GAINESVILLE, FLA. (AP) - Coach Urban Meyer raised eyebrows last weekend when he called Florida’s game against Kentucky a coin flip.
Really? A 50-50 shot? At home? Against Kentucky?
Maybe that’s how much confidence Meyer has in his lethargic offense, which has yet to score in the first quarter, has been predictable on first down and keeps putting the ball on the ground. Or maybe he’s trying to motivate players for a trap game, one sandwiched between a victory at rival Tennessee and a rematch against defending national champion and top-ranked Alabama.
Either way, Meyer got his team’s attention. The ninth-ranked Gators (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) are treating Saturday’s game against the Wildcats (3-0) like the Eastern Division title is on the line. Sure, Florida has won 23 in a row in the series, the second-longest active streak between two Football Bowl Subdivision teams in an uninterrupted series.
But don’t expect that to come up this week, at least not in Florida’s locker room.
“Honestly, no lie, I just found out Kentucky hasn’t beat us in 23 years,” guard Carl Johnson said. “I didn’t know it was that long. We don’t really think about that or say we don’t want to be the team that breaks the streak.
“We just want to win the SEC East, so if that means going through Kentucky to get it, then guess what, we’ve got to go through Kentucky.”
Meyer told his players that’s no easy task. Not this year.
The Wildcats won three games by a combined 79 points. They are averaging 44 points and 497 yards a game, haven’t turned the ball over and have three of the most dynamic offensive players in the league.
Quarterback Mike Hartline ranks third in passing yards. Running back Derrick Locke is the SEC’s leading rusher and scorer. And versatile receiver Randall Cobb is eighth in receptions and fourth in all-purpose yards.
Together, they might have a chance to end the streak.
“It’s something everyone wants to do here,” said Kentucky linebacker Ricky Lumpkin, whose team also has long losing streaks against Tennessee (25) and South Carolina (15). “If you end a streak here, you’ll go down forever in history. You’ll come back as the 2009-2010 Wildcats that ended the streak against Florida. You come back for bowl wins, you come back for everything else.”
Kentucky’s last win against the Gators came on Nov. 15, 1986, a 10-3 victory in Lexington.
There have been several close calls since.
Quarterback Pookie Jones nearly rallied Kentucky from a 22-point deficit in 1991, but the Gators used a long drive late to seal a 35-26 victory and clinch the first SEC title in school history.