HB: Five things I want to see

The Florida Gators take on Vanderbilt today for the right to play in the SEC Championship Game. The bottom line is this is now the most important game of the season. Vanderbilt comes in with a (5-3) record, but also (3-2) in the SEC and has a chance to also play for the SEC East this late in the game. If Florida plays their game, it shouldn't be close.

Vanderbilt has a defense capable of pulling the upset, but their offense leaves a little to be desired. In five SEC games, they scored 23 against Ole Miss, 24 against South Carolina, and haven't crossed the 14 point mark in the other three games. By contrast, Florida hasn't scored less than 26 all season and has scored 30 or more in every SEC game on the schedule they have played.

With this in mind, here are five things I want to see for the game against Vanderbilt.

Protect the ball…

The Gators lead the country in turnover margin while Vanderbilt is a respectable 33rd and third in the SEC. If the Gators can keep from going (-3) in turnovers they should have enough firepower on offense and enough strength on defense to win the game, even giving the ball up two more times than Vanderbilt and not being on their game as much. This is my number one concern because the name of the game is to win and if the Gators control the ball and protect it, they should win handily.

Throw the ball…

The Gators come into the game leading the conference in pass efficiency. Vandy comes in ranked eighth in the conference in pass efficiency defense. This is a little tricky statistic as they are tied with Florida in second in number of interceptions with 13. Florida can't come out slinging it everywhere, but they should be able to out-personnel Vanderbilt into a big time passing game this weekend.

Pitch the shutout…

Vanderbilt is last in total offense in the SEC and eighth in scoring offense. They haven't scored more than 14 points in their last four games. Florida comes in leading the SEC in scoring defense and has been really close to shutting out a number of teams on the schedule already, all of which has a better offense than Vandy.

Protect Tim Tebow

One statistic Vanderbilt is very good at is sacking the quarterback. They lead the SEC in sacks while Florida has done a pretty good job of protecting Tebow. If Tebow gets pressured and sacked a bunch, this is one way to switch field position and/or have a turnover happen. The Gator offensive line has been aggressive as of late, they may need to be somewhat less aggressive for this reason and this week. The wide running game and the option help take some heat off of Tebow and possible sacks, so I imagine we will see a bit of that this week.

Tackles in the backfield…

Maybe the oddest statistic for Florida is that they are dead last in the conference in tackles for loss. This has no doubt something to do with style of defense…you don't see linebackers shooting gaps and getting in the backfield outside of Brandon Spikes very often. The Sam and Will linebackers are out in pass coverage a lot and end up being away from the line of scrimmage. Still, this is an offense they can make some moves on and get in the backfield. If the Gators get up quick, I would expect to see this.

Vanderbilt is a no flash, play it safe, and stay close kind of team. Florida does a lot of that also, but has the athletes to take over as time passes in the game. Barring Ole Miss game type snafus, the Gators should win handily.

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