Three Matchups to Watch: Vanderbilt vs Florida

Facing one of their toughest opponents yet this season, the winless Commodore football team must contain Heisman Trophy contender Kyle Trask if they want to be successful this Saturday.

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Vanderbilt hosts Florida on October 13, 2018. (Hustler Multimedia/Hunter Long)

Grace Nanney, Staff Writer

In an unusual season filled with transfers, opt-outs and COVID-19 outbreaks, the Vanderbilt football team has struggled to find a rhythm this year. Still winless six games into the season, the Commodores look to a tough matchup against Florida this weekend. 

After falling narrowly to Kentucky 35-38 last weekend, Vanderbilt seems ready for vengeance. Struggling to make waves offensively all season, the Kentucky game proved that this Vanderbilt team can get on the board and compete in high-scoring games.

Currently sitting at sixth in the nation and first in the SEC East, the 5-1 Florida Gators have looked dominant in 2020. With the leadership of quarterback Kyle Trask, Florida has been likened to Joe Burrow’s LSU 2019 National Championship team by pundits around the country. Beating Vanderbilt 56-0 last season, Florida seems prepared for a similar result this weekend. Here are three matchups to watch: 

Kyle Trask vs. Depleted Vanderbilt Secondary

With the third overall quarterback rating in the country according to ESPN, Kyle Trask has been monstrous this year. Completing 148 out of 211 passes so far this season, Trask has a 70.1 percent completion rate. He has thrown for 2,171 yards and 28 touchdowns, proving his arm’s dominance and propelling the Gators’ offense. Not to mention, due to the unconventional nature of this season, Trask has posted these numbers against a difficult SEC-only schedule. Because of his incredibly strong throwing ability, Vanderbilt’s secondary is going to play a crucial role in stopping these pass attempts. 

Unfortunately for Vanderbilt, their secondary has been fraught with problems this season. To start the season, Vanderbilt lost two of their safeties, starter Trae Daley and backup Tre Douglas, to the transfer portal. With the recent announcement of the mid-season transfer of defensive backs Frank Coppet and D.C. Williams, Vanderbilt’s secondary is left vulnerable. On top of all these losses, true freshman defensive back Donovan Kaufman, who was putting together a nice campaign in 2020, is out for the remainder of the season with a “medical-related” issue. The players that Vanderbilt currently has will have to make big plays and avoid penalties in order to stop Trask’s unbelievable passing potential. 

Dayo Odeyingbo vs. Florida Offensive Line

A bright spot for the Vanderbilt defense this season has been the hard work of lineman Dayo Odeyingbo, who on Nov. 18 was invited to participate in the 2021 Senior Bowl. With 3.5 sacks on the season, Odeyingbo is tied for 5th in the SEC. Odeyingbo has notched 24 tackles this season and has been a consistent leader on the Vanderbilt defense, which has the potential to cause some disruption for the Florida offense. 

At the beginning of the season, the Florida gators were ranked as the fifth-best offensive line in the SEC by ESPN analyst Cole Cubelic. Allowing just six sacks so far this season, the offensive line looks to maintain their strong start and to thwart the Vanderbilt defense and Odeyingbo’s attempts.  

Ken Seals/Mike Wright Quarterback Duo vs Kyree Campbell and Zachary Carter

Ken Seals secured the starting quarterback role for the Commodores in the beginning of the season, but Coach Mason has begun utilizing true freshman quarterback Mike Wright as a change-of-pace option under center. Scoring both his first collegiate passing touchdown and his first collegiate rushing touchdown against Kentucky last weekend, Mike Wright brought a dynamic twist to the Vanderbilt offense.

Utilizing the rotation of two quarterbacks rather than one against Kentucky, the Vanderbilt offense was able to create the most offensive opportunities of any game this season. While the addition of Wright brought speed at the quarterback position, the dual true freshman quarterbacks leave Vanderbilt with very young and inexperienced leadership at the helm of its ship. 

On the opposite side, Florida has a strong defensive line prepared to take on these young quarterbacks. Kyree Campbell and Zachary Carter are two defensive linemen who have the potential to create a lot of problems for Ken Seals and Mike Wright. Carter currently sits at 14th in the SEC for sacks, with 18 total tackles on the season. Campell missed the first three games of the 2020 season, but made his return with a huge impact for the Gators, already notching a sack against Georgia. These two are just a part of the strong defensive line that Coach Dan Mullen has put together, something that Seals and Wright must be cognizant of going into this weekend.