Vanderbilt Review / South Carolina Preview

Florida took care of needed business in Nashville, getting a solid road win and continuing to build some positive momentum going in to the last few games of the season. So far, so good for the start of the Treon Harris era.

Despite the 34 points on offense, I would characterize the performance as spotty. Vandy completely disregarded the passing game and loaded up the box with 8-9 defenders all night, daring Florida to throw. Harris and the WRs eventually obliged, but I was surprised it took so long to exploit this scheme. The running game, while piling up over 200 yards, really struggled at times, getting stuffed at the goal line on 4th down once, then barely getting in just a few moments later on 4th down. I get the attitude this instills in your team of being tough in short-yardage situations, but sometimes you can take the easier way out and either run some option or throw a safe swing pass or fade route on first or second down The main thing was no turnovers – this offense right now is not good enough to overcome them, and their margin for error is razor-thin.

The defense was good overall against the pass, but the Vandy TEs had a big night, and coverage has to be addressed there. The front seven applied pressure the entire game despite getting only a few sacks, and held the Commodores under 50% completions. The run defense still has work to do, though, as Ralph Webb found the same creases that Georgia exploited so often last week. At least they generated 4 turnovers – 2 fumbles and 2 interceptions. At this point it may be as good as it gets, and somehow the players and coaches have to find a way to improve against South Carolina and F$U. VH3 had a solid game and an interception, and Jalen Tabor has a highlight-reel pick in the end zone to prevent a late score.

It’s back to the Swamp now to face South Carolina and the The Pariah, who will try and salvage his season by doing anything he can to beat Florida. The Gator defense will be severely tested, especially the young secondary. If the front seven can’t control the LOS and pressure QB Dylan Thompson, it could be a long day and another home loss. Make Davis is still one of the best RBs in the SEC, and unless the run defense can solve some of the schematic problems it has had against power running plays, he could be the difference in the game. The defense has to do a good job of getting off the field on 3rd downs, and slowing down Davis is the start of that. Eventually the big-name guys will have to play their best – Dante Fowler and Jon Bullard need to get off of blocks and disrupt the LOS, while VH3 and the secondary really need to get a turnover or two.

The Gator offense has to do it’s part and likely score at least 24 points (any help from the special teams would be a huge plus). The Gamecock defense has struggled all season, and hopefully their week off hasn’t solved all of their problems. Harris is still inexperienced, and the running game has to take some pressure off of him and not force him into poor down-and-distance situations. Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones are both in good from right now, but I believe Harris is going to have to be more of a running threat this week, despite the chance of injury. am hopeful that the WRs are starting to respond to the QB change, and they have to make some big plays to balance things out. If the running game is doing well, I think Jeff Driskel will get a few more snaps to pound away, and possibly pull off the surprise pass. Finally, I hope the O-Line is in decent health – Tyler Moore looks like he will miss the game, while Trenton Brown is questionable. The guard rotation is paper-thin – it’s up to Trip Thurman and a cast of thousands to step up to the challenge. This game will require a high level of play in order to win – the offense simply can’t stand by and rely on the defense all afternoon.

This one is tough to predict. Despite the latest 2 wins, the Gator offense is still a work in progress, and if it has to play from behind all afternoon or is forced to score 30+ points, I just don’t know if it is ready for that. Therefore the defensive staff has to develop a game plan that is ready for a passing offense at least as good as Alabama’s. We will see if the young secondary has truly developed, as they will be under siege all afternoon. The continued absence of Keanu Neal will be felt at safety – Jabari Gorman and Duke Dawson are going to get picked on to see if they can make plays. This is going to be a difficult game to win – it’s unfortunate that the Gamecocks had an off week to prepare for this game……that could be the difference on Saturday.

Florida has to re-establish dominance at home to build for the future, and this would be a great place to start. This is also the last big home game of the season with a lot of big-time recruits attending – Will Muschamp needs this one to save his job and possibly re-build a very good recruiting class. I’m just not sure if the defense is ready for what they will face – the Swamp needs to be loud and raucous to help win this one. This just feels like a close game throughout decided late in the 4th quarter……this pick is made more with the heart than the head.

Prediction: Florida 24 South Carolina 23