The trap game in the vernacular of college football is defined as that game on the schedule that , on paper, looks like an easy victory but in reality may lead to an unexpected loss if the players or coaches lose focus. It’s usually a conference game against a 2nd tier school that falls before, after, or between “big games”. It’s the game fans like to overlook as an “automatic” win, but in reality can be that game that shuts down championship aspirations on any given Saturday. Ask any Nole or Trojan fan and they’ll tell you all about it. Both began the season as Championship hopefuls and both were derailed by unranked teams they overlooked as fodder on their BCS trek.
This week’s opponent for the Gators, the Vanderbilt Commodores, is just that team. Following a tough grind it out, emotional home victory against LSU, before another tough conference game against 3rd ranked South Carolina, the Vandy game in Knoxville represents the classic trap game for the Gators. Unranked and unheralded, and coming off a rare confidence building road victory against Mizzou, Vanderbilt looks like an easy victory but in reality could easily be that game that derails the Gators SEC East championship aspirations.
Vanderbilt’s season has been one of contrast, almost pulling out the upset against South Carolina before losing 17-13, then losing big to Georgia 48-3, before pulling off the upset against Missouri. On paper, Florida should have no problem against the Dores, but there’s a reason they play the game and Vandy has traditionally given the Gators fits dating back to the days of The Ole Ball Coach Steve Spurrier. Vanderbilt came within a failed on-side kick of pulling the upset last year in the Swamp before losing 26-21.
Offensively, Vanderbilt is led by senior QB Jordan Rogers, who nearly beat the Gators last year with his legs as well as his arm, along with wideouts Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd. Rogers has been up and down this year completing 55% of his passes for 831 yards with two TD passes and two interceptions. Rogers, like Manziel for Texas A&M, can extend drives with his legs so once again the defensive line will have to maintain good gap control to keep Rogers inside the pocket and force him to beat you with his arm. The major knock on R0gers has been his tendency to lose accuracy in the face of a strong pass rush so pressuring him will be key.
Matthews is currently second in the conference in receptions and yards with 35 catches for 486 yards while Boyd chips in with 18 catches for 368 yards. Both receivers are competent, good route runners and make tough catches. Cornerbacks Roberson , Purifoy, and Watkins will be tested once again, but I feel confident in their ability to shut these guys down.
At running back the Commodores are led by Zach Stacy who is serviceable but not a gamebreaker. He has 413 rushing yards on 75 carries a 5.5 yards per carry average, but many came against small school Presbyterian. Vanderbilt like Kentucky uses a lot of draws and zone stretch plays which has given Florida some fits this year because it forces lineman to be disciplined in their rushing and passing lanes, but I feel confident Florida’s defense will shut him down this year.
Defensively, Vandy comes in at #66 nationally in pass efficiency defense and #80 in rushing defense. The key for Florida, of course, will be the running of Mike Gillislee who leads the conference in rushing at 109.9 yards per game and the passing of Jeff Driskel who hasn’t been asked to pass much, but has been very efficient when he has thrown the ball. The Gators will seek to be much more balanced this week after running on 80% of their offensive plays last week. Realistically, as long as they don’t turn the ball over this week, moving the ball shouldn’t be difficult and you might see many more playmakers touch the ball this week including Reed, Hammond, Burton, Hines, and Patton. You might even see some of the true freshman get in on the act like Andrades, Pittman, and Matt Jones as well as redshirt sophomore Mack Brown.
On paper this game should be a tuneup for next week’s huge home game against Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks, and assuming the coaches and players continue their workmanlike, one day at a time mentality should be an easy victory for the Gators. But in true college football fashion this game presents itself as THE trap game for the Gators and Vandy could very well win this game at home on a quiet afternoon in Knoxville. In my opinion, the focus and character this team has shown this season to date will keep them from a let down and they will easily win this one going away in the second half.
My prediction: Gators 31 Vanderbilt 13