Can Anthony Richardson's arm and legs break the tough Kentucky defense?
Kickoff is at 7 PM EST on 9/10 (ESPN)
Game of the Week: #20 Kentucky @ #12 Florida
On Saturday, September 10th, the College Football game slate throughout the day is getting a little closer to mid-season form. Although there are a lot of lower-tier out-of-conference games- I'm looking at you Oklahoma- there are still exciting games like the one taking place in Austin. Now, you may be asking, “Why is that not the game of the week?" Well, simply answered, that game is not going to be interesting whatsoever. Texas still sucks. Instead, I chose from two games that I felt were the most interesting. Those two games were between the game up in the mountains of Utah between BYU and Baylor, and the one I ultimately went with, the one down in The Swamp of Gainesville, Florida.
Florida walked into the 2022 season with low expectations, but the Billy Napier era began with a bang, upsetting the #7-ranked Utah. The unranked Gators started sophomore Anthony Richardson under center, who immediately took the college football world by storm. With his massive 6’4”, 232-lb frame and incredible athleticism with his legs, Richardson has become the number one college football prospect this season thus far. Richardson's Heisman odds went from a preseason 60/1 to 18/1 on FanDuel.
What were the stats? Well, he performed very well against a stout Utah defense, going 17 for 24 with 168 yards through the air, while also rushing for 106 yards and three touchdowns, leading to a Florida upset victory. But if that is not enough for you, he also dished out an absolute hit tackle after a Utah fumble recovery, likely saving a scoop and score in favor of the Utes. This performance landed him the SEC Offensive Player of the Week in week 1, in the same conference that defending-champion Georgia resides, who dropped 49 points on #11 Oregon in a game so embarrassing it knocked Oregon completely outside of the AP top 25.
Gator Run Game
A fascinating part of Billy Napier's offensive game plan is their run game, which is where Florida accumulated all of their four touchdowns on a Utah defense that came into the season with high expectations. The Gators offensive line looks very impressive, and facing a tough Kentucky front 7, they are going to have to be nearly flawless in order to establish the run. A major advantage for the Gators is the versatility of Richardson, who will likely take a little bit of pressure off the line by scrambling out of some tight scenarios.
On the other side of the field, Kentucky decides this game on one side of the ball. In order to win, the gritty Kentucky D is going to have to find a way to shut down Richardson and the Gators, as they did a year ago in a 20-13 win. However, this Florida team looks much different than the product they put on the field a year ago, while Kentucky looks very similar, which is by no means disrespect. Mark Stoops has completely turned this Wildcat football program around, putting together a 6-0 start in 2021 before running into the juggernaut that was and is Georgia. The 10-3 season that the Wildcats put together in 2021 and the 1-0 start in 2022 is mostly caused by stout defense. That defense is going to remain the key in this one.
The Wildcats have to shut down the new and improved Billy Napier offense, while also establishing a run game of their own. What stat will I be looking at in the post game box score? Time of Possession. I believe if Kentucky can control the ball, keep their offense on the field and let their defense do their job, they have a legitimate shot in this game.
Contrary to popular belief, Will Levis is a decent quarterback. The reason his stats do not pop off the page is because he is not surrounded by the same talent that most of the deadly SEC offenses have. I'm not saying he is one of the best, but he is a Power-5 starting quarterback who deserves his spot and plays to the level of many other good quarterbacks. I believe he has close to the same amount of talent as Georgia starting quarterback, Stetson Bennett. The key for him on Saturday will be to keep the chains moving. He does not need to make the big plays to beat this Florida team, so do not force anything like we saw from the Utah quarterback in their final drive against Florida, which ended in a game-losing INT in the end zone. Do the bare minimum and move the sticks, keep the ball, and let your defense do the rest.
A week ago, I believe Kentucky would be the betting favorite in this game, even if it is in The Swamp. However, the performance Florida put on in week 1 now has them as 4.5-point favorites according to Tipico Sportsbook.
Although I am not sure they cover, I do think Florida will pull this one out and establish themselves as a legitimate contender in the SEC East, at least until they match up with Georgia in week 8.
This is a season in which we could see Anthony Richardson end up in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
So congrats to the Florida Gators; you are the first ever pick in a Peanut Gallery Game of the Week. As this develops, we will keep our prediction record below. Come back next week for the week 3 game of the week.
(Spoiler: it's #7 Oklahoma @ Nebraska)
Going Florida as well, and not 'cause I'm a homer.
I'm going Florida due to the fact that it's an away game for Kentucky against an ascending, electric player in Anthony Richardson and a hyper-motivated Gator team looking to avenge last season's loss in Lexington. Presley doesn't think they'll cover. I think they absolutely will. Look for Richardson to have more success through the air than he did against the Utes, while maintaining a Cam Newton-like performance on the ground. Thinking something like 31-21 Florida, with the Gators pulling away in the 4th quarter.