Today's storylines: UF vs. Vanderbilt
Published: Saturday, November 9, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 9, 2013 at 12:54 a.m.
Different perceptions of 4-4
It's amazing how an identical record can look and feel so different depending on the team. The Commodores are 4-4 and feeling really good about themselves. That's because they had the same record at this time a year ago and then swept the month of November to finish 8-4. It was the first time in school history that Vandy went undefeated in November. So, the Commodores are perfectly fine with being 4-4 at this stage, confident that more wins will be coming down the stretch. Now, take Florida's view of 4-4. It's not good. In fact, it's downright grim. This is a team that started the season in the top 10 with the expectation of reaching Atlanta and the SEC title game. Now, the Gators find themselves decimated by injuries and struggling to become bowl eligible and avoid the school's first losing season since 1979.
No. 2 QBs in the spotlight
The Gators and Commodores share more than just the same overall record. Both are playing with their No. 2 quarterbacks — Tyler Murphy for UF; redshirt freshman Patton Robinette for Vandy. Robinette has taken over for Austyn Carta-Samuels, who injured his left knee in the Georgia game three weeks ago. He was having a big year, with three 300-yard passing games. Depth behind the new starters looks about the same. Murphy's backup is redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg, while the next guy in line for the Commodores is true freshman John McCrary. The 'Dores are hoping to redshirt McCrary this season, but if something happens to Robinette (and Carta-Samuel is not healthy enough to step in), then the redshirt is coming off.
UF's streak in jeopardy?
The Gators are riding a 22-game winning streak against the Commodores, whose last victory over Florida came in 1988 in Nashville. That UF team, just like this one, had a bunch of injuries (including Emmitt Smith), and fell hard, 24-9. The streak is usually a hot topic of conversation the week of this game, but both sides have pretty much ignored it this week. The streak, of course, likely will have little or no impact on today's game. But if you're the Commodores, you've got to like your chances of ending the dubious skid. With Florida reeling from injuries and a three-game SEC losing streak and Vandy coming off a bye week, things seem to be aligning for a possible upset in The Swamp. Then again, would it really be considered an upset if the Commodores win this game?
Can the Gators score enough?
Florida has entered every game over the past month hoping to break out offensively. But it just hasn't happened. Even against a defense as shaky as Georgia's, the Gators could only muster a field goal in the first half last Saturday. Vandy has had its struggles on defense and is giving up 389.9 yards a game. But with two weeks to prepare for UF's rather simplistic offense, the Commodores figure to make things tough again for the Gator offense, which is 13th in the SEC in scoring (21 points a game).
Quarterback Tyler Murphy (pictured) and the Gators have been cutting back on turnovers. Florida has only turned the ball over three times in its last four games, all of those coming in a loss to Missouri on Oct. 19. The Gators turned the ball over 10 times in the season's first four games. But, while UF is taking care of the ball, the wins haven't been coming. Florida was 3-1 in its first four turnover-prone games and just 1-3 since.
Florida's three-game losing streak casts a shadow of uncertainty and anxiety over today's game, but two other streaks the Gators have going for them are more pleasant. Florida has won 22 straight over Vanderbilt and has not lost in The Swamp since 2011, a 10-0 streak that dates back to a November loss to Florida State. That same year, a 4-4 UF team lost three straight games on the road before returning to beat Vanderbilt for homecoming.
While Florida's streak against the Commodores remains intact, Vanderbilt has not been a pushover of late. In 2011, Florida won, 26-21, but the game was not sealed until the Gators recovered an onside kick with 1:16 left in the game. Last season, Jeff Driskel had a record rushing day, but the game was still in doubt until Driskel gave UF a 31-17 win with a 70-yard TD run with 2:20 left in the fourth quarter.
Vanderbilt stumbled out of the gate last season, posting a 2-4 record through its first six games. After October wins over Auburn and UMass got the Commodores back to 4-4, they rolled off wins at Kentucky, at Ole Miss, vs. Tennessee and at Wake Forest in Novermber to end the season at 8-4. Vandy is in a similar situation this season, entering today's game at 4-4 with games against Kentucky, Tennessee and Wake Forest coming up. The 'Dores need to win at least two of those to earn a bowl trip for a third straight season.