The Florida Gators will have a sleepy noon kickoff this Saturday versus Vanderbilt. Given their emotional loss to archrival Georgia last week, this might be the recipe for a closer game against the Commodores.
But those same ‘Dores are toiling on the bottom of the SEC East, and won’t have either of their first two quarterbacks. Deuce Wallace, who will likely see the most time under center, hasn’t started a college game.
Still, Florida has a history of slipping after their second loss of the season, when national title hopes are no longer in the picture. They’ve lost their third game directly after their second game seven times this decade. In 2012, they never got the chance to, because their second loss was the last game of the season.
The Gators still come in as 26 ½-point favorites on MyBookie, a massive number no matter who the SEC opponent is. But with Vanderbilt on a 1-8 run against the spread, it makes sense why this is a bloated number. However, they surprised Mizzou a few weeks ago, and they still have a premier talent at RB with Ke’Shawn Vaughn.
Here’s a breakdown of each team from both sides of the ball.
Florida Offense vs Vanderbilt Defense
Though the revelation of Kyle Trask at quarterback for Florida is an important one, the ground game is abysmal right now.
Starting RB Lamical Perine has only garnered one 70-yard-plus performance this season, and he had to have an 88-yard dash in the 4th quarter to do it. He’s a talented back with room to work with, but his line fails him time and time again.
According to Football Outsiders, Florida’s o-line ranks 95th in line yards and 121st in power success (short-yardage situations). The latter turned its ugly head on an early 4th down inside Georgia territory last week, a Perine run that ended up stuffed.
The line is also 126th in opportunity rate, which FO gives a formula to, but also simply describes as an offensive line “doing its job.” This puts the Gators in the bottom five of the FBS in the statistic.
The line has, however, held up for the most part against the pass-rush. Trask is not a mobile quarterback and needs time in the pocket. But 257 yards with a pair of TD tosses and no picks is a solid outing against a tough Georgia defense. His total quarterback rating on ESPN is 81.1, good enough for 11th in the FBS.
The Commodores must bring pressure to stay in the ballpark with Florida. The Gators possess too much depth at wide receiver to let those guys run around for too long. But Vandy only has one player—Andre Mintze—with three sacks. They’re tied for 111th in this category.
The ‘Dores also haven’t created any havoc elsewhere on defense. Only grabbing three INTs and fumble recoveries each means Vandy is only ahead of NC State in turnovers gained. It’s a terrible formula creating what comes out as the 104th-ranked scoring defense in the country.
And if Florida is going to get their run game up and working, it’s this Saturday. Vandy gives up the 11th-most YPA, including a combined 329 yards to 3-6 Northern Illinois and 2-7 UNLV, the latter of which they lost by 24 points.
Vanderbilt Offense vs Florida Defense
Considering Wallace has 76 passes this year going for an average of 2.9 yards, he better pray his line holds up.
The Gators gave up several key third-down throws to Georgia last week, including the one that sealed the deal from Jake Fromm to tight end Eli Wolf. But Vanderbilt doesn’t have a top-five o-line in terms of opponents’ sack rate like Georgia. They’re 64th.
They also don’t have a precise QB, instead stuck with one who has a 43% completion rate. And there aren’t many matchups for them to take advantage of in the passing game with potential All-American C.J. Henderson roaming in the secondary with former All-SEC freshman Marco Wilson.
WR Kalija Lipscomb returns after sitting out the last game for personal reasons. But with Henderson more than likely covering him, Vandy needs another major weapon. That has to be Ke’Shawn Vaughn.
If it hadn’t been for his injury in the Florida game last season, Vaughn likely would’ve led the ‘Dores to victory. He also had a long touchdown run returned on a questionable penalty call. This season he’s healthy and has shown he can contribute out of the backfield (234 receiving yards) when needed.
Florida allowed 435 rush yards between LSU and South Carolina, good for 6.5 YPA. But they cleaned that up for the most part when keying on All-SEC RB D’Andre Swift last week. With the ability to do the same against Vaughn, he must keep the D honest by making big plays off short routes and screens.
Florida vs Vanderbilt Betting Prediction
Given the Gators’ propensity to slack after their second loss year-in and year-out, it’s hard to have a ton of faith in a blowout win. But if a top-25 defense with seven multi-sack performers is playing a third-string QB on a conference bottom-feeder, a lashing is a safe bet.
Vaughn is incredibly talented, but Vandy doesn’t scare anyone in play-action like they did last year with Kyle Shurmur at QB. If there’s any dimension to this offense, it’s only coming from the running back.
And unlike most of this decade, Florida has shown fits of explosiveness and trickery on offense. Trask is more than capable of putting up 300 yards and three passing touchdowns against a team that can’t apply pressure.
This might still be a sleepy contest with a slow start for the Gators. But they still have plenty to play for and should pull away in the second half.
Prediction: Florida 38, Vanderbilt 7