LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - A week ago, it would have been deemed
another salvo from Urban Meyer to an opposing SEC coach.
This week, it just sounds like the truth.
The Florida coach didn't exactly mince his words when asked how
much progress Kentucky has made under Rich Brooks since Meyer began coaching the Gators five seasons ago.
"With all due respect, they really weren't good," Meyer said.
"When we first got here, they were bad."
Meyer isn't being disrespectful. He called Brooks "a good
friend" who has elevated the talent at Kentucky into the "upper
third" of the Southeastern Conference.
Yet for all the progress Kentucky has made under Brooks -
winning three straight bowl games for the first time - there's been
one considerable boulder he and the Wildcats been unable to move:
The top-ranked Gators (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) enter
Saturday's game at Commonwealth Stadium riding a 22-game winning
streak against Kentucky (2-0).
Good Gators. Bad Gators. Mediocre Gators. Doesn't really matter
when Florida plays the Wildcats.
Florida wins. Kentucky loses. And so it goes.
Only a handful of players on either side were even born the last
time the Wildcats prevailed, a 10-3 victory in 1986. Back then
Brooks was still trying to build Oregon and Meyer was in his first
season as an assistant at Ohio State.
The coaches and players know the Wildcats are fighting more than
just the Gators and superstar quarterback Tim Tebow, they're taking
"None of the players on the team that I came in to coach had
had those kinds of significant victories," Brooks said. "In the last 3½ years, we have. As infrequent, unfortunately, as they have been, we have had them."
Perhaps none bigger than a stunning overtime upset of then-No. 1
LSU in 2007. The game-clinching tackle has become a part of
That team, however, was loaded with players who are now in the
NFL. The current edition, while unbeaten, isn't quite as proven.
Kentucky's biggest challenge, at least early in the game, will be
convincing itself it can win and that the Gators can be had.
"They're not the '64 Packers," said Kentucky defensive
coordinator Steve Brown.
Maybe, but the Gators seem to play like it whenever they face
Florida's average margin of victory is 23.2 points. Only three
of the last 15 meetings have been decided by less than 10 points.
The Gators, however, are treading lightly. Their aura of
invincibility took a considerable shot when the beat Tennessee by
"only" 10 points at the Swamp.
The Volunteers gave Florida a variety of different looks
defensively and managed to hold Tebow to under 200 yards of total
offense. The quarterback turned folk hero expects future opponents
like the Wildcats to try and duplicate Tennessee's success.
"I'm sure we'll see a lot of what (Tennessee) did," Tebow
said. "We just have to get ready for it. We have to go in there
with our 'A' game. We have to be ready."
Even if the Gators aren't healthy.
A flu epidemic has swept the campus and the football team hasn't
gone unscathed. Tight end Aaron Hernandez, wide receiver Justin
Williams and running back Jeff Demps are among those slowed by
illness and it's possible several of Florida's impact players could
be slowed or sit out against Kentucky.
For all the progress Tennessee seemed to make against Tebow and
company, Brooks figures all the Volunteers really did is make the
"It seems like we always get them when they're mad," Brooks
Florida's 63-5 mauling in the Swamp last year came shortly after
Tebow's famous pledge following a loss to Ole Miss to play harder,
a vow that spurred the Gators to their second national championship
in three years.
There were no such proclamations last week. At this point,
they're probably unnecessary. The Wildcats know what to expect.
Well, everything except a loss.
"You can't say a team is going to destroy somebody," said
offensive guard Christian Johnson. "If you do, then there is no
reason to practice. Florida is a great team, but we can't say we
don't stand a chance."
AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., contributed to
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)