Highlighting the Week 2 schedule is a crucial SEC East battle as No. 12 Florida welcomes No. 20 Kentucky to The Swamp on Saturday night. The Gators enter the game with plenty of momentum coming off their thrilling 29-26 victory vs. No. 13 Utah in their season opener, bringing some instant confidence to the future of the Billy Napier era in Gainesville. That win launched Florida from outside the Preseason AP Top 25 all the way to its position just outside the top 10, adding some history to Saturday night's matchup.
Prior to Saturday's game, Florida and Kentucky had both been ranked in the AP Top 25 just once when they met back in 2007. This will be the second, and it also serves as a rubber match for a series that has become much more intriguing in recent years. The Gators won 31 consecutive games against the Wildcats from 1987-2017, but the UK snapped the streak in 2018, in Gainesville, and also won last season in Lexington to claim two of the last four meetings.
While Georgia is the pace-setter in the division, Florida and Kentucky are each poised, along with Tennessee, to be the toughest challengers in the SEC East. Either the Gators or Wildcats will see their chances of playing spoiler in the division race take a big hit with a loss on Saturday night, while the winner moves forward with a key conference win under their belt.
Florida vs. Kentucky: Need to know
Anthony Richardson is an emerging star in the sport: The Gators sophomore quarterback ran for three touchdowns in just his second career start, including the game-winning score, against the Utes. He also had the highlight of a 2-point conversion to put Florida up 22-19 early in the fourth quarter. Richardson dealt with injury issues in 2021 and never got a hold of the starting job when healthy, but now he's not only QB1, but one of the most electrifying playmakers in the sport. Florida's offense, and its hopes for the best-case scenario start for Year 1 under Napier, ride on Richardson's ability to maintain this high level of play.
Kentucky is still dealing with key player absences: Coach Mark Stoops has been vague about the exact nature of why star running back Chris Rodriguez, along with multiple other players, has been missing time and absent from the depth chart. Stoops said this week the situation was "out of his hands" and that he's been "advised to stay mum on the issue." While those comments do not bring much clarity to the nature of the suspensions, they do provide some suggestion as to whether Rodriguez and his other absent teammates are going to be available for this key SEC game. Kentucky's offensive line and run game did not perform up to standard in the season-opening win against Miami (Ohio), so it's up to that group up front and running back Kavosiey Smoke to rise to the occasion in a tough road spot.
Will Levis gets a big stage for the NFL Draft crowd: Levis had garnered some attention for his pro potential this offseason and delivered a nice stat line in his 2022 debut with 303 passing yards and three touchdowns. Levis has all the tools that bring the scouts out whenever Kentucky's plays, but there was some concern coming into this year about how the passing game would look without WR Wan'Dale Robinson. Well, another transfer, Tayvion Robinson from Virginia Tech, stepped right into the role of top receiving target with six catches for 136 yards in Week 1 and has instantly provided an answer for those concerns. Levis will get a handful of games this season that will be on the tape for the 2023 NFL Draft, and playing a team like Florida in a hostile environment like The Swamp will be included. This is a big game for Kentucky in the context of this fall, but it's also a huge game for Levis when it comes to his projections for the next level.
How to watch Florida vs. Kentucky live
Date: Saturday, Sept. 10 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium -- Gainesville, Florida
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Florida vs. Kentucky prediction, picks
I feel confident that Florida is going to win the game, but I don't love the number on the spread. If the Gators win by a field goal, the Wildcats cover, and this absolutely could end up being a one-possession game in the fourth quarter. That's why I'm going with the total. A close and competitive game could have both teams playing a little tight and lead to lower scores coming down the stretch. Prediction: Under 52.5
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