Today’s storylines: Vanderbilt at No. 10 Florida

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Florida receiver Freddie Swain dives into the end zone after an 11-yard touchdown pass play from Feleipe Franks against Vanderbilt in the fourth quarter of last year's game in Nashville, Tenn. [Mark Humphrey/Associated Press]

Who: Vanderbilt (2-6, 1-4 SEC) vs. No. 10 Florida (7-2, 4-2)

When: 12 p.m. today

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

Line: Florida by 27.

Series record: Florida leads 40-10-2.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Florida has won five straight against Vanderbilt and 27 of the last 28, making it one of the most lopsided series in the Southeastern Conference.

Commodores on sinking ship?

 If statistics mean anything, the Gators should have a productive day on both offense and defense. The Commodores’ 2-6 record is reflected on the SEC stat sheet. Vanderbilt is at the bottom, or near the bottom, in every statistical team category. They’re last in scoring offense (17.0 points a game), total offense (317.1 yards a game), total defense (453.9) and rushing offense (125.9). They’re next to last in scoring defense (32.4), rushing defense (202.8) and pass defense (251.1). Vandy’s strongest category is pass offense, where the Commodores rank 11th in the league (191.2).

Some legitimate threats

 The Commodores are really struggling and will be going with their third-team (or fourth-team) quarterback today. Coach Derek Mason said Thursday that fourth-year junior Deuce Wallace will make his first collegiate start against the Gators. But this is a team that has some elite talent on offense. We’re talking about running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn and tight end Jared Pinkney. Vaughn is a blazer who hurt the Gators last season, taking a screen pass 75 yards for a touchdown that gave Vandy an early 14-3 lead. Despite the Commodores woes on offense, he’s having a productive season. He’s rushed for 790 yards and six touchdowns and is averaging 5.2 yards a carry. It’s been a different story for Pinkney. He has not been a major factor so far in 2019. He’s caught only 15 passes for 157 yards after piling up 50 receptions for 774 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

Defending the home turf

 Heading into his first season in 2018, UF coach Dan Mullen said it was imperative that the Gators successfully defend The Swamp if they want this program to become elite again. They’ve done that so far this season, going 4-0 at home, including a win over No. 7 Auburn. UF has won six in a row in The Swamp dating back to last November. It’s obvious Mullen has been talking to the team about defending the home turf this week because the players have been saying the same thing to the media.

Key match-ups

Florida’s running game vs. the Vanderbilt rushing defense: This has the makings of a classic matchup, in a different sort of way. As everyone knows, the Gators pretty much don’t have a running game. They haven’t been able to consistently run on anybody through the first nine games. The Gators rank 13th in the SEC, rushing for just 128.9 yards a game. And guess who they’re facing today? A Vanderbilt rushing defense that also ranks 13th in the league. The Commodores are giving up 202.8 yards a game. So, as futile as it may seem, the Gators will come out today and try to establish a running game to take some of the pressure off Kyle Trask and the passing game. If it works, how refreshing would that be for UF fans? The bottom line is this: if Lamical Perine and Dameron Pierce (by the way, what’s happened to Malik Davis?) have no daylight to run through today against this rush defense, the Gators are going to end this season they way they started it — without a running game.

Running back KeShawn Vaughn against Florida’s improved run defense: Vaughn is one of Vandy’s few bright spots this season. His 1,024 all-purpose yards rank third in the league. He also had a 43-yard run and a 75-yard touchdown reception against the Gators last year. Florida ranks fourth in the conference against the run.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Vanderbilt: Whoever plays quarterback. With Riley Neal and Mo Hasan recovering from concussions, junior Deuce Wallace or freshman Allan Walters is expected to make his first college start. Wallace has thrown three interceptions in six games off the bench this season, and Walters has yet to take a snap.

Florida: Lamical Perine has been held under 70 yards rushing in eight of nine games this season. His 88-yard touchdown run against Auburn gave him his only 100-yard performance. Vandy, though, is allowing more than 200 yards a game on the ground.

Today’s game questions

  1. With an early start and coming off an emotional loss to Georgia, will the Gators and their fans come out flat today?
  2. Can Florida find a way to run the ball against the worst rushing defense in the SEC?
  3. Dan Mullen wanted to play Emory Jones more than just one play in the UGA game. Will the No. 2 QB see significant playing time today?
  4. Offensively and defensively, will the Gators show improvement on third down?
  5. Will the UF defense hold Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn to less than 100 yards rushing?

Click back Monday for Andreu’s answers

Andreu’s pick

Florida 42, Vanderbilt 10

(Season record: 7-2)

FACTS & FIGURES

Vanderbilt has lost seven of its last eight road games. … The Commodores don’t have any seniors on their starting defense. … Florida has won six in a row at home. … The Gators will be down two linebackers: Amari Burney (knee) and Jeremiah Moon (foot surgery, out for the season), who were both injured last week. They also lost guard Chris Bleich, who entered the NCAA transfer portal after starting eight of nine games this season. Bleich was benched last week in a loss to Georgia, and coach Dan Mullen said he left the program partly because of a family issue. … Florida hasn’t notched double-digit wins in back-to-back seasons since quarterback Tim Tebow’s final two years (2008-09) … Vanderbilt leading receiver Kalija Lipscomb didn’t play in the loss at South Carolina, and Mason has since said it was due to personal issues. The senior has 32 catches for 377 yards in a struggling offense. Mason said Lipscomb will be back against Florida, a top target for Wallace. … With victories against Vanderbilt and then rival Florida State in three weeks, the Gators would finish undefeated in The Swamp for the 14th time since 1990 and just the third time since 2010.


The Associated Press contributed to this report

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. Undefeated in The Swamp, a chance to work on the running game, ”(by the way, what’s happened to Malik Davis?)”. I think that should’ve been asked at Monday’s presser, right?
    I hope he’s alright. Because while Perine & Pierce are great, Davis is a ”homerun hitter,” too. (At least he was as a freshman). Go Gators!