Florida Preview: How Will Vandy Respond After A Historic Win?

Since I’ve been writing for The Dore Report, I’ve never been able to state this until now: Vandy is coming off an SEC win.  The last time Vandy won a conference game, a different president was in office and no one had ever heard of COVID-19.  With that gigantic monkey off their backs, Vanderbilt football officially severs ties to the hideous losing streak left behind in large part by Derek Mason regime and can look ahead to the future.

The Commodores will look to build an actual SEC winning streak this weekend when the Florida Gators come to FirstBank Stadium Saturday for an 11:00 kick-off.  The Gators, under first-year head coach Billy Napier, have a record of 6-4 and a record of 3-4 in the SEC.  Florida is coming off a dominant 38-6 home win over South Carolina.  

Florida averages 32 points per game which ranks 42nd in the nation. The Gators’ strength is running the ball, averaging an impressive 225.3 rushing yards per game which ranks 2nd in the SEC and 11th in the country.  Through the air, Florida averages 213.2 passing yards per game (91st nationally) and 438.5 total yards per game (31st nationally).  

The Gator offense is led by inconsistent quarterback Anthony Richardson, who can look like a Heisman candidate one week and the worst QB in the league the next.  He is completing a lackluster 55% of his passes for 1951 yards, 11 touchdowns and 7 interceptions for the season.  Like our own quarterback Mike Wright, Richardson is far more dangerous with his legs than his arm.  He is second on the team with 584 rushing yards with 9 touchdowns averaging an SEC-best 6.6 yards per carry.  In fact, three of the top five SEC rushers in yards per carry play for the Gators – with Richardson followed by their primary back Montrell Johnson, who has rushed for 710 yards at 6.1 yards per carry (5th in the SEC) and true freshman Trevor Etienne who has rushed for 568 yards at 6.3 yards per carry (3rd in the SEC).  

Florida’s defense is nothing to write home about, but they have shown some improvement holding South Carolina to six points.  They give up 26.9 points per game which ranks 75th in the nation.  Opponents are averaging 249.8 yards passing against the Gators ranking 95th in the nation, while also giving up 171.2 rushing yards per game also ranking 95th.  Their total defense of 421 yards per game ranks 105th in the nation.

Vanderbilt football was projected to finish the season with two wins, and they’ve already doubled that.  Now that they’ve finally gotten that elusive first SEC win, this year has to be considered an unequivocal success regardless of how the remainder of the season plays out.  The Commodores are playing with house money.  The most interesting storyline to watch from a Vandy perspective is the quarterback situation.  Will former starter AJ Swann return from injury this season?  If so, will he once again supplant team captain Mike Wright, whose admirable performance against Kentucky earned him SEC Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors?  Vanderbilt coach Clark Lea might have some tough decisions to make in the final two games.

Interestingly, Florida is a 14-point favorite in this game, which is less than the Kentucky spread.  Florida, like Kentucky, has better talent but it isn’t impossible to see an avenue that Vanderbilt could also win this.  If the Commodores can hang around until the fourth quarter as they did in the last game, why not?  One thing that would greatly aid that effort is a large presence of Vandy fans to give the home team a rare home-field advantage.  I hope Commodore Nation will show out for this one and support the boys Saturday, Clark Lea and his team deserve it… 


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