NASHVILLE, Tenn. - After four consecutive wins, including two straight against ranked opponents, No. 16 Florida will try to avoid a letdown when it visits Vanderbilt on Saturday for an SEC East matchup. The Commodores are seeking their first win over a ranked SEC opponent since knocking off Tennessee in 2016.
TV: Noon ET, ESPN. LINE: Florida -7
The Gators are coming off a 27-19 home victory over LSU – their first win against a top-five team since 2015 – that gave them back-to-back triumphs over ranked opponents for the first time since 2008. First-year Florida coach Dan Mullen reminded his team how quickly its outlook could change with a slip-up against the Commodores. “If you like being told how great you are, get back to work, and let’s win again,” Mullen told reporters. “If you like being told that you stink, well then you don’t have to work very hard, and everyone will tell us we won’t win the game and they’ll tell us how bad we are. Everyone is patting you on the back, only about six inches lower that they’re kicking you in the rear end. I like the pat on the back rather than the kick in the rear end, so let’s just keep working to keep it six inches higher.” The Commodores were smacked around in a 41-13 loss at Georgia last week and have been outscored 78-27 in their first two SEC contests.
ABOUT FLORIDA (5-1, 3-1 SEC)
The Gators’ offense has shown improvement in Mullen’s initial season at the helm, as quarterback Feleipe Franks is guiding a more explosive passing game and taking better care of the ball. The offense still ranks near the bottom of the SEC in most categories, but Florida is fifth in the league in scoring, in part because of a defense that has given the team favorable field position. The Gators possess the nation’s sixth-best passing defense and rank third in sacks (20) while tying for 11th in tackles for loss (48).
ABOUT VANDERBILT (3-3, 0-2)
The Commodores’ offense also is outperforming last year’s version, but the team still ranks 13th in the SEC in scoring (25.2 points) and rushing (159 yards). Vanderbilt does have a dynamic passing attack led by Kyle Shurmur (1,400 yards, nine touchdowns, four interceptions) and Kalija Lipscomb, who has registered six touchdowns while topping the SEC in receptions (45) and receiving yards (496). The defense played well early in the season, including a tough 22-17 loss at Notre Dame, but has allowed an average of 35 points over the last three games - a stretch that includes a narrow 31-27 win over FCS opponent Tennessee State.
1. Florida has recorded 19 tackles for loss and 11 sacks in its last two games.
2. Vanderbilt is 5-for-26 on third-down conversions in its two SEC contests.
3. The Gators rank second in the nation with 17 takeaways, matching last season’s amount, and have scored 50 points off turnovers to surpass their 2017 total of 44.
PREDICTION: Florida 31, Vanderbilt 20
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