NASHVILLE (CBSMiami) – Fresh off a defensive struggle that saw the Florida Gators knock off the LSU Tigers and ascend to fourth in the national rankings, the Gators now travel to Nashville to take on a Vanderbilt team that almost beat UF last year in Gainesville.
In 2011, the Commodores rallied with three touchdowns in the second half before Florida snuck out with a 26-21 win in the Swamp. Most of Florida’s players remember exactly how close they came to disaster against Vandy last year.
“It lets you know this is not a joke week or anything like that,” said Gators cornerback Jaylen Watkins. “We’ve got to play or something bad will happen.”
Vanderbilt is coming off a road win over woeful conference opponent Missouri. The Tigers lost to Vandy 19-16 and gave the Commodores their first conference victory of the season. The loss ignited the Missouri locker room into rage after the team left the field.
But UF has dominated Vanderbilt historically. The Gators have beaten Vandy 21 straight times and much of the focus for the Gators fans is already on next Saturday’s game when UF hosts third-ranked South Carolina, followed by the annual game against the Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville.
Three victories in that stretch will vault Florida to the SEC Championship and into the national championship discussion. Florida quarterback Jeff Drisekl said the Gators understand how big each SEC game is ahead of the Vandy game.
“You can’t take anybody lightly because anybody can beat you,” Driskel said. “This league is full of players and full of athletes, and they’re going to be well-coached and ready to go. So we can’t take this week off or take it lightly. We’re going to prepare like we have been the whole year, and we’ll be ready to go Saturday.”
The Commodores know what to expect from Florida with the Gators and running back Mike Gillislee averaging 214.8 yards rushing per game. That’s third-best in the SEC and 24th nationally. Driskel is completing 69.2 percent of his passes when he does throw, and Vandy head coach James Franklin said that’s why Vanderbilt can’t simply load up near the line of scrimmage.
“They’re 5-0 for a reason,” Franklin said.
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)