That was one of the best Vandy teams in recent memory that came into the Swamp Saturday, and the fact that the Gators dominated until midway through the 3rd quarter was good to see. The Commodores had already taken Georgia and Arkansas to the wire earlier this year, so Gator fans shouldn’t be too concerned about the close final score.
On offense, it looks like the Pistol formation may be the best way to help Brantley out with his limited mobility, and it seemed to be the most effective scheme for both the OL and RBs. Demps came up with a huge effort with Rainey out, and Joyer showed he can be an effective blocking back and can get some tough yards in the red zone. Even the passing game looked a little more settled, with a handful of WRs getting involved, and actually some completions in the middle of the field, which have been sorely lacking all season.
The Gator defense did a good job through 3 quarters containing an very good QB in Jordan Rodgers, who may be a top 3 SEC QB this year. The only disappointing performance came in the 4th quarter, as the defense started to lay back in pass coverage and allowed Vandy to find some rhythm and start moving the ball. The safety play other than Elam continues to struggle, as Pop Saunders again gave up a big TD pass. Unfortunately, there’s no help on the horizon the rest of this season, and somehow Coach Robinson has to get something out of this position. Michael Taylor looked pretty good in his first start at LB, and should be a major contributor from here on out. Roberson was solid at CB again, and Jaylen Watkins continues to improve now that he’s getting more snaps at the other CB spot.
It’s on to Columbia this week to face the Gamecocks and the Pariah. There would be a lot of satisfaction to gain in ruining what hopes they have left to win the East.
The USCeast defense has a solid DL, led by Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney. The LBs are adequate, but their secondary is beat up right now and has been torched most of the year. The usual formula for winning in the SEC, especially on the road, is to establish a good running game. However, since the Gators have struggled most of the year generating long drives, it may be time to simply air it out deep and often to try and make enough big plays to negate that need, and to loosen up the defense to perhaps create some running opportunities. I expect Andre Debose to get some chances all day to break a long play, and hope to see more crossing routes by the other WRs like Frankie Hammond or TE Jordan Reed. Weis will probably continue to use the Pistol formation to give Brantley and the OL it’s best chance of success. It will be interesting to see if Robey gets more snaps at C, with Harrison sliding over to G and Wenger going to the bench. The bad snaps have hindered the timing of the offense lately, and Wenger simply isn’t good enough. The left side of the OL with Chaz Green out has been a mess – perhaps he plays some this week, because Xavier Nixon has regressed to the point where he needs help on almost every pass play, and isn’t strong enough to be an effective run blocker.
The Gamecock offense looks like it will have Connor Shaw at QB, after he left last week’s game at Arkansas with what looked like a possible concussion. The Pariah will pull out all the stops in this one, and I expect a lot of passing early, especially with Marcus Lattimore out for the season with a knee injury. Brandon Wilds could get some carries, but Shaw actually likes to run as well, and the Gator LBs need to perhaps spy him to try and prevent the QB runs that hurt them the past 2 games. The Gator DL should be able to at least get a draw, so it once again will fall on the LBs and DBs to make some big plays if Florida wants to have a chance of winning. WR Alshon Jeffery is still a tough matchup for anyone due to his size, so expect Roberson to get that assignment all afternoon, with perhaps some safety help rolling to that side occasionally. That leaves the rest of the inexperienced DBs to stop Ace Sanders and the other WRs. USCeast does an effective job of utilizing the RBs in the passing game, so the Florida LBs have to rise to the occasion – Bostic and Jenkins will be busy all day.
The Gators really do have the personnel to win this game, even with some shortcomings in the secondary. However, most road games in the SEC are tough, and until this current group proves it, I can’t see a win in Columbia. We may have to see that smirking face of the Pariah for another year after this game……yeesh.
Prediction – S. Carolina 27 Florida 17