Florida is playing at Vanderbilt a week after winning a big game in the noon Eastern TV slot once reserved for Jefferson Pilot games. What could go wrong?
The history of the UF-Vandy series does feature some close games in Nashville, and not just from some of the recent underwhelming teams. The 2006 national title team only beat a 4-8 Commodore team 25-19 there. The 1996 national title team won by merely a touchdown 28-21 over a 2-9 Vanderbilt squad.
Then again, Will Muschamp won comfortably in both his trips to Vandy, including one after he’d been fired. The 2010 team destroyed the Commodores 55-14 while playing three quarterbacks, two of which are now NFL tight ends.
I have no idea what to expect from the Gators in this one. As much as anything, it’s a test for Dan Mullen’s powers of motivation. With the team coming off of three straight wins in intense environments, they now have to go to a stadium that pales in comparison after hearing how great they are for a week.
If Florida plays its B+ game or better, it won’t lose. Less than that, and it’ll depend on how Vanderbilt does. Here is what I can tell you about this year’s edition of the Commodores.
I have gotten restless every time I’ve tried to watch a Vanderbilt game on a Saturday. Looking over the team’s advanced stat profile, I began to understand why.
The Commodores are 121st in the adjusted pace metric, which looks at their actual seconds per play versus what you’d expect given the team’s run/pass mix. Florida is 96th, but the Gators are 1.6 seconds per play slower than expected versus 3.4 seconds per play slower than expected for VU. Vandy is dreadfully slow.
VU is also inefficient, particularly with the run. They rate 91st in rushing efficiency — Florida is 29th — with just over one in four non-garbage time runs going for no gain or a loss.
Vandy makes up for its lack of down-by-down success by being fairly explosive, again, especially with the run. Quarterback Kyle Shurmur, who never has his mouthpiece in properly, throws it vertically quite a bit, and Vandy likes to use two or even three-tight end sets. The former means defenses will sometimes keep two deep safeties, and the latter means they’ll otherwise crowd the line of scrimmage. That means when they do get a running back into space, usually Ke’Shawn Vaughn, those runs will pick up a lot of yards.