Cats face tough test with fresh Gators

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - This will be one tough encore for
Kentucky.
A week after knocking off then-No. 1 LSU in triple overtime,
Kentucky faces a team coming off a grueling loss to the same
Tigers.
No sweat, right? History suggests otherwise.
Next up for the No. 8 Wildcats (6-1, 2-1 Southeastern
Conference) is No. 14 Florida (4-2, 2-2), the defending national
champions who have rattled off 20 straight victories against
Kentucky.
Coach Rich Brooks knows his team has the talent to break the
streak, and the credentials. But the Gators have something more -
Tim Tebow, a star quarterback who can beat a team with not only his
arm but, more problematic for the Wildcats, his legs.
"It's hard to equate toughness," Brooks said. "We did defeat
the No. 1 team, but Florida presents a different set of problems."
Braxton Kelley's game-saving tackle in triple-overtime
accomplished something for Kentucky the Gators were unable to do
five times the week before against LSU - stop a fourth-down
conversion. Kelley is well aware of the difficulty Tebow poses.
"He's a big, strong runner and can throw the ball," Kelley
said. "I've heard he's one of the strongest guys on the team."
Two of the top quarterbacks in the country will be on display at
Commonwealth Stadium, but they're two who go about their business
completely differently.
Unlike Tebow, Kentucky's Andre Woodson is a pure pocket passer
skilled at deciphering defenses at the line. Until he was picked
off earlier this month, he had set an NCAA record with 325 straight
passes without an interception.
Woodson has racked up 1,786 passing yards while Tebow has 1,455
yards throwing and another 500 running.
Last year, South Carolina's Syvelle Newton - a quarterback
similar to Tebow's style, but not his talent - ran all over the
Wildcats, as did other versatile offenses.
Kentucky's defensive players - creeping toward respectability a
year after ranking second-to-last nationally - are aware Tebow
could reverse their momentum.
"We have to do our best to try to pin him in," defensive end
Jeremy Jarmon said. "When he gets to the next level and he's one
on one with a linebacker or safety, he's the kind of guy who can
embarrass you."
Florida coach Urban Meyer has watched the maturation of Woodson
from a sophomore two years ago who often appeared lost. Now Woodson
is right alongside Tebow and others amid Heisman Trophy
consideration.
"He is a veteran player, and you can spot a veteran a mile
away," Meyer said. "Inexperienced quarterbacks have a tendency to
wait until guys are open to let it go. I think they do a very good
job of checking the ball at the line of scrimmage."
This game could go a long way toward deciding the wide-open SEC
East. The Gators have lost two in a row - first to Auburn, then LSU
- and with the off week, haven't actually won a game since
squeaking by Ole Miss nearly a month ago.
"They've got talent all across the field," Tebow said.
"They've got speed. They play with a lot of heart. They believe in
themselves and that they will win in every game they play."
Kentucky, which features the top scoring offense in the SEC and
No. 7 in the nation, will be trying to extend a school-record eight
consecutive wins at Commonwealth Stadium. Still, few road teams
have been as successful there as the Gators, who have won 15 of 25
meetings in Lexington.
As for the streak of 20 straight, the Florida players take
little credit for that.
"This is the University of Florida," linebacker Dustin Doe
said. "That's what we expect to do. We expect to dominate every
team we play. We don't care what happened in the past."
Although these two teams are used to squaring off as basketball
rivals, a football game of this magnitude is unfamiliar territory.
For the first time, ESPN's "College GameDay" is setting up shop
in Lexington for the weekend.
"It is kind of strange," Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes
said.
---
AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., contributed to
this report.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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