Florida at Vanderbilt football: 10 bold predictions
The Florida Gators, winners of four straight and ranked 14th in the nation, will try to avoid a trap game Saturday when they travel to Vanderbilt. The Commodores have lost three of four and need to turn things around quickly if they are to make a bowl game and keep head coach Derek Mason’s job safe.
Here are 10 bold predictions for this game before their noon kickoff Saturday:
1. I will stay awake for this entire game
The best way to start these bold predictions is with a self-imposed challenge. For the past 5-6 years I’ve tried to watch this game and been genuinely interested only to have that post-breakfast nap hit me right at the end of the first quarter. It’s not them, it’s me. I like naps, but I’ll do better this time.
2. After several weeks of struggles, Vandy is ready to make a charge for the postseason
The 3-3 Commodores’ record isn’t ideal, but it’s not as bad as it looks. The 22-17 loss to Notre Dame in Week 3 was tough because Vanderbilt played hard and came up short. It was also tough because it was a hard, physical contest that the loser was certainly going to come out of worse for the wear. Follow that with games against South Carolina and Georgia, and any team less than 100 percent would look bad. The final four games on Vandy’s schedule (Arkansas, Missouri, Ole Miss and Tennessee) are very winnable. So don’t be surprised if the Commodores play with a little more urgency starting Saturday knowing that an upset this week or next will make the final month a lot easier to navigate.
3. Ke’Shawn Vaughn will get 25-30 carries
Commodores coach Derek Mason has said that he wants Vaughn to be the team’s primary ball carrier, but Vaughn has gotten more than 11 carries only once this season. This week will be Vaughn’s time to shine as he will get close to 30 carries and gain more than 120 yards.
4. Kalija Lipscomb bounces back with a career high in catches
Lipscomb, who leads the SEC in receptions, was held to 2 for 16 yards by Georgia — around 6 catches fewer than his average this season. But like any great receiver, Lipscomb will demand the ball Saturday and prove last week was a small bump in the road. Lipscomb will catch the Gators underneath time and time again for a season-high 13 receptions and more than 100 yards.
5. Jachai Polite will have 4 sacks
The Gators’ junior defensive lineman from Daytona Beach has become a sack machine over the past four weeks. He got 2 more last Saturday against LSU, and I expect he’ll give Vandy’s offensive line all kinds of hell this week. Four sacks on Saturday would give him 10 for the season.
6. Kadarius Toney will touch the ball five different ways
Florida’s do-everything athlete will throw a pass, have at least 3 rushes, catch 3 passes and have 2 kick returns and 1 punt return.
7. Feleipe Franks will set a personal best in completion percentage for a game
In 17 starts, Franks has completed more than 70 percent of his passes three times. His current personal best is 71.4 percent, done last year against Vanderbilt when he was 10-of-14 for 185 yards. This Saturday, Franks will complete 15 of 19 passes — that’s 78.9 percent — for 201 yards.
8. Dameon Pierce will lead the Gators in rushing
In a small sample size, Pierce is averaging more than 10 yards per carry, so it’s worth wondering why he didn’t get much action last week against LSU. Maybe he’s not as good in pass protection as Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett. Still, when Pierce touches the ball, good things happen, and he’ll make the most of his 10 carries this week.
9. C.J. Henderson will have the first 2-interception game of his career
Hard to believe that Henderson hasn’t had a game with 2 picks yet. Last year, it seemed like he was getting a pick-six every week. Although he might not have a pick-six on Saturday, he’ll bait Kyle Shurmur into tossing a couple of balls his way.
10. Florida will change the momentum of this game with a goal-line stand
The Gators will be sluggish and still on an emotional high after the LSU victory. Don’t be surprised if the Commodores jump out to a quick lead and possibly hold that lead for much of the first half. But late in the second quarter, Vanderbilt will have a golden opportunity in the red zone. It will eventually lead to a fourth and goal inside the Gators 2, where Mason will decide to go for it instead of kicking the short field goal. Florida’s defense will hold, and the air will be sucked out of Vanderbilt Stadium.