For the second time this season, the Florida Gators will attempt to recover after a crushing loss.
The Kentucky Wildcats defeated Florida (3-2, 1-2 SEC) 20-13 in Lexington, which dropped the Gators two games behind the leaders (UK and Georgia) in the SEC East race. Now the Gators will look to bounce back on homecoming weekend against Vanderbilt.
The Commodores (2-3, 0-1) are coming off a 30-28, last-second home victory against UConn as kicker Joseph Bulovas nailed a 31-yard field goal with no time remaining. Now Vanderbilt takes aim at its first win over Florida since 2013.
Saturday will be the 55th meeting between the divisional foes. Florida has won seven in a row and 29 of the previous 30 in the series.
Vanderbilt at No. 20 Florida
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 9 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Spread: Florida -38
When Vanderbilt Has the Ball
After its 62-0 loss to Georgia two weeks ago, Vanderbilt showed improvements on both sides of the ball against UConn. Quarterback Ken Seals passed for 333 yards and two touchdowns with just one interception. In his previous four games combined, Seals had thrown for 561 yards, three touchdowns, and two picks.
Wide receiver Will Sheppard also had a big day last weekend, posting eight receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Chris Pierce Jr. also had a 100-yard day (103 on nine grabs).
The Commodores will be facing a Florida defense that gave up a few big plays against Kentucky that the Gators wish they could have back. Still, Florida enters this game ranked 44th nationally in total defense (326 ypg), which is marked improvement after finishing the 2020 season 83rd in the same category. The Gators also have done a good job against both the run (115.4 ypg, 34th in FBS) and keeping opponents off the scoreboard (19.8 ppg, 37th) after struggling in both departments last season.
When Florida Has the Ball
The Gators' offensive issues reared their head again in the loss to Kentucky. After putting up prolific numbers last season behind Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask and a dynamic passing game highlighted by tight end Kyle Pitts and wide receiver Kadarius Toney, Florida has been grounded in the early going.
The nation's No. 1 passing attack in 2020, the Gators rank 80th at 216.8 yards per game. Quarterback Emory Jones has had his moments, but he's been mostly inconsistent as a passer. This was certainly on display in the loss to the Wildcats, as Jones threw for 203 yards (on 23-of-31 passing) with a touchdown and an interception.
While the downfield passing attack, a staple of last season's offense, has been lacking, the Gators have still been able to move the chains. This is thanks to the nation's third-ranked rushing attack, which is averaging 292.2 yards on the ground per game. Jones has certainly done his part in this respect, as he's fifth in the SEC with 438 rushing yards. He and the rest of Florida's ball carriers should find running room against a Vanderbilt defense that's ranked 112th overall in rushing defense (203.4 ypg).
After another tough loss, Florida will likely get back on track against a Vanderbilt team that's arguably the worst team in the SEC. Jones and the Gator offense shouldn't have any problems moving the ball against the Commodores, who are 113th in the nation in total defense (446.0 ypg).
Defensively, the Gators should be able to force several turnovers against a Commodore offense that has had its issues simply moving the ball, let alone putting up points. Florida's depth and talent will be on full display Saturday afternoon in the Swamp.
Prediction: Florida 41, Vanderbilt 10
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— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.