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Cats' meow or Gator bait?

For encore, Kentucky faces Florida

Florida QB Tim Tebow will lead the No. 14 Gators as they visit No. 8 Kentucky today. Both are coming off games against No. 1 LSU.
Florida QB Tim Tebow will lead the No. 14 Gators as they visit No. 8 Kentucky today. Both are coming off games against No. 1 LSU.
Bill Haber, Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. — 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.


Don't be surprised to see ALABAMA drop No. 20 TENNESSEE out of the Top 25 after the two square off today in Tuscaloosa. The Vols are averaging only 14 points per game while the Crimson Tide have displayed an ability to score points by the bundle.


Following the Wolverines' horrific start, MICHIGAN has quietly gone about winning five straight, including last week's drubbing of Purdue.


From national championship contender to SEC also-ran, FLORIDA has dropped two straight. With today's showdown at No. 8 Kentucky looming, things don't get any easier.


1. ANDRE WOODSON, QB, Kentucky — Threw three touchdown passes and ran for another in leading the 'Cats past then-No. 1 LSU. Up next: vs. Florida (today)

2. MATT RYAN, QB, Boston College — Tossed two TDs last week vs. Notre Dame while improving the Eagles to 7-0. Up next: at Va. Tech (Oct. 25)

3. TIM TEBOW, QB, Florida — 22 total TDs (9 rushing). Bye last week. Up next: at Kentucky (today)

4. MIKE HART, RB, Michigan — Rushed for 102 yards and two TDs against Purdue, but sprained his ankle. Up next: at Illinois (today)

5. DARREN MCFADDEN, RB, Arkansas — Never got on track in loss to Auburn. Finished with 43 yards on 17 carries. Up next: at Ole Miss (today)