stadium. The Million Dollar band is not traveling for the first time in forever. Another notch that Nick Saban will talk about.
Big game, top 25 game, but also big game that Florida will be watching. Tennessee travels up to Pittsburg. #24 versus #17 in the game. Pittsburg’s a favorite in this game. How do you like this game going?
Nick: I like Tennessee. I think Tennessee is going to get the win here.
Andrew: Did that hurt? Did that hurt to say?
Nick: It hurt. Oh, it killed me. It killed me. I think Tennessee’s a pretty decent team this year. I watched them Week 1, and I thought they played really well. I know it was against Ball State, but I thought they played really well. I think that they’re a harder game, in my opinion, for Florida than Kentucky is. I really do believe that. I have Tennessee getting the win on the road.
Andrew: I kind of agree with you there. Pitt struggled with West Virginia, and that was a West Virginia team that I think they’re okay. JT Daniels I think is okay. I have Tennessee winning, and, God, that hurts. I feel pain going all down my body right now for saying that. Hell no. Hell no, Nick. No. Pitt wins this game. I ain’t picking Tennessee. Come on.
Nick: Your money on the line. You’re picking Pitt?
Andrew: We’re not playing with money on the line.
Nick: If you were.
Andrew: If money was on the line, I don’t know what I would do, Nick.
Nick: You got to pretend like money’s on the line here, Andrew.
Andrew: I’m going Pitt. Pitt’s going to win this game.
Andrew: Speak it into existence. Pitt wins this game, my friend.
Nick: I respect it. I respect the pick.
Andrew: Pitt’s got to win, man. Come on. Come on, Pitt. Figure out a way, my friends. Cannot have that. Another top 25 game, Baylor travels to BYU in a game that’s 9 versus 21. I think both of these teams are a little under talked about.
Nick: I agree.
Andrew: BYU’s the three-point favorite.
Nick: BYU’s three-point favorite. I’ll take BYU at home. Yeah. I don’t know. I got BYU. That should be a really good game though, and it’s a game that’s on late at night, and so I think we’ll all be tuned into that one.
Andrew: Yeah. I’m going to go Baylor. I think Baylor’s offense is a little bit more than BYU can handle. Obviously, it is at BYU, so that is a little bit of a tougher environment to play in. I know those guys get rowdy out there. We’ll go there. Let’s see here.
Another SEC matchup I think that a lot of people are going to be watching. Not a top 25 matchup, but just a big one overall. South Carolina travels to Arkansas. Spencer Ratler get it done?
Nick: No. No. I’m taking KJ Jefferson and the Arkansas Razorbacks here. I have them as an eight-point favorite. I don’t know which side of the line I would spread. I don’t know where I’d bet there, but I’m going Arkansas. I think Arkansas is a tough team this year. I like KJ Jefferson. He’s a pretty good dual-threat quarterback. Give me the Razorbacks.
Andrew: Spencer Ratler kind of showed what he was all about last week, and that’s that he was very overrated heading into the season last year. I’m going with the fighting Sam Pittmans as well, especially at Arkansas. If you ever get the opportunity to go to an Arkansas game, it’s pretty cool. When they bring that pig out, it stinks, but it’s interesting.
Andrew: Going with Sam Pittman and the fighting Razorbacks there. Last one before we move on to the headline game. Wake Forest travels to an undefeated Vanderbilt Commodores. Maybe that person who picked Vanderbilt to win the SEC.
Nick: I’ve watched Vanderbilt. I’ve watched both their first two games. They’ve looked good. Their offense looks good. Mike Wright is a good football player. I do think he struggles a little bit in the pass game, but he can really run. But their defense has been a question mark. I don’t remember the exact amount, but they gave up a boatload of points last week. They still won, but they gave up a boatload of points. Is Sam Hartman playing for Wake Forest this week?
Andrew: I believe so. I believe he was cleared. Yesterday, I believe he was cleared to play. I think Wake’s too good.
Nick: Yeah. That was my determining question there. If Sam Hartman’s playing, it’s a done deal. I have Wake favored at 12.5. I’m taking Wake and the points. Vanderbilt’s defense is just a question mark. If Sam Hartman’s out there, he’s going to eat them alive.
Andrew: Elon scored 31 points against Vandy.
Nick: There it was. I knew that some team that shouldn’t have scored a lot of points did.
Andrew: Yeah. Demon Deacons live. Wake stops the Vanderbilt train. As fun as it has been, 2-0, it stops there. Here it is. It’s game time. Florida comes in as a six-point favorite against Kentucky. Last year it was 20-13. Kentucky put it on them. What you got this week?
Nick: I’ve got Florida. I think my final score prediction was 31-21. I think Florida does a decent job offensively again. I think they run the football pretty well. I do think they air it out a little bit more, but ultimately they’re going to keep to their gameplan to run the football. I think that Florida’s going to make Kentucky one dimensional. I think Kentucky’s going to drop back to pass maybe 40 times. I do think that some of these inexperienced Gator defensive backs, I do think they get beat from time to time, but I think at the end of the day they hold up. They play a much better sound defensively game in the run game. So, I have Florida by more than six points.
The Gators remember what happened last year. I thought they outplayed Kentucky all game long, yet still lost by seven points. Sloppy game all the way around for the Gators. I think they’re going to come much more prepared this year. Billy Napier has this team ready to go. I’m taking Gators and the points.
Andrew: Gators and the points.
Andrew: I got it 24-21 was my pick. I think Florida wins the game. I’m a little concerned to say that they cover, because I think it might be a lower scoring game. I think that it’s going to be a little bit of a defensive struggle for both teams at times. I think Florida’s definitely going to try to take the air out of the ball there, and I think Florida’s going to do a good job of making Kentucky throw the ball. I got 24-21 with Florida winning. Turnovers could change it around and make it bigger, but I think Florida’s 2-0 heading into next week against South Florida.
Andrew: We’ll see. Make sure to tune in. Some big visitors coming in this weekend. You have Keon Keeley coming in this weekend for Florida. Daejeon Johnson is coming back, and then FSU O line commit Roderick Curry is coming back in. Stay tuned. We’ll have some recruiting updates as well as a lot of coverage from the Swamp on Saturday night, as Florida gets ready to knock down the Wildcats.
Nick: Yes, sir. I know me and Gentry are excited to get out there. If you guys see either me or Gentry, we’re going to be out at the Gator Walk at about 4:40 on Saturday. Come say hi. Come chat with us. We’d love to talk to you guys.
Andrew: Make sure to turn the rain on for those guys.
Andrew: Guys, we appreciate it. Make sure to tune into Gator Country all day on Saturday, and on Sunday as we recap all this. Nick and I will be back on Monday, as we recap a Gators win over Kentucky. We’ll see how bad it gets on Saturday. Here’s the hope that it’s a 2-0 start to the season for the Gators.
Nick: Yes, sir.