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Sep 13, 2019

Florida at Kentucky

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Florida Gators at Kentucky Wildcats

Venue/Location: Kroger Field Lexington, KY
Time/TV: Saturday, Sept. 14, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Line: Florida -8.5, Total 48.5

Florida will be looking to avenge its first loss to Kentucky in 31 years when it comes to Kroger Field in Lexington on Saturday night. The Wildcats put decades of misery against the Gators in the rearview mirror by capturing a 27-16 win at UF as 13.5-point road underdogs at The Swamp last season.

As of Friday afternoon, most betting shops had Florida (2-0 straight up, 1-1 against the spread) installed as an eight or 8.5-point road favorite with a total of 48. Kentucky was +260 on the money line (risk $100 to win $160).

The total opened at 50.5 points but has been steadily falling throughout the week.

Kentucky (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS) came into the season with 10 straight ATS defeats from the home ‘chalk’ role, but it has taken the cash in each of its first two games. Mark Stoops’s squad beat Toledo 38-24 as a 10-point home favorite before posting a frontdoor cover in a 38-17 victory over Eastern Michigan as a 16.5-point home favorite last Saturday night.

The win over the Eagles was bittersweet, however, as Kentucky QB Terry Wilson suffered a season-ending patellar tendon tear in his left knee. Since arriving in Lexington via the juco route after starting his career at Oregon, Wilson has led the ‘Cats to a 12-3 record in 15 career starts.

Fortunately for UK, it landed Troy grad transfer QB Sawyer Smith in the spring. (Remember, former back-up Gunner Hoak transferred to Ohio State) Smith connected on 114-of-229 attempts (62.9%) for 1,669 yards with a 14/6 touchdown-to-interception ratio for the Trojans in 2018.

After Wilson went down in the third quarter vs. EMU, Smith completed 5-of-9 throws for 76 yards and two TDs without an interception. With Kentucky ahead 31-17 late in the fourth quarter, it would normally be a time to milk clock with victory secured. Stoops wanted Smith to get some work in before facing Florida, though, so the ‘Cats were airing it out as if they needed points badly.

As it turns out, they certainly did need points for our purposes. With 54 seconds remaining, UK went ahead of the number on a two-yard TD pass from Smith to Lynn Bowden.

EMU quickly marched down the field and was in position for a potential backdoor cover. Chris Creighton’s team had two timeouts remaining, but he didn’t use any of them to conserve clock. Nevertheless, the Eagles were at UK’s 10-yard line with 10 ticks left. They were unable to punch it in before time ran out.

Florida opened the season on Aug. 24 in Orlando vs. Miami. The Gators failed to cover the spread in a 24-20 win as seven-point favorites, while the 44 combined points dipped ‘under’ the 46.5-point total.

UF fourth-year junior QB Feleipe Franks threw for 254 yards and two TDs, but he was intercepted twice. In fact, he threw one of the worst picks you’ll ever see with the Gators leading by four in their own territory with less than five minutes remaining. Nevertheless, Florida’s defense bailed out its QB and escaped unscathed.

Dan Mullen’s team won its home opener over UT-Martin by a 45-0 count as a 44.5-point favorite last Saturday night. Franks bounced back with one of the best performances of his career, completing 25-of-27 passes for 270 yards and two TDs without an interception. The Wakulla (Fla.) High School product also had 37 rushing yards on six attempts, while Lamical Perine had 51 rushing yards and one TD on 10 carries.

Van Jefferson had four receptions for 94 yards and one TD, while Trevon Grimes had five catches for 56 yards. Tyrie Cleveland had three grabs for 52 yards and one TD, and redshirt freshman WR Jacob Copeland had three receptions for 23 yards and his first career TD.

Florida suffered two key injuries against the Skyhawks, though. Junior cornerback CJ Henderson, a two-time second-team All-SEC selection and preseason All-American who is a projected first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, sprained his ankle. Mullen has dubbed Henderson ‘doubtful’ all week and bettor shouldn’t expect to see him in uniform.

Also, WR and special-teams dynamo Kadarius Toney went down with a wrist injury that’s expected to keep him out for at least three weeks, possibly longer. Toney is probably UF’s most explosive player, but the Gators are deep at the WR position. Toney turned a receiver screen from Franks into a 66-yard TD pass against the Hurricanes in Week 1.

Florida has won 15 games in a row in Lexington. The Gators, who haven’t tasted defeat at UK since 1986, are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 games against the ‘Cats and 5-1 ATS in their last six at Kroger Field.

Kentucky is abysmal 4-12-2 in 18 games as a home underdog during Stoops’s seven-year tenure.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- Going into Friday’s showdown vs. Washington State as a 9.5-point underdog at NRG Stadium, Houston is 15-4-1 ATS in its last 20 underdog spots.

-- Kansas State, a seven-point road underdog Saturday at Mississippi State, is an incredible 23-8 ATS as a road underdog since 2010.

