December 28, 2007

Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs. Florida State

Music City Bowl: Who has the edge? | Bowl rematches | Bowl Central | Bowl schedule

MUSIC CITY BOWL
Florida State (7-5) vs. Kentucky (7-5)
WHEN: 4 p.m., Monday.
WHERE: LP Field, Nashville, Tenn.
WEATHER: Partly cloudy, about 52 degrees
TV: ESPN (Ron Franklin will do play-by-play, with Ed Cunningham as the analyst).
THE LINE: Kentucky by 10.
RECORDS VS. BOWL TEAMS: Kentucky 4-3, Florida State 4-4
RECORD VS. BCS TOP 25: Kentucky 1-3, Florida State 1-3
BCS RANK: Florida State N/A, Kentucky 38th
SCHEDULE STRENGTH: Florida State 52nd, Kentucky 9th
COACHES: Florida State Bobby Bowden (20-9-1 in bowls); Kentucky Rich Brooks (2-3 in bowls)
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: This would have been an interesting matchup had Florida State been at full strength. Now, it'll just be interesting to see who FSU has left to play in this game. In addition, Kentucky is trying to win a bowl game in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1951-52. UK beat Tommy Bowden and Clemson last season. This season, they're going after Tommy's dad.
KEY STATS: Florida State was No. 91 nationally in scoring offense at 22.9 points per game. FSU scored more than 30 points just once and was held to 21 or fewer six times. Kentucky was No. 14 nationally in scoring offense at 36.7 points per game. UK scored at least 40 points eight times and at least 50 three times. But UK was 0-3 when it was held under 24 points.
KEEP AN EYE ON: The suspensions mean more of Florida State's younger players get to play, which may not be a bad thing. There will be ample opportunity in this game for untested players to make a mark on a roster decimated by suspensions and injuries.

Kentucky quarterback Andre' Woodson's college swan song could end up being against a bunch of ugly ducklings.

Woodson and his fellow upperclassmen will leave Kentucky after leading the school to consecutive bowl appearances for the first time since the 1998-99 seasons. But Kentucky's send-off for Woodson, wide receiver Keenan Burton, tight end Jacob Tamme, linebacker Wesley Woodyard and others is overshadowed by a mess at Florida State.

Twenty-five scholarship players won't play for the Seminoles because of injury, violation of team rules or suspensions as a result of an academic cheating scandal.

The list of missing players includes two starting offensive linemen (left tackle Daron Rose and right guard Jacky Claude), two tight ends, backup quarterback Xavier Lee, starting defensive linemen Budd Thacker and Neefy Moffett, starting linebacker Dekoda Watson and starting cornerback Patrick Robinson - the team's interception leader.

Kentucky has an absentee problem of its own, with freshman tailback Derrick Locke (521 rushing yards, five touchdowns) out with a broken rib. Burton and starting cornerback Paul Warford are also doubtful because of injuries.

As for Woodson, he's not looking at the new faces on Florida State's defense. "That has nothing to do concerning us," he said. "We just have to do a good job of getting ourselves ready for this game. Obviously the play-calling and the schemes they run are not going to change."

Music City Bowl: David Fox breaks it down
Kentucky run offense vs. Florida State run defense
EDGE: Kentucky An injury to freshman TB Derrick Locke hurts, but the Wildcats still have leading rusher Rafael Little (861 yards, three touchdowns in nine games) and junior Tony Dixon available. The Seminoles are missing four defensive linemen on their two-deep depth chart, including starting NT Budd Thacker and starting DE Neefy Moffett. LBs Geno Hayes and Derek Nicholson, the team's leading tacklers, need to be active and productive.
Kentucky pass offense vs. Florida State pass defense
EDGE: Kentucky FSU's secondary wasn't hit quite as hard as the front seven, but the Seminoles will be without CB Patrick Robinson, who had a team-leading six interceptions. FSU's secondary at full strength still would have had trouble with Kentucky's passing game. Behind 3,351 yards and 36 touchdowns from Andre' Woodson, Kentucky led the SEC in passing for the second consecutive year. Even without WR Keenan Burton, Woodson has options in the passing game in Steve Johnson, Dicky Lyons and Jacob Tamme.
Florida State run offense vs. Kentucky run defense
EDGE: Florida State Seminoles TB Antone Smith was bothered by a sore shoulder at the end of the season just as he started to hit his stride. Sophomore WR Preston Parker filled in capably over the final three games, including 133 yards against Maryland. FSU will be without two starting linemen. Kentucky ranked 10th in the SEC in rushing defense, and every opponent except one (South Carolina) ran for at least 101 yards against the Wildcats.
Florida State pass offense vs. Kentucky pass defense
EDGE: Florida State Which Drew Weatherford will show up in Nashville the one that lost his job early in the season to Xavier Lee, or the one who had back-to-back 300-yard games against Duke and Boston College? All of FSU's playmakers Parker, Greg Carr and De'Cody Fagg are expected to be available. UK actually has been solid against the pass. Only two opponents threw for more than 256 yards, though the Wildcats did allow 23 TD passes. UK needs DE Jeremy Jarmon (nine sacks) to take advantage of FSU's revamped offensive line.
Kentucky special teams vs. Florida State special teams
EDGE: Florida State The highlight of Florida State's otherwise dismal day against Florida (a 45-12 loss) was a 60-yard field goal from Gary Cismesia. He converted 27 of 33 attempts this season, including 8-for-12 from beyond 40 yards. Punter Graham Gano averages 42.7 per kick and has had 19 downed inside the 20. Parker has been good on punt returns, but the kick-return unit has been weak. The coverage units are good. Kentucky likely will be without Burton, its top kickoff returner. UK's punt return unit hasn't been a strength, though punt coverage has been good. Kickoff coverage, on the other hand, has been abysmal. UK has given up two TDs and almost 25 yards per return. Kicker Lones Seiber is 16 of 23, though just 5-for-10 on attempts longer than 40. Punter Tim Masthay averages 39.8 yards per kick. Masthay also is the kickoff guy, and he has had 20 touchbacks.
Kentucky coaching staff vs. Florida State coaching staff
EDGE: Kentucky Florida State coaches have had a tall task. They had to evaluate and prepare a long list of backups and third-stringers in merely 12 practices. Even with a full complement of players this season, FSU's offense never quite hit on all cylinders. The goal of Kentucky's coaching staff will be to ensure that the Wildcats don't overlook an undermanned Florida State team.
Kentucky will win if
The Wildcats need to stick with what got them their first consecutive seven-win seasons in 30 years. The Wildcats must take advantage of their passing game to jump to an early lead. FSU can't win a shootout with UK.
Florida State will win if
Unless the backups are better than most think, FSU is going to lose. There is a severe lack of depth. Thus, the Seminoles need to take advantage of their playmakers in an attempt to get an early lead, then hope the defense can hold on. It sure wouldn't hurt if Kentucky overlooks the Seminoles.
X-factor
Parker has done a little of everything for the Seminoles this season. His speed is going to cause problems for UK.
The picks
Rivals.com expert picks:
Mike Huguenin, national college editor: Kentucky 27-23
Olin Buchanan, national college football writer: Kentucky 34-28
Steve Megargee, national college football writer: Kentucky 28-24
Bill King, Rivals Radio host: Florida State 24-16
(NOTE: These predictions were made before FSU announced its suspensions.)
Check out the rest of the Rivals.com Expert Picks.

David Fox is national college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.



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