The Vanderbilt Commodores are coming off an SEC win. That’s the first time in three years it has happened.
By Matt Zemek
Vanderbilt coach Clark Lea finally tracked down a conference victory, something he and his program badly needed in Year 2 of Lea’s tenure in Nashville. Florida has to go to the state of Tennessee for a second time this season. UF lost to the Vols before the point in time when Tennessee had become a powerhouse team this season. This game should be a lot more manageable than the Tennessee game, but a newly confident Vanderbilt squad should obviously be treated as a dangerous opponent the Gators can’t take lightly.
Here’s a look at Florida’s central keys for Saturday:
1 – Can’t be wrong with Mike Wright
Florida simply can’t get caught out of position when defending the fleet-footed Commodore quarterback, Mike Wright, who has impressive straight-line speed and who smoked the Kentucky defense with multiple big runs last weekend. Florida’s linebackers and safeties have to contain Wright and not give him the wide-open running lanes or edge opportunities Wright exploited against a normally sound Kentucky defense, which was very much off its game a week ago. Wright brings a lot to the table as a runner. Florida needs to keep him in the pocket. If the Gators fail to display good defensive discipline when dealing with Wright as a running quarterback, the rest of UF’s defensive approach will be undercut. This is where Florida can’t afford to be wrong on Saturday.
2 – Stay the course with Anthony Richardson
Florida’s offense has gone through so many ups and downs over the course of the full season, but in recent weeks, the progression of Anthony Richardson has been positive. Wins and quality generally go together to begin with, but it’s really important for Florida to finish this season with Richardson continuing to play well and develop the muscle memory which – at the start of 2023 – could enable him to be supremely potent and effective as a matter of course, not as an occasional surprise. Getting a consistently great Anthony Richardson is the gateway toward renewed national prominence for Florida. Turning him into a fully reliable quarterback matters for this game, yes, but it matters even more for next season.
3 – Openings in the passing game
Kentucky and Will Levis could not throw the ball well against Vanderbilt’s low-ranked pass defense. This is a game in which Richardson has a great chance to fatten his passing stats and hunt matchups he and Florida will benefit from. Richardson has so much room to grow; this is a game in which he can improve as a passer.