While many Florida fans have remained in a funk all week over the crushing loss to the Vols last Saturday, the Gator players and coaches seem to have done a good job of letting it go and focusing on getting ready for Vanderbilt.
I don’t anticipate a Gator letdown or hangover Saturday in Nashville. The players seem too excited about the opportunity to get back on the field for that too happen.
I do see this being a tough game for the Gators, and not an easy win by any means. The Commodores seem to usually hang in there with Florida at home and make things interesting going into the second half. I can see that happening again Saturday.
The two biggest areas of concern for the Gators heading into this game are the offensive line and special teams (not the actual kicking part of it).
The offensive line was awful in the second half in the loss to UT. There was no push in the running game and no protection for Austin Appleby (and the play-calling was pretty weak as well). As a result, the Gators had a bunch of three-and-outs and the defense was on the field way too long in those steamy conditions and the game got out of hand. The defense played way more plays than they did in previous games and it exposed the Gators’ lack of depth in the secondary, especially at cornerback.
The offensive line has to play better and the offense has to sustain drives. If that happens, the defense will remain fresh and play more like it did in the first three games of the season.
On special teams, the Gators have been a huge disappointment. They’ve made nothing happen in the return game. They haven’t blocked a kick in forever. And in the UT game, the usually reliable Antonio Callaway had a personal meltdown returning punts, and the punt coverage was weak and helped the Vols win the battle of field position in a big way.
So, the keys for this game are: play better on the offensive line and in special teams, pick up the road win and get this season back on track.
Prediction: Florida 21, Vanderbilt 10