This game for Florida has a lot of the hallmarks of a trap game.
First of all, it is a Vanderbilt game in Nashville. When the Gators won the national championship in 2006, UF only won in Nashville 25-19. When they won the national championship in 1996, they only won in Nashville 28-21. Ron Zook’s first squad in 2002 won only 21-17, and his 2004 team trailed at halftime.
I was at the 2004 game, and it’s easy to see why it can be a difficult site for a visiting team to get up for a game. The stadium is tiny by SEC standards, there were some empty seats, and it seemed like half of the filled seats were occupied by visiting fans. It was the least threatening road game I’ve ever attended.
Things have changed for the better of course, as anyone who saw Auburn’s trip to Nashville earlier this season could tell you. It will also be a night game tomorrow, which will amp things up even more.
It will be cold though, with an overnight low of 43 degrees, and Florida generally only plays one game a year at most in that kind of weather. It does get that cold in Gainesville regularly from late November on, so it’s not a huge deal, but it’s one more thing to think about.
Throw in the fact that Florida just won the game it’s been focusing on for the entire last year by 39 points plus the fact they can lose and probably still win the division, and you’ve got a recipe for a letdown. After all, the Ole Miss loss came directly after defeating their rival Tennessee handily.
What’s In It For Vandy
Not a lot of people probably remember or have looked it up, but thanks to one of Vandy’s losses being to Duke, the Commodores can force a three-way tie atop the SEC East with Florida and Georgia with a win on Saturday. They won’t win any three-way tiebreakers, but they can cause some chaos and pick up the win they probably should have gotten in 2005.
Not only that, but Vanderbilt would become bowl eligible for the first time since 1982 with a win. They’ve been close a couple times over the past few years, but haven’t quite gotten there. Nothing could be more emphatic than getting that sixth win by defeating a team that many are already starting to pencil into the national title game.
A win would also complete the trifecta of beating top-three teams from the division, since they defeated Tennessee in 2005 and Georgia in 2006.
Could Vanderbilt Win?
Well, it you want to play the football chain game, Vanderbilt beat Ole Miss who beat Florida. That logic is reprehensible and doesn’t hold up to any scrutiny, but it serves a purpose here. I would say Ole Miss is a little better than Vanderbilt is, but they are in the same ballpark and UF obviously has lost to someone from that ballpark.
If Florida comes out flat, gives up big plays on defense, gets a bad game from Tim Tebow, and turns the ball over a lot, then they could lose. If that sounds unlikely to all happen in the same game, consider that it has already happened this season on September 27th.
If it sounds to you like I’m not giving Vanderbilt the chance to force the issue and take this game, then you’re right. That’s exactly what I’m saying. If Florida and Vanderbilt both play their A-games, the Gators will win by a couple scores after it being uncomfortably close all game. In other words, it will be a standard Florida-Vanderbilt game.
Vandy simply does not have the playmakers to keep up with a healthy, focused, and prepared Florida team. If they get a lackadaisical Florida team that thinks it can win simply by showing up and wearing orange helmets, then the Commodores can win. I give them a much better shot than I did Kentucky because the Wildcats were simply too ravaged by injury to win in any reasonable scenario.
It’s a road game. It’s a night game. It’s in the SEC. Nothing is guaranteed, but if the Gators live up to Tebow’s promise that he made after the Ole Miss game, then Florida will cruise to victory.