After narrowly escaping an upset at Kentucky last week, No. 21 Florida will have a new starting quarterback when it hosts Vanderbilt on Saturday. Junior Luke Del Rio, the son of Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio who made six starts last season, makes his first start of 2017 after throwing a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes to rally the Gators to a 28-27 victory over the Wildcats.
Del Rio takes over for redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, who won a quarterback battle in fall camp against Del Rio and Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire. But with his offense stagnating last week at Kentucky, Florida coach Jim McElwain decided to make the switch back to Del Rio, whose 5-yard pass to an uncovered Freddie Swain with 43 seconds left capped the Gators’ dramatic comeback from a 27-14 fourth-quarter deficit. “It really had nothing to do with Feleipe doing anything wrong,” McElwain said at his Monday press conference. “We were kind of in a stall mode. ... We needed a jump-start. It was like, sometimes maybe not all cylinders were hitting, and yet I think he came in and gave us a boost.”
TV: Noon ET, ESPN. LINE: Florida -10
ABOUT VANDERBILT (3-1, 0-1 SEC): The Commodores, who opened a lot of eyes in the college football world with a 3-0 start that was capped by a 14-7 victory over then-No. 18 ranked Kansas State, come in off their first loss of the season, and it was a whopper, 59-0 to No. 1 Alabama. “Those guys have done a good job looking at it and figuring out what we did wrong,” head coach Derek Mason said. “In looking at our practices over the last couple of days, these guys have done exactly what we needed them to do.” One big area is the running game, where the Commodores, who have rushed for just 350 yards in four games, were scorched for 496 yards by the Crimson Tide.
ABOUT FLORIDA (2-1, 2-0): Del Rio was 5-1 as a starter last season while throwing for 1,358 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions before suffering knee and shoulder injuries that required multiple surgeries in the offseason. The Gators snapped a streak of eight games without a rushing touchdown with two in the win at Kentucky but both came out of the wildcat formation with wide receiver Kadarius Toney scoring on a 36-yard run and wide receiver Brandon Powell on a 5-yard run, both on direct snaps. Sophomore linebacker David Reese leads the defense with 26 tackles while freshman defensive back C.J. Henderson has two interceptions, both of which he returned for touchdowns.
1. McElwain is 15-3 in SEC regular-season games, which ties him with Steve Spurrier for the best 18-game SEC start in school history.
2. The trip to The Swamp is a homecoming for senior RB Ralph Webb, who leads Vanderbilt in rushing (64 carries, 169 yards, 2 TDs) and attended Gainesville High School.
3. Florida’s defense leads the SEC in sacks per game (3.33) and is second in tackles for loss (7.7).
PREDICTION: Florida 23, Vanderbilt 10