Saturday Predictions: Florida at Vanderbilt

Hey, remember when you used to get excited for this game? Or, barring that, drunk and impressionable enough to identify seeing Tim Tebow from 10 rows into the stands as a religious experience? Well, that's all over now, as a mediocre 5-3 Florida team heads to Nashville this weekend to get their season back on track against a Vanderbilt team that has lost their last three games by a combined 92 points.

There's not too much to get excited about for Commodore fans, as the team has averaged just a touchdown a game on their current three game losing streak. Over this period, they've been beaten to the tune of a 38-7 shellacking, though at home they've been much more competitive than on the road. Another loss would seal Vanderbilt's second straight losing season, and 578th overall since becoming a Division I program.

The 'Dores showed signs of life in last week's game with Arkansas, leading 14-6 after the first quarter - until Coach Robbie Caldwell decided that Larry Smith's confidence hadn't been fucked with enough and pulled the junior from the game. Smith, fresh off a touchdown pass, was yanked for Jared Funk, who threw an interception in his second snap behind center. From there, Smith was placed back in the game where he executed a rich Vanderbilt tradition of fumbling in the endzone and taking a safety. At this point, many Vandy fans inherently recognized that the 'Dores weren't coming back from that one.

Fortunately, Caldwell plans on yanking Smith haphazardly again this game, so we may get to see a head coach completely destroy his own quarterback in the friendly confines of Dudley Field this week. The 'Dores are headed into the home stretch with four comparatively easy games to go on the schedule, and a win against the nemesis Gators would be a major bullet point on Caldwell's resume when contract talks roll around this winter. Can Vanderbilt finally sack up and beat Florida for the first time since 1988? Let's head to our bitter panel of experts for a few predictions. 

Train Island - The one time Florida sucks enough for Vandy to extract some revenge for past beatdowns, and the Commodores not only are inept offensively, but just lost their best player for the season. The defense, occasionally the team's pride and occasionally their shame, has been hit or miss all season, limiting some opposing offenses while allowing others to dominate. And, at quarterback, Robbie Caldwell and Des Kitchings are aspiring to treat fans to a rotating platter of awful. Yes, there's not a lot to be optimistic about this season.

Hopefully this week's offense will be predicated on getting Zac Stacy the ball and setting up some kind of consistency (and clock management) in the playcalling. However, this is far from a guarantee. The addition of more plays for Jonathan Krause last week was a nice addition, and if the team can build up Smith's confidence with short passes and outlets to Brandon Barden, the 'Dores might be able to put up more than two touchdowns this week.

I don't think it will be enough, though. Florida is going through their own growing pains, but has better talent at virtually every position, making them a two touchdown favorite in Vegas. The Gators know they've still got a legit shot at the SEC Championship game and by that virtue, the BCS, so they'll be fighting tooth and nail to pick up a conference win against Vanderbilt.

Prediction?: Florida 34, Vanderbilt 17. Who knows - last time I felt this badly about Vandy's chances they went out and upset Ole Miss. Hopefully they'll do it again.

***

KingJamesIV - Another week, another few days for Des Kitchings to work some magic on the offense? If you track back to the old weekly hot and cold swing, here's where we stand:

Northwestern - Close loss. Could have won. Upish.
LSU - Terrible. Down.
Ole Miss - Our "where did that come from?" moment. Up.
UConn - Aside from the second quarter equivalent of tourette's that our offense suffered, terrible. Down.
E. Michigan - Yes, but against one of the worst teams in the FBS division. Upish.
UGA - The only comparisons I can think of are extremely offensive to various groups of people. So I will write in all caps. DOWN.
SCAR - 7-7 heading into the 4th (prior to eventual and impossible to prevent defensive collapse due to fatigue). This is unfortunately an "Up."
Ark - 14 points in the 1ST QUARTER WHOOOOOOOOO! Sadly, this is also known as event horizon. The fabric of space time was ripped apart, sucking Warren Norman into a worm hole that has deposited him exactly one year into the future (well, a little less than one year -- the start of football next season), and dialing the brain function of Vanderbilt defenders to "Zombonic." DECIDEDLY DOWN.
FLORIDA ????????

I would forecast an upp-ish day, keeping it closer than it will end up for a majority of the game. The defense will resemble France at the very end. (MAYBE I SHOULD BE SAVING THIS FOR THE UT GAME?)

On an unrelated note: Dai-Jon Parker commits tonight at 8.30 CT. So, potentially, there's that. I humbly nominate the entire football team to be prepared as a ritualistic sacrifice to the recruiting gods.

Prediction?: Florida 31, Vanderbilt 10. (Florida 10, Vandy 10 at the end of the 3rd?????)

***

Vandy Dan - All season long, people have complained about Larry Smith and asked how bad could our backups be?  Well, we got the answer last weekend.  Nobody outside of Gainesville cares about this weekend's game - and that's particularly sad since the game is in Nashville. 

Now that football season has ended, it's time for Vanderbilt fans to start getting excited for basketball season.  In one of my favorite annual traditions, Vanderbilt's name has yet to come up on the collegehoops.net annual 144 teams in 144 days preview (West Virginia just came up at #32 today).  So, instead of getting depressed thinking about football, here are a few things for Vanderbilt fans to get excited about:

  1. Dai-Jon Parker picks a school tonight.  I would be more excited by his commitment than a win over Florida.  And I still fork over a few hundred bucks a year for season football tickets.  Fuck you, Bobby Johnson.  
  2. Vanderbilt plays its second exhibition game of the year against Southern Indiana on Monday.  Why should you care?  Because Southern Indiana nearly upset Illinois last Tuesday before falling 76-67.  They should present the Dores with a tougher than usual challenge leading up to the regular season opener on...
  3. Wednesday Friday!  The real basketball season starts against the Presbyterian Blue Hose.  Fortunately for Vanderbilt, the team with the best name in college basketball is not the best team in college basketball.  The Blue Hose were 5-26 last season and figure to put up less of a fight than UAH or Southern Indiana.  In other words, prepare for Double OT.
  4. The real excitement begins in Puerto Rico on November 18.  If things shake out right, we might get to see the Dores take on Nebraska, followed by West Virginia, followed by North Carolina or Minnesota.  Vanderbilt could book its spot in the Top 25 leading to that all important spot on the ESPN ticker.  Even if things don't go as planned (see Maui 2009), it's hard to beat three games in four nights.

Prediction?  Vanderbilt starts off with three wins, before beating Minnesota in the championship of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.  As for the football game, Florida beats Vanderbilt by a lot.

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