NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt completes a short, two-game road trip with a visit to No. 10 Florida at 11 a.m. CT Saturday.
The Commodores (2-6, 1-4 SEC) dropped a 24-7 decision last week at South Carolina. Vandy needs to win its final four regular-season contests to make a bowl game for the third time in four seasons.
No. 10 Florida (7-2, 4-2 SEC) is coming off a 24-17 loss to Georgia in its annual rivalry game with the Bulldogs in Jackonsville, Florida. The Gators, however, debuted at No. 10 in the College Football Playoff rankings and still have hopes of reaching the Southeastern Conference championship game in December.
Here is more on how to tune in to Saturday’s contest as well as five key matchups to watch at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium:
When: 11 a.m. CT Saturday
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Broadcast Crew: Bob Wischusen (play-by-play), Dan Orlovsky (analyst), Allison Williams (sideline)
Streaming: Available via the WatchESPN app
Radio: Vanderbilt radio network WLAC AM 1510 Nashville; SiriusXM 382 (Vanderbilt feed), SiriusXM 81 (Florida feed)
Weather: 71 degrees at kickoff, partly sunny, 10 percent chance of rain
1. HAVE TO HAVE THE SECOND HALF
The first two quarters haven’t been an issue for this season’s Vanderbilt team. The second two? That’s where the Commodores have fell short.
Vandy is being outscored 131-52 in the second half this season. In the last four games that margin is 48-7 and in the last three losses the opponent has beaten the Dores 41-0.
The Gators, conversely, have stacked up a 161-66 edge in the second half of contests this year – that includes a 99-29 mark in the fourth quarter.
2. VANDY’S RUSH DEFENSE
Florida, perhaps surprisingly, ranks 107th nationally in rush offense with just 128.9 yards on the ground per game.
Twice this season the Gators have been held to less than 100 yards rushing and only once have they eclipsed the 200-yard mark (against Tennessee Martin on Sept. 7). Senior Lamical Prince is the workhorse for UF out of the backfield with 107 carries for 491 yards.
Vanderbilt has struggled against the run despite only giving up two rushing touchdowns the last two weeks. The Commodores can’t allow Florida to gain traction on the ground Saturday, or it could make for a long afternoon in The Swamp.
3. THE QB QUESTION
Vanderbilt has been dealt a tough hand the past few weeks while two of the team’s starting quarterbacks have suffered concussions.
Mo Hasan, who started the Oc.t 19 win over Missouri, is still out of the lineup and Riley Neal, the team’s opening-day starting QB, left last week’s loss at South Carolina and is questionable for Saturday’s contest.
Redshirt junior Deuce Wallace has played six games this season and will be the starter Saturday if Neal is not cleared to play. Redshirt freshman Allan Walters also competed throughout the week of practice for the right to see the field Saturday.
Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason told WGFX-FM radio in Nashville on Thursday that Wallace will start, Walters would serve as the primary backup and Neal would be on the trip with the team.
Whomever trots onto the field in The Swamp will have to take care of the ball, manage Vandy’s offense crisply and connect on some deep shots down the field to loosen up Florida’s defense.
4. THE RED ZONE
Florida has done a masterful job defensively when the opponent ventures inside the 20-yard line. Only 64 percent of the time have teams scored inside the red zone against Florida.
Vanderbilt has only scored 73.3 percent of the time during its red zone trips this season.
So if those trends continue the Commodores won’t be in a good position to leave the Sunshine State victorious.
5. FINDING PINKNEY
Vanderbilt tight end Jared Pinkney went without a catch last week, the first time the senior didn’t record a reception since Nov. 25, 2017 at Tennessee – a streak of 20 straight games.
The Commodores need to figure out a way to get the versatile playmaker more involved in the offense. A big day from the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Georgian could equate to a win for the Dores.