Five keys to victory in Swamp


Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp leaves the field after losing 23-20 to Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla., Saturday, November 2, 2013. (Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun)

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, November 8, 2013 at 12:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 8, 2013 at 12:00 p.m.

One of the reasons Florida has been one of college football's top programs over the last two decades is its mastery over SEC East rivals Kentucky and Vanderbilt. The Gators have won 22 straight against the Commodores and while some of them have been dicey, UF has always managed to find a way to win.

Saturday is more than homecoming, it's an opportunity for both teams to take a major step toward bowl eligibility. Here are the five things Vandy needs to do to win:

1. Keep Florida down.

The Gators have lost three straight and the fan base is angry. The Commodores can negate the home crowd with a quick start against a team that has struggled in the first quarter.

2. Move the chains.

Vandy has struggled on third downs (12th in the SEC) and Florida has been strong. After getting beat for big plays in its last two games, you have to think the Gators will back off defensively. It's crucial for the Commodores to get first downs.

3. Protect the passer.

It has been a problem for Vanderbilt so far this season, as the Commodores have allowed 26 sacks, the most in the SEC. Florida got a pair of sacks last week against Aaron Murray, including one for a safety.

4. Win the red zone.

Florida has been miserable in the red zone on offense and excellent on defense. It's the other way around for Vanderbilt.

5. Forget the past.

Not one of those 22 straight losses has anything to do with this game.

For Florida, it will be good to come home after spending the last month away from The Swamp. Here are the five things Florida needs to do to win:

1. Find Jordan Matthews.

The Vanderbilt receiver leads the SEC with 66 catches and Vanderbilt has all kinds of ways to get him the ball. Florida's secondary needs to play up to its hype against this receiver.

2. Get the running game going.

It was better in the second half last week, but for a team that is based on running the ball, Florida ranks 13th in the SEC in rushing. Vandy is ninth in the conference against the rush.

3. Score some points.

Seems simple, huh? Florida has scored only 18 touchdowns this year. Texas A&M, by contrast, has scored 56. On top of that, Florida has missed seven field goals.

4. Stop with the penalties.

Despite Will Muschamp's insistence that it's not his fault after the Georgia game, it can be cured. Florida is last in the conference in penalties, while Vandy is second among the fewest.

5. Play loose.

Last week was chippy. This week, with a home crowd behind the Gators, they should be able to enjoy the day. Unless they start slowly again.

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