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Counter-Intelligence: Orange and Blue Hue

In an effort to gain some much needed counter-intelligence on the upcoming matchup with the Florida Gators, we exchanged questions with our favorite Florida bloggers about their team, their coach, and all things Gator related. Today’s session is with Ryan Ferguson, one of the site operators for Orange and Blue Hue. Enjoy! (UPDATE: Our answers can be found: here )

OTP: Kentucky has beaten Florida once since I’ve been alive. A thrilling 10-3 win in 1986 over Galen Hall’s Gators. Does the streak continue this year? And assuming the answer is yes, do you expect a Spurrier-esque 50-point pounding or a Merciful Urban sort of 20 point win?

Ryan, O&BH: I s’pose an impartial observer would be rather insane to pick Kentucky to end the streak this year. The Wildcats’ top two offensive players (Lyons, Locke) are both out for the season, the game is at the Swamp, and Florida pounded LSU 51-31 there just two Saturdays ago. As for what to expect — who knows? The thinking in Gator Nation is that Florida needs to pull a faux-Texas here and show the world they’re an offensive powerhouse two games in a row, just like Texas did when they cremated Missouri last weekend. These Gators found a way to lose to Ole Miss, yet destroyed the #3 team in the nation. Who are they? A second strong showing would provide the affirmation that Florida has turned the corner for good and will play like title contenders the rest of the season. But when you look carefully at Kentucky’s ledger this year, you see a Coach-of-the-Year in the making for Rich Brooks. The Cats are 5-2 in the hypercompetitive SEC East. The two losses — one to #2 Alabama, one to South Carolina — were by a FG and TD respectively.

There is no absolutely no doubt about the fact that Rich Brooks has done a magnificent job — at the program level — in Lexington. I emphasize ‘program level’ because despite losing Andre Woodson and replacing him with an average-at-best QB, the ‘Cats are once again competitive in the nation’s toughest conference. These are not the Cats we Gators once kicked around and treated like Homecoming queens. Your squad is tough, disciplined, and believes in themselves. They expect to win. They are dangerous, and I’m very glad we get them at home. So I can’t answer your question, other than to say that if we ring up a pinball score against the ‘Cats like we did against LSU, that would be special, because Kentucky is a very good football team, and it’s difficult to score like that against good teams.

OTP: The Kentucky offense has struggled mightily save for a flash of a great six minutes or so against a hapless Arkansas team. Which unit cracks first and has a break out game? The Kentucky offense or the Florida secondary? Why?

Ryan, O&BH: Florida’s secondary has been rapidly improving. We have a potential All-SEC in frosh CB Janoris Jenkins, and his counterpart Joe Haden is an outstanding CB in his own right. The safeties still aren’t fully worked out but with the youth there (Major Wright, Will Hill) and general progress we’ve been seeing, this is turning into a great unit. They played very well against LSU so the hope would be they can jump on Hartline early and nullify any hope of a passing game. I wish we could face a full-strength Kentucky squad; Dicky Lyons and Derrick Locke are great players and would have been fun to watch. It’s a bad break for Kentucky to lose those two guys.

OTP: Florida is coming off a 30-point spanking of LSU and a bye week. For the Kentucky faithful is there a weakness in the armor of Florida?

Ryan, O&BH: Yes, there are weaknesses. First of all, blitz the hell out of Tim Tebow (but please don’t hurt him.) Florida seems to have adjusted to the blitz with some new o-line formations (wide 4-foot splits) and faster checkdowns, but if you look back at all 5 of Tebow’s losses as a starter, the defense blitzed him heavily in each and every one. Early this season Miami was able to contain the Gators for three quarters by playing smashmouth defense and sold out to blitz — it almost worked. Second, despite the hope that our secondary is all that and a bag of chips, Ole Miss torched them with an 84-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-9, and they gave up several big plays. Not sure if Hartline has it in him, but if I were Rich Brooks, I’d feel like rolling the dice and trying to stretch the field a fair amount because the intermediate passing game will be very tough to establish with LB Brandon Spikes patrolling the middle of the field. Trick plays, misdirection, screens… all of the things you’d generally roll out against a somewhat-inexperienced defense.

OTP: So your QB is out cutting off dickskins in the offseason and mentoring rapists and murderers about the awesomeness of Jesus. Do you guys find the collective love affair with Tebow and the national media as infuriating as the rest of us?

Ryan, O&BH: I can see how it would become annoying, yes. But despite all the fawning and overblown media hype, Tim really is an outstanding kid, even if it becomes a tiresome topic. He’s good for college football. I followed Tebow back when he was being recruited as a high school player and still find it amazing how far he’s come. We Gators are very protective of him.

OTP: Speaking of murderers and rapists, would you consider Miami or Florida State your biggest rival? Does the Kentucky game even get the fanbase remotely enthused?

Ryan, O&BH: Georgia is our biggest rival, always has been, always will be, and Florida State comes in a very, very close second. Most Gator fans dislike Miami greatly but since we don’t play them regularly, it’s not as big a deal anymore. For me personally, the “visceral hate” is reserved mostly for the ‘Noles because I think FSU runs a dirty program, their fans are obnoxious and violent, and their coaches are an embarassment to the sport. But beating Georgia is more important. As for Kentucky… well, we get worked up when we play y’all on the hardwood. 🙂 I have suffered through all-too-many Gator losses to the hoops Cats and our recent 7-win streak was a joy. The ‘Cats are resurgent this year under Gillispie — it’s going to be a battle again.

OTP: Give our readers something we wouldn’t know about this Florida football team that makes them a lock to win the game. Conversely, give us something we may not know about Florida that makes you think Kentucky has a shot.

Ryan, O&BH: There’s nothing in the book which makes Florida a lock. This team has not been able to get up for some games (Arkansas, Ole Miss) but have been able to blow the doors off of much more talented teams. Gator Nation hopes and prays that losing to Ole Miss was a blessing in disguise, that it woke this offense up for good and that the Gators will play lights-out from here on. As for Kentucky, I think they definitely have a shot to win this game. It will take a few lucky bounces, some turnovers, some ‘trickeration’ and some big plays, the same formula Ole Miss used. The bottom line is this: Kentucky is solid. They obviously don’t have the talent the Gators do right now but I love their grit, determination, and fundamental soundness. Hartline has gotten the ‘Cats this far; I can’t help but wonder what a Jevon Snead or Jarrett Lee could have done in the bluegrass. Kentucky’s been lurking on the fringes of being able to compete for a division title and are just a few notches down the recruiting ladder away from doing so.