There a few different types of tests for college football teams.
There are the games against overmatched teams, which generally function as routine physicals for the sport’s best squads. There’s the first big game, or the first rivalry game, which helps to assess how high a team’s ceiling might be and how capable it is of reaching it. There are the “trap” games for which teams might not be at peak intensity or focus, which often serve to show where a team’s floor is.
And then there’s the first big road game, which helps to assess how what is done on a team’s own practice field and in its home stadium is going to be affected by a genuinely hostile environment that takes away the creature comfort of familiarity.
Florida has already technically played a road game, but it was the sort that KenPom would term “semi-home” for a college basketball contest: The Gators might well have had the majority of the fans in the stands at Raymond James Stadium when they took on USF, and they ground the Bulls into a fine paste quickly enough to demoralize the faction of USF fans that were in attendance.
At Kentucky on this Saturday evening, Florida is unlikely to do the same.
That’s not to say that Florida isn’t better than Kentucky, or won’t prove to be — just that Florida is facing a team that can compete with it in some regards, and in the sort of environment the Gators haven’t seen since last year. This is Emory Jones’s first start outside the state of Florida as a college quarterback; it’s Florida returning to a locale where Kentucky has gotten closer and closer of late to getting its first home win over the Gators in literal decades.
This is not going to be easy. Or it shouldn’t be.
And if it is?
Well, Florida will have proven in many eyes that it is the great team many believe it could be, possibly shut the window for Kentucky to challenge it on level pegging in a series that has only been close to even very recently, and begun the October stretch that will assuredly be the trickiest of its 2021 regular season with a triumph to be proud of.
I think that might well be what we see tonight.
Here are 10 predictions for Florida’s meeting with Tennessee.
- Emory Jones will account for at least 25 passes plus rushes.
- Anthony Richardson will account for at least 10 passes plus rushes.
- Florida will gain at least 200 rushing yards.
- Florida will score more than 30 points.
- Malik Davis will score at least one touchdown.
- Florida’s defense will force multiple turnovers.
- Florida will allow at least a touchdown in the first half.
- Florida’s defense will record five or more negative plays sacks.
- Florida will lead at halftime and increase its lead in the second half.
- Florida will defeat Kentucky, 41-24.