The no. 10 Florida Gators will try to bounce back quickly from last week’s loss as they square off against the Vanderbilt Commodores. Kickoff is scheduled for noon EST on Saturday, November 9 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The game will be televised on ESPN.
The Week 11 college football odds list the Gators as 25.5-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 48 points.
The Gators saw their SEC title and College Football Playoff hopes all but end last week when they lost to Georgia. Both of Florida’s losses this season have come at the hands of other top-10 teams. However, the Gators have been unable to keep pace with other elite teams despite scoring wins over the likes of Miami and Auburn earlier in the season.
The silver lining is that if Georgia loses two of its remaining SEC games, the Gators could jump ahead of them in the SEC East. Of course, that would require the Gators to win out. But it means there’s no reason for Florida to give up on their season just yet. Plus, the Gators still have a chance to win 10 games and play in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Vanderbilt, meanwhile, has their backs up against the wall heading into their trip to The Swamp. The Commodores have lost there of their last four games, including last week’s 24-7 loss to South Carolina. At 2-6, Vandy has to win out to become bowl eligible. Otherwise, they will go without a postseason game for the fourth team in Derek Mason’s six years in Nashville, which could put him on the hot seat at the end of the season.
If the Commodores can somehow pull off the upset, Vandy’s schedule gets a little easier with games against Kentucky, East Tennessee State, and Tennessee to close out the season. However, Vanderbilt’s bowl chances are slim to nil at the moment.
Adding to Vandy’s trouble is that they have just one win over Florida since 1988. The Gators have won 26 of their last 27 meetings with the Commodores, with the one hiccup coming in 2013 when James Franklin was coaching at Vanderbilt. Mason is 0-5 against Florida, although the Commodores have kept the last four games against the Gators within two touchdowns.
To be honest, I’m a little uncertain about laying down this many points. It will take a genuine blowout for the Gators to cover the spread in this game. Outside of their win over Tennessee, they haven’t dominated an FBS opponent enough to win by such a comfortable margin this season. However, Florida has superior talent and I’m not sure if the Commodores can keep putting up a fight after all of the body blows they’ve taken this season. It’s a risk, but I’ll eat the points and lean toward Florida to cover.
Vanderbilt’s biggest problem in this game, aside from the obvious talent gap between the two teams, is a pair of injuries at quarterback. Riley Neal, who has started most of the season, and Mo Hasan, who sparked a recent win over Missouri, are both unavailable due to injury. That will force the Commodores to start Deuce Wallace at quarterback. Wallace has less than 100 pass attempts in his career and has completed less than half of them. He’s played in a handful of games this season but is averaging less than three yards per pass. He also has three interceptions and no touchdown passes on 76 attempts. Needless to say, those are ugly numbers.
It’s possible that Wallace will get eaten alive (almost literally) by the Florida defense. The Commodores will lean on running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn as much as possible to help take some of the pressure off Wallace. However, despite being vulnerable against the run at times this year, the Gators should be expecting a heavy dose of Vaughn and ready to sell out to stop the run. If they can force obvious passing situations, the Gators have high-level pass rushers who they can unleash against Vandy’s young quarterback, perhaps leading to some turnovers.
For what it’s worth, I expect the Vanderbilt defense to put up a fight. The Commodores had some serious issues on that side of the ball early in the season. But they’ve started to improve in recent weeks, holding Missouri to 14 points and only giving up 24 points last week against South Carolina. However, the Vandy defense can only put up a fight for so long if the offense isn’t providing much help.
Sooner or later, I think the floodgates will open for the Florida offense. Quarterback Kyle Trask has done enough to keep the Gators competitive against some of the best defensive teams in the SEC. Against a team like Vanderbilt that has more modest talent, I think Trask will be poised for a big game. I can also see running backs Lamical Perine and Dameon Pierce breaking out long runs in the second half when the Vanderbilt defense starts to tire.
Ultimately, I can’t see the Commodores having much success offensively with Wallace at quarterback. That’ll put too much pressure on the Vandy defense, who will wear down in the second half and start giving up big plays. I think the Gators will limit Vandy’s point total and run away with this game late, doing just enough to cover the spread.