Florida at Kentucky: Key info and storylines

by | Sep 29, 2023 | 0 comments

Florida will visit Kentucky in Lexington for the 34th time in the 74th all-time meeting between the two programs. Here are some key details about their history and upcoming matchup:

  • The Gators have a 53-20 record against the Wildcats, including a 22-11 mark on the road.
  • Florida has dominated the series in recent years, winning 33 of the last 36 meetings, including 16 of the last 17 games in Lexington.
  • However, in 2021, the Gators suffered a 20-13 loss to Kentucky in Lexington, ending a 35-year winning streak in that city since 1986. Prior to that loss, Florida had recorded 16 consecutive road wins against Kentucky.
  • From 1978 to 2017, the Gators had an impressive 31-game winning streak against the Wildcats.
  • Since 2018, Florida has a 2-3 record against Kentucky, with victories in 2019 in Lexington and in 2020 in Gainesville.

Head coach Billy Napier will be aiming for his 50th career victory, including his 10th win with the Gators, on Saturday.

Florida enters the Week 5 matchup with its highest ranking (No. 22) since being ranked No. 20 in the AP Poll on September 18, 2022.

The upcoming game between Florida and Kentucky will be the first ranked matchup for UK this season. Although UK has historically struggled against ranked UF teams with a 6-34 all-time record, they have managed to defeat ranked Gators teams in the past two seasons and three of the past five seasons (including 2018, 2021, and 2022). Additionally, UK has the opportunity to achieve a three-game win streak over UF, which would be only the third time in program history and the first since 1948-1951.

Kentucky football head coach Mark Stoops, who just eclipsed 70 wins in Blue and White last weekend, also will try to claim his 50th win inside Kroger Field this Saturday, while he hopes to pick up his fifth SEC home opener win at the helm of the program.

Key stats

The Quarterbacks

QB Graham Mertz has completed 70% or more of his passes in each of his first four starts as a Gator, making him the first UF quarterback to achieve this feat since Kyle Trask in 2020 (against Arkansas, at Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and at Tennessee).

Mertz has an impressive completion rate of 88.0% (85-for-109), which leads the SEC and ranks third nationally. He is just behind Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and Oregon’s Bo Nix in completion percentage (a recent stat correction moved him ahead of OU’s Dillon Gabriel).

During the offseason, Mertz was ranked as the No. 24 quarterback in the portal by On3. Among the top 10 quarterbacks in his class, Mertz is first in completion percentage and third in passer rating (162.1) in 2023, trailing only Sam Hartman and Shedeur Sanders.

In his four seasons at NC State (2019-22), quarterback Devin Leary started 26 out of 30 games played. He completed 568 of his 944 passes for 6,807 yards and 62 touchdowns, with only 16 interceptions.

Between 2021 and 2022, Leary helped NC State achieve a 17-4 record, earning him praise as the ACC Preseason Player of the Year in 2022. However, his promising start in the 2022 season was cut short when he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against Florida State.

After a surgery and nearly a year of not playing, Devin Leary has played in four games, completing 73 of his 123 passing attempts (59.3 percent) for 1,060 yards, nine touchdowns, and five interceptions.

In his first three games, Leary threw for at least 240 yards and at least one touchdown, becoming the first quarterback to do so in at least 25 years. In the season opener against Ball State on September 2, he completed 10 of his last 11 passes in the game. In the following game against Eastern Kentucky on September 9, he threw for 299 yards and four touchdowns, completing his last eight passes of the contest. In the game against Akron on September 16, he completed 16 of his 25 pass attempts for 315 yards and three touchdowns. This marked his ninth game with at least 300 passing yards and made him the 15th quarterback in school history to achieve this milestone. Leary also became the first UK quarterback since Mike Hartline in 2010 to have at least three touchdown passes in consecutive games.

In his Kentucky debut against Ball State on September 2, Leary surpassed the 7,000 career passing yards mark. He currently ranks 22nd among active players in the FBS with a total of 7,867 career passing yards.


Under the leadership of DC Austin Armstrong, Florida’s defense has been outstanding in their first year. They rank first in the SEC, fourth in the Power 5, and fifth in the FBS in total defense, allowing only 244.8 yards per game. In comparison, through four games last year, UF allowed 424.0 yards per game.

The Gators have limited their opponents to an average of 13.5 points per game, which is tied for 18th in the FBS. This marks a significant improvement of 15.4 points from last season (28.9).

Florida’s passing defense is also impressive, ranking 15th in the FBS, eighth in the Power 5, and first in the SEC, allowing only 162.8 passing yards per game.

On the other hand, Kentucky’s scoring offense is performing well, ranking 25th in the FBS with an average of 38.0 points per game, and they are gaining almost 400 yards per contest (396.5).

Kentucky’s football team has achieved a notable defensive record in recent seasons. They have allowed 28 points or fewer in their first four games for three consecutive seasons, a feat not seen since 1973-75. Additionally, for the second year in a row, UK has limited their first three opponents to 17 points or less, something that hasn’t been accomplished since 1949-50.

In terms of defensive touchdowns, Kentucky is tied with Coastal Carolina for the most in the nation this season, with three. In their season opener against Ball State, Jalen Geiger scored a 69-yard fumble return touchdown. In the game against Vanderbilt, Maxwell Hairston contributed two pick-sixes, one for 29 yards and another for 54 yards.

Kentucky’s rushing defense is currently ranked ninth in the nation and first in the Southeastern Conference. They have held their opponents to an average of just 77.5 yards per game in 2023. Impressively, this is the first time since at least 1985 that the Wildcats have limited each of their first four opponents to under 100 yards rushing.

Game Info

Time: 12:00 PM ET
Location: Kroger Field | Lexington, Kentucky
Channel: ESPN
Radio: ESPN Gainesville – WRUF | The Varsity Network | SiriusXM
On the call
Play-by-Play: Joe Tessitore
Analyst: Jesse Palmer
Reporter: Katie George

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