Head-to-head: Vanderbilt vs. Florida

After two heartbreaking losses to conference foes over the past three weeks, the Commodores will give it another go in Gainesville on Saturday morning versus the Florida Gators. VandyMania.com compares different critical team areas of the Commodores and Gators and indicate which team has the edge. We also predict the winner.

Vanderbilt rushing offense
Florida rushing defense
Vanderbilt's No. 50 rushing attack meets the Gator's No. 40 rushing defense. Adjustments made by the Commodore staff to the offensive line several weeks ago have resulted in better blocking. Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy has been on a tear the past three games rushing for 97 or more yards in each contest. Stacy has 707 yards rushing on the season and is averaging a hefty 7.3 yards on 97 carries. Freshman Jerron Seymour has 211 yards and four touchdowns on the season. Opponents can never ignore the running ability of Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers. Rodgers, who has quick feet and makes good decisions on the run, has rushed for at least 60 yards over the past three games.

After a strong start defensively holding its first four opponents to an average of about 60 yards rushing a game, the Gators have given up at least 155 yards in each of their past four games. In its last game UF allowed Georgia 185 yards on the ground. For the season the Gators are allowing an average of about 128 yards per game compared to Vanderbilt's season average of 168 yards per game rushing. Middle linebacker Jonathan Bostic leads Florida in tackles with 60. He also has six tackles for losses.  
Vanderbilt passing offense
Florida passing defense
This matchup pits the No. 108 Vanderbilt passing attack (153 ypg.) against Florida's No. 7 pass defense (169 ypg.). Despite the ranking disparity, Vanderbilt has shown significant improvement over the past week in its passing offense. Jordan Rodgers seems to have benefited from a couple weeks of getting practice reps with the first unit. After completing well under 50 percent of his passes against Georgia and Army, Rodgers went a very respectable 15 for 27 for 240 yards and a touchdown against Arkansas.

Bostic and DE Ronald Powell lead the Gators in sacks with three each. Safety Matt Elam has two interceptions for Florida. Vanderbilt ranks 87th in sacks allowed while the Gators rank 74th in sacks made.  
Florida rushing offense
Vanderbilt rushing defense
The No. 66 (155 ypg.) Gator rushing offense meets the No. 35 (125 ypg.) Vanderbilt rushing defense. Florida running back Chris Rainey has 526 rushing yards on the season but he hasn't run for more than 60 yards in the past four games (LSU, Bama, Auburn, Georgia). Against Arkansas Vanderbilt held the Hogs to just 2.8 yards per rushing attempt. Two weeks ago against the nation's No. 1 rushing offense, Army, the Commodores held the Black Knights to a season low of only 270 yards. Vanderbilt's Chris Marve leads its run-stopping defense in tackles with 66 and has six tackles for losses. Defensive end Tim Fugger and tackles Rob Lohr and Colt Nichter are also run stoppers for the 'Dores.
Florida passing offense
Vanderbilt passing defense
Florida's passing offense has struggled this season compared to past Gator teams, ranking 96th out of 120 teams in that category. Senior quarterback John Brantley missed several games due to an ankle injury but returned last week against Georgia. Brantley took almost all of his snaps from the shotgun formation and finished going 12 for 34 for 245 yards and a TD. He was sacked six times by the Bulldogs. Gainesville media outlets are reporting that Brantley's health has improved and he will likely take more snaps under center this week. Chris Rainey is Florida's top receiver with 20 receptions. Jeff Demps caught a 72-yard touchdown pass last week. Vanderbilt has the No. 41 passing defense giving up an average about 207 yards a game. The Commodore secondary was able to come up with picks earlier in the season and this enabled the team to pull off wins while the offense was still struggling. Vanderbilt, led by Casey Hayward with 4, came up with 14 interceptions in its first four games. However, over the past four games the Commodores have only been able to pick one pass (another by Hayward who has 5 now). Florida is 73rd in sacks allowed while Vanderbilt is ranked 48th in sacks made.
Special Teams
Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis has made 15 of 16 field goals with a long of 51. Vanderbilt's Carey Spear is 4 for 7 and missed a short but critical field goal against Arkansas that could have sent the game to overtime. Head coach James Franklin says Spear will compete with veteran Ryan Fowler this week to keep his job. Fowler has made 24 of 34 field goals during his career with a long of 47 yards. Florida punter Kyle Christy is averaging 43 yards per punt with a long of 67. Richard Kent of Vanderbilt boasts a 41.7 average with a long of 67. Chris Rainey of Florida has returned punts for a 6.8 yards average with a long of 22 yards (TD). Vanderbilt Jonathan Krause averages four yards a return with his longest going for 18 yards. The Gator's Andre Debose has a 28 yard kickoff return average with a long of 63 yards. He has two career returns for touchdowns. The Commodores' Andre Hal is averaging 25.5 yards a return with a long scoring return of 96 yards. Both Florida and Vanderbilt's punt return teams allow about 4 1/2 yards a return. Florida's kickoff return team has allowed an average of 21.8 yards a return with a long of 70 yards. Vanderbilt's version has a 17.8 yard per return with a long of 34 yards.
Two up and coming young coaches in Will Muschamp and James Franklin will face off on Saturday. Both sport 4-4 records in their first seasons as head coaches and both were "head coaches in waiting" at FBS programs prior to assuming their current positions. While Muschamp is more known for his expertise in coaching defenses Vandy's Franklin is known for directing successful offenses and mentoring quarterbacks.
The Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is considered one of the toughest road venues in college football. The Gators are probably healthier injury wise than they've been in weeks. Vanderbilt has shown significant improvement offensively over the past few games and optimism is high despite two very close losses in recent weeks.

PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 21, Florida 17

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