Vanderbilt hosts a solid Florida team on Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium. VandyMania.com football analyst Nate Yates evaluates the two teams in several key categories and makes a prediction on the final score.



Vanderbilt's passing offense showed flashes of promise in last week’s game against WKU.  Kyle Shurmur racked up 279 passing yards while completing 18 passes in 29 attempts with one interception and a touchdown.  Shurmur is now averaging 153.5 yards per game and has given up just two interceptions this season.  His top receiver is Kalija Lipscomb who has 11 receptions for 146 yards, and two touchdowns, however, four other receivers each have eight or more completions this season.  Nathan Marcus nabbed his first touchdown of the season against WKU.

Florida's pass defense has allowed just 581 total passing yards this season an average of 145.2 per game.  The team has a total of six interceptions and 16 pass breakups this season.  DBs Jalen Taber and Quincy Wilson lead the secondary with two interceptions each.  The defense as a whole has registered 17 sacks and is led by DLs Jabari Zuniga with 4 sacks for 28 yards and Jordan Sherit with 3 sacks for 21 yards.



Vandy's rushing attack has gained 680 yards this season on 159 attempts.  The Commodores are led by junior running back Ralph Webb who is averaging 118 yards per game and five yards per carry.  He leads the SEC in rushing touchdowns with five and is on pace to break several Commodore rushing records.  Khari Blasingame gives Webb a capable backup with 118 yards on 32 rushes for three rushing touchdowns.  Vandy’s offensive line, led by senior center Barrett Gouger, has improved from last season.

Florida has allowed only allowed 306 total rushing yards including a staggering 145 yards lost by their opposition.  Opposing offenses have been limited to a dismal 2.1 yards per carry and only 76.5 yards per game.  Junior linebacker Alex Anzalone has 26 tackles so far this season. 



Florida has passed for 1,088 yards this season on 87 receptions for an average of 7.5 yards per pass or 12.5 per catch.  Florida has nine total TD receptions.  Florida's main signal caller, Luke Del Rio, is doubtful for Saturday's game but has passed for 762 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions. Backup Austin Appleby has thrown for 326 total passing yards, 3 touchdowns, and an interception.  The receivers are led by Antonio Callaway with 17 receptions for 335 yards, and two touchdowns.  Florida has three other players with 11 or more receptions and six players with at least one touchdown.

Vanderbilt’s passing defense has allowed 1,099 passing yards this season and 7 touchdowns.  Vandy has forced just three sacks and three interceptions this year.  Oren Burks has one interception and five pass breakups operating out of the star position.  Tre Herndon has an interception and three pass breakups and Torren Ferguson has one pick and four pass breakups.



Florida has gained 739 rushing yards this season on 153 attempts and 7 rushing touchdowns.  Running back Jordan Scarlett leads the rushing attack with 22 yards on 43 attempts with 3 touchdowns and is followed by RB Mark Thompson who has 189 rushing yards on 40 attempts for 2 touchdowns.  Two other Florida players have rushed for a touchdown this season.

The Vanderbilt rushing defense has allowed 774 yards on 132 attempts and 6 touchdowns this season.  Inside linebacker Zach Cunningham leads the defense with 38 tackles.  Strong safety Ryan White and free safety Ladarius Wiley follow up with 23 tackles each.  The Vandy defense has recovered 5 fumbles this season.



Vanderbilt's Tommy Openshaw has connected on 3-of-4 field goals with a long boot of 36 yards.  Punter Sam Loy has been consistent with 23 punts for a 41.3-yard average. He has a long of 59 yards.  His punts have good hang time and are difficult to return. Darrius Sims has nine kickoff returns for a 24.6-yard average with a long return of 47 yards. Kalija Lipscomb has three punt returns for a 7-yard average.  The Commodores have allowed two punts to be blocked this season but Vandy's kick/punt coverage units have otherwise been sound.  

Florida's Eddy Pineiro has made five field goals on six attempts with a long of 54.  Punter Johnny Townsend has 17 punts with an average of 49.5 with 10 punts exceeding 50 yards.  Antonio Callaway has returned seven punts for a 5.1 yards average and two kickoffs for a 26.5-yard average.  The coverage unit has allowed 133 yards on six kickoff returns and 97 yards on 11 punt returns.



Second-year coach Jim McElwain is 13-5 at Florida.  He previously was the head coach at Colorado State and has an overall record of 35-21.  He led Florida to an SEC East championship his first year in the SEC and was the SEC Coach of the Year in 2015.

Third-year Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason is 9-19 at Vandy. He previously was the defensive coordinator at Stanford and has coached as an assistant in the NFL. Mason took over coordinating of the Commodore defense following the 2014 season and in 2015 Vanderbilt had the most improved defense in the nation (FBS).



Florida leads the series 37-10-2.  The Commodores lost last season on due to a shanked Vanderbilt punt and a last minute Florida field goal.  This season Vandy has improved greatly in turnover margin, the reliability of the punt game, and has a 100 percent red zone efficiency.  The Gators are coming off a disappointing loss to Tennessee and will be looking to bounce back.  The 'Dores are coming off a win and are looking to establish some consistency in the passing game.  Vandy remembers the disappointing last minute loss against the gators in 2015 and is ready to show they can be competitive in the conference. 

Prediction: Florida 31, Vanderbilt 24.  On paper, Florida looks like it should control the game, but look for Vanderbilt to keep this one close until the end.  Throughout the season Vanderbilt has played three teams with more uncommon styles of offense. Hopefully getting back to more traditional opponents will allow the defense to flourish the way most expected it to preseason.  Florida may be missing its starting QB and a few other players.  Despite a hard fought and close game, Florida's offense manages to outlast Vanderbilt. 


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