NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt begins a stretch of seven straight SEC games – the first two of which are on the road – with a trip to No. 20 Florida at 11 a.m. CT Saturday.
The Commodores (2-3, 0-1 SEC) have dropped seven in a row to the Gators and 14 straight league contests overall.
Florida (3-2, 1-2 SEC) took a 20-13 defeat at Kentucky on Saturday. The Gators last lost to the Dores in 2013 in Gainesville, Florida.
Here is more on how to watch, listen to and follow Saturday’s contest as well as five key matchups to consider when the Commodores face the Gators:
When: 11:03 a.m. CT Saturday
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (88,548)
Television: SEC Network
Dave Neal (play-by-play), Matt Stinchcomb (analyst), Taylor Davis (sideline)
Vanderbilt Sports Network from Learfield
On-Air Time: 11 a.m. CT
Pregame Show: 9:30 a.m. CT
Affiliates: Nashville WQZQ 830 AM, 93.3 FM; Chattanooga WALV 105.1 FM; Lewisburg WJJM 1490 AM, 94.3 FM; Memphis WMPS 1210 AM, 103.1 FM
Satellite: SiriusXM 235; SiriusXM online 965
79 degrees at kickoff, partly cloudy, 15 percent chance of rain
1. Over the Top
While it may never be a good idea to completely abandon the run game, maybe – just maybe – there’s an opportunity for the Commodores to get a little pass-happy Saturday.
Vandy had some success against the Gators in 2020 with Ken Seals throwing for 319 yards and two touchdowns and wide receiver Chris Pierce catching two scores. And this season the Gators’ pass defense is allowing 210.2 yards per game through the air.
The Commodores totaled 333 yards passing last week against Connecticut and while the Florida defense is certainly a bigger challenge than the Huskies, Vandy’s offense should be a confident bunch going into The Swamp against a suspect Florida secondary.
2. Contain. The Run.
While the matchup for Vanderbilt’s offense against Florida’s pass defense favors the Commodores on paper, the opposite can be said when it comes to the Gators on the ground against Vandy’s defense.
Led by quarterback Emory Jones, Florida is averaging 292.2 yards per game on the ground and trails only triple-option teams Air Force and Army, respectively, nationally in that category. Four times this season the Gators have rushed for at least 244 yards and the four-headed monster of Jones, Anthony Richardson, Malik Davis and Dameon Pierce out of the backfield have been a handful for opponents.
Vanderbilt, conversely, has surrendered 204.6 rushing yards per game – one of the poorest averages in the country. Every opponent the Dores have played in 2021 has managed at least 179 rushing yards.
Defensive coordinator Jesse Minter has his work cut out for him in scheming a defense that can contain the speed and explosiveness of the Gators.
3. Save the Seals
The Vandy offensive line better be on its game Saturday.
Florida’s pass rush is one of the tops in the nation having recording 18 sacks to this point. Senior defensive tackle Zachary Carter (6-4, 285) has five of those sacks and seven other Gators have recorded at least one.
Vanderbilt has been steady in protecting Seals (and Mike Wright) through five games allowing 1.6 sacks per game (34th nationally). Even No. 2 Georgia only managed to get to the Vanderbilt quarterback once.
So if the Dores are to be able to move the ball offensively Saturday they must figure out a way to keep Seals upright against a ravenous Florida defense.
4. In the Zone
If (when?) Vanderbilt gets inside the Florida 20 it must make those trips count.
Only once in 12 opportunities this season has the Florida defense stopped an opponent inside the 20. Of those 12 trips, eight times the opposition has scored a touchdown.
Vanderbilt’s offense has done a fine job inside the 20 this season having converted on 11 of 12 chances. Even if the Commodores are held to a field goal, taking the points on the road will be crucial in a hostile environment.
5. Mindset and Mentality
Vanderbilt is coming off a thrilling, last-second win at home. Florida is coming off a last-minute, excruciating SEC loss on the road. How will each circumstance affect Saturday?
The Commodores last won back-to-back games in 2018 but already for the second time in 2021 have the opportunity to start a winning streak. Florida, who had SEC title aspirations coming into the season, finds itself under .500 in league play and in somewhat of a desperation mode in early October.
A noon ET kickoff coupled with a homecoming crowd could be factors as well. Whichever team is able to control those external factors will be all that much better for it.
(6.) Homecoming Throwbacks
It’s homecoming this weekend in Gainesville and there are all sorts of notable events surrounding the main attraction of Commodores-Gators on Saturday.
Florida will be wearing throwback uniforms featuring blue jerseys, white pants and orange helmets with a Florida interlocking UF logo and gray face masks. The uniform combination features a mix of items worn between the late 1960s and early 1970s.
At the end of the first quarter Saturday, Florida will also recognize 25 Gators who competed and/or coached at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) October 3, 2021
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.