Florida-Vandy has been compelling one time ever, and that singly instance came in 2005. In the ten years since—and in the ten years before, prob—the matchup's offered little in the way of engrossing competition. This game is usually a bore, and this upcoming game will definitely be a bore, and you'd do very well to spend your noon Saturday doing literally anything else but watch this game.
And in fact. Instead of reading a preview for this game—a game Florida will undoubtedly win—a better use of your time would be to watch or re-watch that '05 game, the one and only time this contest was actually worth your or anyone's time. Here's a link. As an added bonus, if you look closely around the 56-minute mark, you'll see moi seated in the metal bleachers by the tunnel. Actually, you can't really make me out, but I was there, trust me.
FIVE REASONS WHY YOU SHOULDN'T WATCH THIS GAME
1Florida's offense is meh, and Vandy's is hellraisingly bad. To the shock of no one, Vandy got shut out last weekend. Florida scored 27 points in its game, but only half of those were earned by doing good, offensive things. The other half came from a blocked-punt touchdown where after UF—Austin Hardin, rather—couldn't even make the extra point, and a scoring drive that lasted all of five yards following an interception return. (Although, short-field gimmes after UGA turnovers can be tough if you're Mizzou. LOL @ Missouri's offense.) So really, these two O's combined to score just 14 points last week if you think about it. On their own, neither of these offenses are anything special (Vandy's in particular ranks 123rd nationally out of 128). Compound that with two good opposing defenses, and now you realize why you should mow the lawn, or donate blood, or watch Texas Tech-WVU Saturday afternoon.
2Florida's kicking game. Say Vandy regains its pre-Houston form on defense Saturday, and now Florida is forced to maybe kick some field goals as a touchdown-alternative for scoring points. Except that, Florida doesn't really have a kicker, you see. Rather, it has an Austin Hardin, and he's failing field goal class this semester. His percentage thus far is 42%. Hardin's been "hampered" by "injuries" also this season. Hardin got replaced by a guy named Jorge Powell at one point, and he did OK (2/3 on FG attempts). But then Powell got hurt trying to be hero during a kickoff, and then Florida was down to just Hardin. So of course, UF held a campus-wide tryout for it's backup kicker role. Jim McElwain reportedly took three of the tryout-ees just in case, but only one—Neal MacInnes—made last week's travel squad. MacInnes may actually play this weekend, reportedly. He may do OK, or he may fail miserably in his first collegiate action. But whether Hardin or MacInnes, Florida seemly isn't in great shape to post threes Saturday; and if Vandy's defense plays as well as its played at times this season, Florida will be über-reliant on those defense- and special teams-aided short fields for touchdown opportunities.
3Because Ralph Webb probably won't have that heartwarming homecoming game. A literal mile from Florida's campus sits Ralph Webb's old high school, a place to which he delivered a state championship in his senior year, largely on the back of his 2,000 yard-plus season of rushing. This is his last good memory of football in Gainesville, and will likely continue to be so after this weekend. Webb is the only veritable Commodore threat offensively, a fact known by Vanderbilt, Webb, and most importantly, Florida's defense. Webb will probably stand opposite the most stacked box he's ever seen on Saturday. Florida's back end is rather reputable, which makes things difficult for good quarterbacks and receivers, let alone Vandy's. Being beaten by Kyle Shurmur and/or Johnny McCrary is a risk Florida is undoubtedly willing to take. Webb might well match the 83 yards he posted last year against the Gators, and he may even score once or so, but much more than that is a tall ask. Hopefully his myriad supporters in the crowd will be understanding.
Ralph Webb. Photo: Jim Brown -- USA TODAY Sports
4Because Florida will almost certainly have a takeaway against Vandy, and it's starting to get old. Florida's taken the ball away somehow, at least once, from each of its last fifteen opponents. It is right now second nationally behind the last team to beat Vandy, Houston, in turnover margin. Vandy sits 120 spots down from Florida after having given the ball away 21 times (14 of which through the air) through eight games this season. The aforementioned Shurmur and McCrary threw a combined three oksies last week, with McCrary's pair of picks pushing his already league-leading total to 12. There is oh so little doubt that Vandy—and McCrary being most likely—will give the ball away to Florida. Vandy's given it away in every game, and Florida's taken it away in every game. If the only suspense in a game stems from merely guessing how many turnovers a team will have, you should not be watching it.
5Both teams are kind of banged up. Key people are hurting on both sides, which'll affect the quality of the play, slightly. Shurmur might not play at all. Which, yeah he's not that good yet anyway, but it's always nice to have options when McCrary's around. Vandy lost two players for the year this week—linebacker Nigel Bowden and O-lineman Justin Skule—though their contributions on the year were somewhat negligible. David Sharpe is Florida's starting left tackle, but he won't play. Right Guard/Right Tackle/Left Guard/Left Tackle, Martez Ivey, will probably play, though he might not. Lots of firepower will be missing on Saturday, that's for sure.
THREE TO WATCH
Ralph Webb, RB, Vanderbilt: Webb is Vandy's only hope on offense really, and he's from Gainesville, so he bears watching. Webb is yet to crack 100 yards against an SEC defense this season, and though Florida's defense on paper doesn't seem like the kind of group one just up and gets their first century mark against, it would certainly be the most fitting opponent for Webb to do so against, we can all agree.
Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida: Hargreaves has four picks this season, returning such for a total of 152 yards, but he hasn't scored yet despite coming close. Curious to see if Hargreaves can actually punch one in when he inevitably plucks one or three of McCrary's balls out of the air on Saturday.
Josh Grady, QB, Florida: Former Vandy quarterback-turned-receiver Josh Grady now practices and plays sometimes, as a quarterback for UF. So far, Vandy's loss has been UF's gain: Grady has a 100% completion percentage in three games of action (1/1 passing for 3 yards). Grady's gotten it done with his legs as well, as evidenced by the 10.5 yards he averages per rush this season (2 rushes for 21 yards). These stats were produced by a Grady with little more motivation than to help his team secure victory. Adding in a revenge component of sorts for this Saturday's game, and it's scary to think about Grady's possible exploits.
UF is going to win this game handily, but not for a lack of effort on Vanderbilt's part—or at least its defense's part, that is. I suspect UF will pop a few big plays to start, and then cool off considerably. The spread is 21, so I'll go with UF 21, Vanderbilt 0. What in the actual hell, Florida is your 2015 SEC East Champion.