Florida Three Keys: Vanderbilt


The Florida Gators are steadily evolving. This does not mean they are a complete team. This does not mean they are ready to play Georgia on even terms for 60 minutes. It does mean Dan Mullen knows what he is doing, and that after Nick Saban and Kirby smart, he is the third-best coach in the SEC.

By Matt Zemek

No, he hasn’t coached for the national title or won the SEC as Gus Malzahn has, but with the Gus Bus breaking down at Auburn and Mullen having already beaten his previous employer on the road in Starkville, how many people in the SEC would put Mullen below any of the other 11 non-Saban, non-Kirby coaches in the league?

Some might say Jimbo Fisher, probably the only other candidate worthy of serious consideration, but Texas A&M has a more naturally gifted quarterback (Kellen Mond) than Mullen does right now at Florida, and yet the Aggies’ offense looked pedestrian against Kentucky – no more pedestrian than Florida was against the Wildcats, but no less, either.

Mullen is getting more out of his talent than Fisher is. Florida is playing better than Kentucky right now. That doesn’t mean the Gators deserve another shot at UK – you play teams when you play them and have to seize the moment when it comes. Nevertheless, Florida now looks well situated to make a run at second place in the SEC East, which didn’t seem very possible three weeks ago.

Florida isn’t BACK… but the important part is that it is getting there. Now comes the time to keep moving in the right direction against Vanderbilt.


The temptation among young athletes is to think that after winning a huge game – as the Gators did against LSU – they have arrived. They’ve “made it.” Mullen has to hammer into his players’ heads that they haven’t made anything. Replicating success is the point.

No letdown, no laziness, no really bad lapses. No one should expect perfection with this team, but the Gators need a focused, intense, clearheaded performance against Vanderbilt. That should be sufficient. Mature teams take care of business in situations such as this one. That has to be the theme of the week for the Gators.


The Gators can’t just roll the ball out there and expect to cruise. That kind of attitude will get them in trouble. However, in terms of the matchup against the Vanderbilt offense, the Gators’ defense has yet another opponent which is not turbocharged. Mississippi State, LSU, and now Vanderbilt all have limited passing games that have struggled to produce the big downfield play this season. The Gators know that if they can avoid the busted coverage or a miscommunication in their back lines of defense, their front four and especially their pass rush can get the job done. MSU and LSU weren’t totally smothered against Florida, but the Gators kept the ball in front of them and forced long drives which Nick Fitzgerald and Joe Burrow could not complete. It should be little different with Kyle Shurmur of VU.


The Gators need more of what Kadarius Toney can give them on offense. More touches should mean more UF production, against Vanderbilt or anyone else. Expand his role.

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