LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Of all the things that Mark Stoops has accomplished with the University of Kentucky football program, convincing the world the Wildcats can beat Florida ranks near the top of the list.
With victories in 2018 and 2021, Stoops achieved something Bill Curry, Hal Mumme, Rich Brooks and others could not achieve.
Now, Stoops and Kentucky need to prove they can achieve something the program has not accomplished since 1977: beat Florida in back-to-back seasons. It will require winning on the road Saturday against a Florida team that surged to No. 12 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll. And a victory would give Stoops his 61st win at UK, one more than Bear Bryant.
A look at this week's challenge for the No. 20 Wildcats.
TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m., Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (88,548), Gainesville, Florida
WHERE TO WATCH/LISTEN: TV — ESPN (Joe Tessitore, play by play; Greg McElroy, analyst; Katie George, sidelines); RADIO — Kentucky Radio Network, 840 AM WHAS (Tom Leach, play by play; Jeff Piecoro; analyst; Dick Gabriel, sidelines).
THE LINE: Point spread — Florida favored by 5 1/2 at DraftKings; Over/under total points — 52 1/2.
THE LAST TIME: The Wildcats defeated the Gators, 20-13, in Lexington last season, even though UK was out-gained by 158 yards.
THE SERIES: Florida leads 53-19. The Gators have won 33 of their last 35 against UK, including 20 of the last 21 in Gainesville.
THE RECORDS: Kentucky opened with an impressive 37-13 home victory over Miami (Ohio), while Florida took down No. 7 Utah in Gainesville, 29-26.
Freshman WR @DaneKey6 caught four passes for 53 yards and his first career touchdown, on a one-yard catch, in his college debut.He is the first true freshman to start the opener at wide receiver since @KeenanBurton in 2003. pic.twitter.com/5EQMBtr7gj— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) September 6, 2022
PLAYER TO WATCH KENTUCKY: Halfback Kaviosey Smoke ran for 32 of UK's 50 rushing yards last week, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. The 50 rushing yards left UK ranked last in the Southeastern Conference in rushing offense, a number they must upgrade against top league opponents. With Chris Rodriquez still unavailable, the spotlight remains on Smoke and UK's rebuilt offensive line.
PLAYER TO WATCH FLORIDA: Quarterback Anthony Richardson surged into the early discussion for the Heisman Trophy with his performance in the upset victory over Utah. He was named SEC offensive player of the week after running for three touchdowns and passing for 168 yards. Richardson became the first Florida quarterback to run for three scores and pass for 150 yards since Tim Tebow in 2008.
SIDELINE STORYLINES: Expect a raucous atmosphere. Florida fans embraced new coach Billy Napier last week, stuffing The Swamp with a record crowd of 90,799. This is the first time both programs have been ranked for the game since 2007, when the Gators won, 45-37. One reason Florida lost the game last season despite out-gaining UK, 382-224, was that Florida committed 15 penalties for 115 yards. UK, not Florida, was the pick to finish second to Georgia in the SEC East during the league's media day gathering in July. Since 2015, Kentucky is 9-12 against ranked opponents. UK kicker Matt Ruffolo has drilled his last eight field goals.
THE QUOTE: Florida coach Billy Napier on Mark Stoops and Kentucky football:
"I've got a lot of respect for Coach Stoops and what he's been able to do there. Their improvement as a program. To win 10 games last year. His teams, I've always had a lot of respect for his teams because they're sound.
"I see a good set of fundamentals in all three phases and they do a good job evaluating players and they've got some height, length and speed. They've got some unique players that maybe weren't highly-regarded, but they're as good as anybody in the country.
"You've got to beat Kentucky. They're going to make you beat them. All the things that coaches respect, they do those things."
THE PICK: Kentucky 27, Florida 24.
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