Three Keys Vanderbilt vs Florida

A battle of two teams with a season to forget got a whole lot more interesting when both won last week. Vanderbilt handled Old Dominion in the way an SEC team should dominate lower conference opposition, but given the way the ‘Dores had played to that point in 2014 the 42-28 victory was still a pleasant surprise.

The Gators have of course been their own kind of miserable, with Will Muschamp’s job all but gone before they pulled out a shocking 38-20 win over high flying Georgia. Both teams come into the game with renewed hope, so here is a look at the three keys to see who keeps the winning going.

1) Stop the run

Florida had struggled to find an offensive identity this year. Hell, the Gators had struggled to find any offense at all in 2014. Then last week everything changed and Florida ambushed Georgia with an offensive strategy the Bulldogs never saw coming. In simple terms the Gators rolled back the clocks to sometime around 1975, passing the ball just six times while rushing it on an insane 60 attempts. Let’s just say a balanced offense this was not.

This wasn’t a quarterback heavy run offense like has been deployed in the recent past either. The Gators had two backs combine for 389 yards on 25 carries a piece as Kelvin Taylor (197 yards) and Matt ones (192 yards) each also rumbled in for two scores. In an era where the workhorse back has almost disappeared, Florida rolled out two on the same day and the offensive game plan doesn’t seem likely to change much against a Vandy team which has given up over 200 yards per game rushing in SEC play. If the ‘Dores are to have a chance the run game must be severely limited on Saturday.

2) Prevent big plays

One issue the ‘Dores have had on defense this year is that the team has been susceptible to the big play. Part of this has been coverage breakdowns as young players worked their way into the system and learned the scheme, but just as much of it has been more fundamentals when tackling. This tackling issue is going to be particularly important if the Gators run as much as expected as the physical nature of the game is going to wear down the Vandy defenders.

Both Taylor (65 yards) and Jones (44 yards) were able to rip off big gains against a Georgia defense that are known to be sure tacklers. Nothing is more demoralizing to a defense than a running back that can break off of contact and charge down the field for a huge gain. Vanderbilt has to make sure, first up tackles on Saturday to keep the Florida runners under control.

3) Few three and outs on offense

As awful as the Florida offense has been in 2014, their defense has actually been very solid. One of their strongest assets has been the ability to get other teams off the field quickly by forcing multiple three and outs per game. On the season the Gators defense is able to force 5.8 three and outs a game, which is best in the SEC and ranks eighth in the nation. To make it more quantifiable the Florida defense is able to force their opponent to punt without getting a first down just over 40 percent of the time. With the new running approach the Gators want to use field position will be key. If Johnny McCrary and the Vanderbilt offense can even get just a couple of first downs per drive then the team will be in a much better position to defend a longer field.

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