The Florida Gators prepare for the home stretch of the football season and their run at an SEC East title. The Gators could take a huge step in that direction Saturday and would leave themselves at worst one game away from clinching the east with a win. Vanderbilt stands in the way and the Gators need to show they are up to task for this big road game. Here are five ways to make that happen.
The Gators have struggled with consistency despite being national poll darlings and standing fourth in the current BCS rankings. There have been a lot of good things on an offense with a lot of stars, but not enough to really put some teams away. Now would be a good time to get the offense tuned up.
The Gators need to just play their game and if they can do the following, they win decisively.
Objective I: Dictate on offense.
The Gators need a good game offensively in the best way. Vanderbilt could be the right team to make that happen. Over the last few games, the Gators have shown flashes of brilliance on offense, only to see it disappear for long periods of time. The running game for the most part has been pretty strong all year and the Commodores are 10th in the league in rush defense. The Gators should be able to run the ball decisively.
The Vanderbilt pass defense is actually not much better. They do rank 2nd in the league in pass defense (yards per game), but they are 10th in yards per pass. I believe their low yards per game average is due to the fact most teams run on them with ease.
The Gators need to just line up and beat the man across from them. There should be mismatches all the way across the field form the Gator offensive perspective.
Objective II: Cut the penalties.
Vanderbilt has fewer penalties and for less yards than anyone else in the conference. The Gators are just the opposite giving up the most and for the most yards. The pure number of penalties has meant the Gators have had numerous stalled drives and big plays called back. They have really been the Achilles heel to the offense.
Even with all the penalties, the Gators are surprisingly third in the conference in third down efficiency at 44.4% of the time. If they cut the penalties down, that number goes up dramatically. The Vanderbilt crowd should not be an Auburn, Georgia, or Tennessee crowd, so hearing teammates should not be an issue.
Objective III: Contain the quarterback.
Vanderbilt sophomore quarterback Chris Nickson is a pretty good passer, but he is also a huge threat to run the ball. From his quarterback position, 40% of his personal offense is generated with his feet. The Gators must contain him on defense and that means spying a linebacker or safety on him at almost all times. Nickson currently ranks 6th in total offense in the SEC and ranks 7th in offense in rushing yards, by far the highest of any quarterback.
Objective IV: Win the turnover battle.
The Gators have steadily improved in turnover margin and currently rank 4th in the SEC at (+2). Vanderbilt is not far behind at 6th and dead even with take aways and give aways. If the Gators want to lose this game, they just need to turn the ball over. Likewise, winning the game could be as easy as making sure that Vanderbilt doesn’t get any easy and quick scores.
Objective V: Make big plays on offense.
They are coming at a more rapid rate this year as compared to last season. The Gators already have seven more plays over 20 yards than they did all of last season. Still, there are great voids of time where the big plays don’t come. The Gators need to make big plays consistently and avoid the penalties that have nullified a great deal of them. Physical mismatches are everywhere. It is time to take advantage of those.