It’s no secret that Florida needs to win this Saturday if Will Muschamp wants to keep his job.
Beating Georgia may have been Muschamp’s biggest win ever as a head coach. It’s right up there with beating a top ten FSU team in Tallahassee two years ago. It felt great to beat the Dawgs, and it still feels great. That’s what happens when you ruin a rival’s season by beating them. But it’s also a trap, as I wrote yesterday. Of course, you can kind of consider every game a trap game with Will Muschamp at the helm after losing to Georgia Southern last year, but that’s besides the point.
I am a bit worried about Vanderbilt. I’m not chewing my nails off, but I’m a bit concerned for one main reason.
Vandy has a new starting quarterback in Johnny McCrary, who was inserted midway through the Dores’ game against Charleston Southern a few weeks ago. He replaced the ineffective Wade Freebeck and immediately launched a 65 yard touchdown pass to guide the Commodores to a 21-20 win- call it an escape, really- and was declared the starter for the next game against Missouri. McCrary didn’t play too badly, but did throw a costly pick inside Missouri territory and Vandy lost 24-14. But against Old Dominion, McCrary went off for five touchdowns and 286 yards as Vandy won 42-28.
No, I’m not going to try to spin this as a “McCrary could be the next Dak Prescott” article, because he’s not. Let’s keep things in perspective: this was Old Dominion, an FCS team. He took over for Freebeck and won the job with a strong performance against Charleston Southern- also an FCS team. Whatever else you want to say about Will Muschamp, his defenses are leagues better than those two school’s, and yes, even better than Missouri’s. McCrary will be coming into this game full of confidence. Florida’s defense is more than capable of crushing that confidence.
The biggest threat McCrary poses is his danger in the running game. That’s not to say he can’t beat Florida through the air, but Vanderbilt has not yet proven to be able to beat anybody at the FBS level through the air. But anyway, McCrary, Ralph Webb, Jerron Seymour and Dallas Rivers combine to form a respectable group of guys that can beat you on the ground if you’re not careful.
Unfortunately for Vanderbilt, stopping the run is what Florida does best. And since Vanderbilt lacks the proven playmakers in the passing game needed to keep Florida out of the box, Muschamp has two reasons to load up the line of scrimmage- stop the run and make McCrary’s life a living hell. And from there, all it really comes down to is a Florida defense with multiple first round draft picks to make the plays they’ve been put in the position to make.
This is a Florida team that was blown out in the Swamp by Vandy last year. You can bet the players remember it, and you can bet Muschamp remembers it, too. You know how all the talk since last Saturday was how motivated they were for Georgia? Think that level of motivation this Saturday, too. The difference is that Vanderbilt doesn’t have a Nick Chubb in the backfield to take some of the heat off McCrary. Vandy has a couple of decent backs, but none that particularly scare me.
But the bottom line is that this is all on paper. Florida is supposed to beat Vanderbilt by two touchdowns- at least. That’s what everybody expects to happen. What we’ve come to see far too often under Muschamp is that what’s supposed to happen doesn’t, and what isn’t supposed to happen does.
That’s got to change tomorrow. The Gators have to try to end the game before it ever really begins. Rattle McCrary, bat away passes, blanket his short easy throws and dare him to beat our (admittedly young) secondary with deep passes. Florida’s not playing any Cover 4 against the Commodores. They’re pinning their ears back, and they’re coming for Johnny McCrary.
And they’re going for their second winning record in the SEC since 2009, which they will have with two straight wins over Vandy and South Carolina.