Three Matchups to Watch: Vanderbilt at Florida


Ziyi Liu

Huddle as the Florida Gators defeated Vanderbilt 13-6 October 1, 2016 at Vanderbilt Stadium. Photo by Ziyi Liu.

Jack Fader

It’s redemption time for the Commodores.

Vanderbilt seeks to bounce back in the biggest way possible when they take on Florida this Saturday in Gainesville. After last weekend’s 59-0 drubbing at the hands of Alabama, the Commodores need a big game to right the ship.

Here are three matchups to look out for on Saturday:

Malik Davis vs. Vanderbilt Rush Defense

While many around the country thought that Florida’s rushing attack would stall without the suspended Jordan Scarlett, true freshman Davis has emerged as a capable feature back. Davis leads Florida in rushing with 195 yards on just 26 carries, and will look to exploit Vanderbilt’s rush defense, which ranks second to last in the SEC in allowing 242 yards per game and over five yards a carry.

While these stats may be skewed heavily by the beatdown the Commodores received last weekend by Alabama, the fact of the matter is that if Vanderbilt can’t stop Malik Davis the Commodores will have a very hard time winning this game. If Davis is halted, and Vanderbilt forces Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio to beat them through the air, the Commodores have a good chance to win this one.

Ralph Webb vs. Florida Rush Defense

Even as Vandy started the season 3-0, a question stuck out in many Commodore fans’ minds: where was Ralph Webb? The Commodores’ all-time leading rusher has started the year incredibly quiet, rushing 64 times for just 169 yards and two touchdowns.

Part of his struggles can be attributed to the Commodore offensive line struggling in run blocking, and to have any chance to move down the field on a good Florida defense, Vanderbilt must be able to run the ball. To do that, Vanderbilt could try to get quarterback Kyle Shurmur going early, forcing Florida to drop into coverage and then exploiting a more open defensive line. Webb will also be playing this weekend in his hometown of Gainesville, where he always runs with a little extra juice. Don’t be surprised to see him finally break out of his slump this weekend.

Vanderbilt vs. The Ghost of Alabama

The loss that Vanderbilt took to Alabama last weekend was as destructive as it was well-documented. Every major news outlet covered the game with the lens of “Vanderbilt poked the bear, and paid for it” after the Commodores’ comments earlier in that week regarding the Crimson Tide.

While the loss was devastating, the Commodores must remember it only counts as one loss and to not let it count as more. They need to come out against Florida with the fire they had in the win over Kansas State, and use the loss to Alabama as a learning experience about preparation. Coach Derek Mason will have the Commodores carefree and ready to go this weekend, and it should be a good one in Gainesville.