Gators game preview: Vanderbilt

ESPN’s GatorNation brings you the 30 things you need to know about Florida’s upcoming 2012 season. For 30 weekdays we’ll preview games, talk about trends, spotlight players and positions, and give you pretty much everything you need to know to be ready for the season before the Sept. 1 opener against Bowling Green.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- GatorNation is previewing each of Florida’s 2012 opponents. Today is Vanderbilt (Oct. 13 in Nashville, Tenn.)


2011 record: 6-7 (2-6 SEC), lost to Cincinnati 31-24 in AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

Coach: James Franklin, second season (6-7).

Series record: Florida leads 34-9-2.

Top returners: QB Jordan Rodgers (108-216-10, 1,524 yards, 9 TDs; 420 yards, 4 TDs rushing); RB Zac Stacy (1,193 yards 14 TDs); DT Rob Lohr (41 tackles, 5 sacks); CB Trey Wilson (30 tackles, 3 INTs).

Did you know? Vanderbilt has never played in a bowl game in consecutive seasons.

Scouting the offense: Stacy, who holds the single-season school rushing record, is one of the SEC’s better backs, but the Commodores have to develop a passing game to complement him. The WRs are solid, so the only question mark is the development of Rodgers. He needs to be more accurate and patient.

Scouting the defense: Lohr leads an experienced line, but the linebackers are unproven after Archibald Barnes, who led Vandy in tackles last season. The secondary should be good again, but it’s unrealistic to expect the group to account for 15 of Vandy’s 19 interceptions again.

Three things to watch

  1. Rodgers really hurt UF in last season’s meeting (297 yards, 2 TDs passing; 20 yards, 1 TD rushing) because the Gators couldn’t keep him in the pocket. Rodgers kept plays alive by moving out of the pocket but still keeping his eyes downfield. UF has to get a good game from its edge rushers.

  2. Vanderbilt’s defensive line is solid, but the Commodores don’t have the quality depth at that spot that most of the other SEC teams have. The result is they can wear down later in games against teams with big, physical offensive lines. UF coach Will Muschamp believes he has a line like that now.

  3. Vanderbilt lost four SEC games by a combined 19 points last season. When something like that happens, it’s usually little things that can make the difference. Against UF, for example, Lohr jumped offside on fourth down and there was a pass-interference penalty on the same drive in the fourth quarter that eventually ended with UF’s game-clinching touchdown. If the Commodores can eliminate those small mistakes at crucial times, they can be dangerous.