-- On Tuesday, Stanford head coach David Shaw announced that QB K.J. Costello (concussion) is ‘probable’ for Saturday’s game at UCF. Without Costello after he was injured late in the first half, Stanford went scoreless offensively in the final 30 minutes of a 17-7 home win over Northwestern in its opener, getting a defensive TD in the final minute for a miracle cover. Then at USC last week, the Cardinal lost by a 45-20 count to the Trojans without its star signal caller. Costello had a 29/11 TD-INT ratio in 2018 and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection. That was the good news for Stanford on Tuesday, but the bad news was that OT Walker Little, a projected first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, will have season-ending surgery after dislocating his knee vs. Northwestern. UCF’s strength of schedule took a hit when USC blasted Stanford and Pittsburgh lost 30-14 to Virginia in Week 1 (the Knights play at Pitt in Week 4). UCF would love to see Temple beat Maryland this weekend and the Panthers pull a stunner at Penn State (ain’t happenin’). The Knights, who were 7.5-point home ‘chalk’ to the Cardinal as of Tuesday, were up to nine-point favorites Friday afternoon. They’re 7-2 ATS as home favorites on Josh Heupel’s watch, 36-21-1 ATS in such spots since 2009. This is a 3:30 p.m. Eastern kick on ESPN.

-- You think Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley can coach up some quarterbacks? My goodness! Through two games at OU, former Alabama QB Jalen Hurts has completed 34-of-41 throws (82.9%) for 591 yards with a 6/0 TD-INT ratio. Hurts has 223 rushing yards, three TDs and a 9.3 YPC average.

-- Purdue QB Elijah Sindelar (9/3 TD-INT this year) is ‘questionable’ (concussion) for Saturday’s home game vs. TCU. Gamblers probably aren’t going to know his status until less than an hour before kick, with many reports indicating he’ll be a game-time decision. Sindelar leads the nation in passing yards, total offense and TD passes. The Boilermakers’ senior LB Markus Bailey is ‘out’ after suffering a season-ending injury at Tuesday’s practice. Bailey was a second-team All-Big-10 selection in 2018 when he recorded 115 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss, two passes broken up, two QB hurries, one forced fumble and one pick-six. He was a preseason third-team All-American in Phil Steele’s magazine. Also, Purdue senior OT Matt McCann, who has 38 career starts to his credit, is listed as ‘questionable’ with an undisclosed injury. The Horned Frogs, who have had two weeks to prepare for the Boilermakers, were two-point road favorites on Friday. Purdue is an atrocious 7-19 ATS as a home underdog since 2012, but it’s 3-1 ATS with two outright wins as a home puppy under Jeff Brohm. The Boilermakers covered in a 40-37 home loss to Missouri last year, and then they beat Boston College (30-13) and Ohio State (49-20) in the same role. They bounced back from a 34-31 loss at Nevada to thump Vanderbilt 42-24 as seven-point home favorites last week. Kickoff in West Lafayette is set for 7:30 p.m. Eastern on the Big Ten Network.

-- Indiana starting redshirt freshman QB Michael Penix is ‘questionable’ vs. Ohio State and will be a game-time decision. Penix, who has led the Hoosiers to a 2-0 start by throwing for 523 yards with a 3/2 TD-INT ratio, has an undisclosed injury. Junior Peyton Ramsey will get the starting nod if Penix can’t go. Ramsey has 16 career starts and a 31/18 TD-INT ratio.

-- Arkansas second-year head coach Chad Morris is 3-11 SU and 6-8 ATS since taking over in Fayetteville. The wins came at home over Eastern Illinois, Tulsa and Portland State. The Razorbacks are 0-9 against SEC opponents, 1-11 against FBS competition and 1-2 versus Group of Five foes. Morris is 0-4 ATS as a road underdog after dropping a 31-17 decision at Ole Miss, with the Rebels taking the cash as 5.5-point home ‘chalk.’ Morris is 2-2 versus the number as a home favorite. The Hogs, who were 10-point home favorites as of Friday, will be in revenge mode Saturday when they host Colorado State. The Rams rallied from a double-digit second-half deficit to clip Arkansas 34-27 as 13.5-point home underdogs in Ft. Collins last season.

-- Florida State is a 7.5-point road underdog Saturday night at Virginia. I endorsed a wager on UVA’s season win total to ‘over’ 7.5 and predicted it to go the ACC Championship game for the first time in school history. The Cavaliers are off to a 2-0 start both SU and ATS, including a 30-14 win at Pitt in ACC play. They’re 6-5 ATS as home favorites on Bronco Mendenhall’s watch, while the Seminoles are 1-2 ATS in three games as road underdogs in Willie Taggart’s two-year tenure that’s been an unmitigated disaster so far. FSU needed ULM, a middle-of-the-pack Sun Belt team, to miss an extra point to win 45-44 in overtime last Saturday night in Tallahassee. The ‘Noles lost 36-31 at home vs. Boise State in their season opener. Since Taggart took over, FSU has limped to a 6-8 SU record and a 4-10 ATS mark. Only three of the six victories have come over against Power Five opponents. One of the wins was a last-second comeback at Louisville (28-24) and another was a 22-21 home victory over Boston College in 2018. If the ‘Noles want to fire Taggart at the end of the 2019 campaign, they will owe him an $18 million buyout check. Things are getting ugly in Tallahassee fast, but the school is reportedly dealing with major financial problems.

-- Speaking of ugly, Chip Kelly has lost 11 of 14 games as head coach at UCLA. Also, Tennessee is winless after dropping back-to-back home games to Georgia State (!!!) and BYU (in overtime). There will be tens of thousands of empty seats at Neyland Stadium for Saturday’s home game vs. Chattanooga.

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.

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