Vanderbilt at Florida
Time: 11 AM (CT), Saturday
Spread: FLA -9
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Florida Gators were favored by just one-point last week against the much-improved Kentucky Wildcats, and the Gators won by that one point exactly as the Wildcats botched a late-game field goal to once again fall to its favored rival. The Gators are now 2-1, with its lone loss an acceptable Week 1 defeat at the hands of then-No. 11 Michigan. Florida now hosts Vanderbilt as 9-point favorites in SEC play, in a game that will air at 11 AM (Central Time) Saturday on ESPN. The point total is set at 41.5, in a game that should feature plenty of defense.
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Florida entered the season with a quarterback controversy, and the team has continued to rotate quarterbacks through its lineup, with three seeing action in the win over Kentucky. Feleipe Franks threw 7 of 12, Luke Del Rio was 9 of 14, and Kadarius Toney launched one 50-yard pass in a trick play, as Florida amassed 209 total passing yards with two TDs and one interception. Its backfield was successful, too, with 186 yards on 36 attempts (5.2 yards per attempt) with two touchdowns.
The game was tied at the half, but Florida entered the fourth quarter with a 10-point deficit it was able to overcome. Kentucky starting quarterback Stephen Johnson gave the Gators plenty of problems in throwing 68 percent for completion while throwing three TD-passes. And Kentucky’s backfield rushed for another 120 yards, but the late game execution Florida showed is part of the resilience that led them to be favored in the first place. It may not need such clutch play against Vanderbilt, but the Commodores are hardly a pushover.
Vandy is 3-1 on the season, with its lone loss a predicable stomping at the hands of No. 1 ranked Alabama last week. In Week 1 Vanderbilt defeated Middle Tennessee, Week 2 a win over Alabama A&M and Week 3 was its most impressive win, a 14-7 triumph over then-ranked Kansas State. Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur is a large part of why Vandy has thrived this year.
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The 6-foot-4 junior has made huge strides this season in throwing 63.1 percent for completion while tallying eight TDs with just one interception. His passer rating of 164.2 is substantially better than the paltry 110.9 he posted in 2016, when he amassed 2,409 passing yards but had just a 54 percent completion ratio and more INTs (10) than TDs (9).
The rush game for Vanderbilt has been far less successful, however, with the team averaging just 3.0 yards per carry its top back, Ralph Webb, below that at just 2.6 yards per attempt.
Webb has 169 rushing yards, but it has taken him 64 carries to reach that mark, while No. 2 back Khari Blasingame has 107 yards on 26 carries, but has not rushed for a touchdown. Vanderbilt’s top receiver is Trent Sherfield, who has caught for 248 yards on 14 catches (17.7 yards per) and has one of Vanderbilt’s eight receiving TDs.
Sophomore wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb leads the team with three receiving TDs, and he had 319 yards and two TDs last season as a freshman. Vanderbilt can get it done in the air, but its lack of rushing success will spell its demise this week, as Florida should make it pretty tough to get anything done on the ground. A one-dimensional offense might work against mediocre teams, even enough to upset Kansas State, but the Gators will likely prevail by double-digits in this one. Florida may be a surprise team in the SEC, and while Vandy certainly qualifies for that in its own right, expect Florida’s defense to be the difference-maker in this one, as it stifles Vanderbilt much in the same manner Bama did a week ago.