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Better Know an SEC Opponent: the Florida Gators

Odds this is a defensive slog are 2:1.

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NCAA Football: Florida at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

The School: The University of Florida. Reigning Champions of Life. We’re coming for that (non-existent) belt.

Record: 2-1 (2-0 in the SEC). Florida did what it’s done for the entirety of my lifetime and beat Kentucky in Week 4. The Gators also beat Tennessee in a game that barely fits the definition of “football.”

Ranking: No. 21 in the AP Top 25 and No. 20 in the Coaches' Poll. Jeff Sagarin has Florida rated 28th in his rankings (Vandy fell from 47th from 65th because computers respect other cold, calculating, lifeless forms and have sided with Nick Saban after last week’s game).

Mascot: Albert and Alberta E. Gator. Are they in a committed relationship? Brother and sister? Did Tebow ever try to marry them when he was playing for the school? Do they also think Danny Kanell is just a potato with a haircut and a suit? Florida’s inability to create a compelling backstory for their mascots is frustrating.

Location: Gainesville, FL. All the humidity and subtle racism of Florida without any of the benefit of being near the ocean. Want to cool off when it’s 89 degrees in the middle of January? Tough shit, because everything from the lakes to the splash pads are infested with alligators and/or water moccasins.

Coach: Jim McElwain. He’d have you believe he’s never humped a dead shark before. Denying shit like that is what’s gonna keep you from becoming a Florida legend. If that were Spurrier, he would have cracked three jokes about taking the shark out for dinner before insulting Tennessee and leaving.

Conference: The ESS-EEE-CEE.

All-time vs. Vanderbilt: 38-10-2. Well that could be wors—-

In the Last 20 Years vs. Vanderbilt: 19-1 JESUS CHRIST MY EYES

The Last Time We Saw These Guys: One thing Derek Mason has done well against the Gators is stymie their rudder-less offense, only to watch it outrace the melting ice floe that was the Vanderbilt offense. In 2016, the ‘Dores held them to 236 total yards but still committed 3 turnovers in a 13-6 loss. In 2015, they held Florida to 275 yards but lost 9-7 because Ralph Webb was the only player allowed to move forwards on the Vandy offense.

Just look at this abomination of a drive chart.

If you read that near a bird’s nest, the mother will instinctively abandon the eggs inside.

Is Vandy Favored?: No, but for a team who just got torn second, third, and fourth assholes at home, the Commodores are only a seven-point underdog in the Swamp. That feels like a moral victory.

Most Potent Offensive Threat: Malik Davis. Davis has emerged as the team’s top tailback the past two weeks, running for 187 total yards against Tennessee and Kentucky. Given that Alabama ran for approximately 4,000 yards last week, this is maybe something Vanderbilt should check on.

Most Potent Defensive Threat: Cece Jefferson. Jefferson is a powerhouse defensive lineman who could ruin Kyle Shurmur’s day by collapsing his pocket and forcing him into flashbacks of last week’s Alabama defense.

Matchup to Watch: Vanderbilt vs. the haunting memories of seven days earlier. Now we hope Alabama only burned our village to the ground, and didn’t salt the earth on its way out.

Interesting Fact: The top private employer in Gainesville is Publix. The city’s motto should just be “America’s top spot for a chicken tender hoagie.”

Bonus Fact!: The recent hurricanes flooded Lake Alice, the UF campus’s resident body of water. Does this mean there’s gonna be a live gator traipsing about the Vanderbilt locker room at halftime?

Almost certainly yes.

If Florida wins, we: Recalibrate our expectations for 2017. That Alabama game was played with house money. Sure, Vandy got shot into the sun, then had the sun crushed between two larger, angrier suns, but that was the one loss we’d penciled in this season. Florida — especially after setting football back 45 years against Tennessee — looks vulnerable, the kind of team against whom the Vandy defense can feast.

But if the Commodores fall apart for the second straight week, this goes from a potential nine-win season to one where six wins starts to look like the upper bound. This team has way more talent than a .500 squad. Go win Saturday.