Looking at college football in general there seems to be a theme in style of play around the country. Out west there are the best offenses in the NCAA and in the south we have the best defenses in college football. But the best team offensively and defensively resides in the southwest. Texas, which has the best combination statistically of offense and defense, is located directly between the west and the south! Maybe it's the location.
Steve Spurrier opened some eyes this week with his win over Tennessee and sending the Vol nation into a downward spiral. Spurrier, who lost at Georgia by two points, may have something for Florida if the Gators don't open up their offense. He has made Tyrone Nix the full time defensive coordinator and Nix delivered by shutting down a bad Tennessee team.
Time to start the coaching rumors and which coaches are getting put on the hot seat. The number one rumor is Tennessee will hire David Cutcliffe to run the offense but Phil Fulmer may be hiring his own replacement. The Vols have recruited four top 11 classes the last five years and they need an SEC title in the very near future.
Kentucky is still expected to open up and the names you hear are Mike Leach from Texas Tech, Charlie Strong from Florida and Rick Neuheisel. North Carolina State head coach Chuck Amato is coming under fire and one name already thrown out there is Tennessee Titans coordinator Norm Chow. That seems to be a stretch but the Titans aren't very good and he has never been a head coach. Butch Davis is circling around the Arkansas job with his eyes on some bigger possibilities. North Carolina, Clemson, Temple, Air Force and Missouri are all programs who are very hot discussion among coaches and possible job openings. Temple is already scheduled to open and they will enter the MAC next year looking just to win a football game.
Florida's offense looks to expand its passing game this week versus the tenth best defense in the SEC. Vanderbilt does not have the speed or the athletes to run with a healthy group of Gators. UF may continue to use some of its offensive formations from the Georgia game but I expect Florida will spread the Commodores out this weekend. The offensive line had its best day from a protection standpoint this past Saturday and Chris Leak should be able to play action and throw the ball down the field.
The key will be the health of Dallas Baker, Chad Jackson and Jemalle Cornelius. These guys have played hurt at times this season and the latter two were virtually non-existent the last two games. I don't expect to see much from Baker who has not practiced at all this week.
Vandy's defense features future NFL player outside linebacker Moses Osemwegie who scored a touchdown against Florida last season. He leads the defense in tackles and UF will need to know where he is lined up when the Gators do spread the offense out. Vanderbilt does not have much of a pass rush from their front four, generating just 10 sacks as a team. The Gators should be able to block them without needing a tight end or two backs to help.
Marcus Manson will have a big game this week with his speed being the difference. DeShawn Wynn has been banged up and it would not surprise me if the carries are shared a bit more this week. Teams are averaging 4.3 per carry against the Commodore which spells a big week for the Gator ground game.
Jay Cutler is a talented senior quarterback who can beat you with both his legs and his arm. Cutler has engineered four wins this season and will be looking to lead Vandy to its first big upset win this week in Gainesville. Vandy's offense has struggled at times this season because of field position. They have had to drive the length of the field many times to find points because there special teams and defense have not been very good. When they do get to the red zone they are very good, scoring 25 out of 30 trips.
Vandy has ten scoring drives of ten plays or more which is a direct contrast to UF's defense which leads the SEC in three and outs. Cutler will provide a tough mark for Gator defensive lineman, especially the defensive ends. Jeremy Mincey, Joe Cohen and Jarvis Moss must keep Cutler inside and take him down when they get the opportunity.
The ball control passing offense is similar to Florida's in that it allows Cutler to get the ball out of his hands very quickly. Look for Gator linebackers to have an opportunity to get an interception. Also, Coach Greg Mattison will certainly have the UF front ready to bat some ball down in the quick throwing lanes. The Vandy running game is not great but it's okay and Florida's safeties may have to be very active if Vandy runs some option.
FLORIDA'S KEYS TO VICTORY: It used to be that UF just had to show up but not this week. Vandy is dangerous and with the injuries to the Gators receiving corps it could get dicey. The win over Georgia will guarantee that UF should be focused with the East title still on the line. Offensively look for the ground game to dominate. I think we will see Marcus Manson get his first 100 yard game on Saturday night. I think the offense can block the front four with Vandy coming in with only 10 sacks. Chris Leak will get some shots downfield against the Vandy secondary. Defensively this will be a good test for UF with the athletic Cutler. He really struggles against the blitz so once again expect UF to get after him early. The Gator defensive line must continue to shine to make sure the Gators avoid the upset. Special teams have been really good and Eric Wilbur is up for the Ray Guy award. I think Wilbur has really shown his flexibility by being able to directional punt, rugby punt and he showed great athleticism in running the fake punt a week ago. The Gators must stick to the plan to win and maybe add some scores in the fourth quarter to put this game away.
KEYS FOR THE GATORS:
1. Stop the Vandy run game and make them one dimensional. Make Jay Cutler uncomfortable.
2. Open the offense up a bit and trust the line to protect.
3. Changeup the running game by going with both running backs equal time.
4. Control Vanderbilt on third down.
5. Keep field position in your favor.
PREDICTION: UF has to much talent and this is Vanderbilt. Gators win 28-10.
Josh Portis: His athleticism would overwhelm Vandy in the run game.
Marcus Manson: Does he get double digit carries?
Kyle Jackson: Does he get on the field this week or is he in the doghouse?
Jarvis Moss: He could have big day because he is athletic enough to chase Cutler.
STATISTICS: Florida is now third in the SEC in time of possession behind Vandy and Alabama ... The Gators have 20 touchdowns in the red zone out of their 26 scores … The Gators still remain one of the most penalized teams in the SEC, ranking 11th … The Gators have attempted 14 fourth downs this year which is second most in the SEC behind Arkansas (16) ... Vanderbilt is second in the SEC on third down conversions … Florida leads the SEC in three and outs on defense ... Vanderbilt has the most first downs in the conference ... Vanderbilt is the third best offense in the red zone in the SEC ... Jay Cutler leads the SEC in passing at 250 yards per game … The Gators look for their seventh consecutive home win ... Urban Meyer could open up 5-0 at home. The Florida record belongs to Steve Spurrier who won his first 23.