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For Gators, Vandy requires vigilance Saturday

Matt Zemek

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Most of us really like to sleep, but we know that we can’t sleep too much, especially when important work must be done.

This is the reality facing the Florida Gators before they go to Vanderbilt Stadium to play the Commodores this coming Saturday.

Florida’s Week 7 foray to Nashville offers a classic setup for an ambush of the Alligators. All the ingredients are there.

11 a.m. start? Check.

Reeling opponent? Check.

Post-LSU hangover? Check?

Pre-Georgia look-ahead? Check.

This game is being played at brunchtime, and it fittingly has a massive buffet table laden with temptations, the main one being to sleep through a game, thinking Vanderbilt will be no problem.

“Hey, we handled LSU up front!”

“Hey, the Cocktail Party is gonna be HUGE this year!”

“Hey, it’s gonna be a quiet stadium in the morning, the least intimidating road environment we will play in all season!”

19- and 20-year-old males will think these thoughts. It’s not wrong to think these or any other thoughts — thoughts aren’t actions, and thoughts aren’t indicators of any person’s moral reality. The problem comes when thoughts get transferred into ACTIONS. That is the danger Dan Mullen and his staff face heading into the state of Tennessee for the second time this year.

Sleep is not for the weak — athletes need ample sleep to boost performance and keep their minds fresh — but sleeping through a game is the sign of a weak team. Florida needs to show it has become strong enough to avoid both a post-victory hangover (LSU) and a pre-showdown look-ahead (Georgia). Mature teams take care of business in situations such as this one. The Gators need to prove to themselves and Mullen that they are ready to put on the big V of vigilance against Vandy.

Florida fans know this game could become thorny, but UF’s players might not If Mullen wants to impress upon his players the point that this game is not to be taken for granted, he can speak from personal experience on the matter.

In 2006, Mullen’s first of two national championship teams at Florida barely got out of Nashville alive. The Gators slopped their way through an inelegant 25-19 win. Vanderbilt finished 4-8 that season, but it didn’t play like a 4-8 team that day. The Gators nearly had their dreams ruined. Michigan and USC dearly wish VU had scored seven more points that day.

That 2006 game — in which Mullen participated as an Urban Meyer assistant — is just one of a few examples of great Florida teams coming to Vanderbilt and riding the struggle bus. Vanderbilt doesn’t just bother Florida at home in most seasons. The more particular insight to gain from this brief study of history is that Vanderbilt bothers the BEST Florida teams.

It happened to a modest degree in 1994, when an SEC champion Gator team managed just 24 points. It happened to a much bigger degree in 2012, when Will Muschamp’s one high-quality roster led by only a touchdown, 24-17, late in the fourth quarter before a long Jeff Driskel run sealed the win with 2:20 remaining.

Even the 1996 national championship team, as insanely talented as it was on both sides of the ball, got roped into a messy and tense battle with the Commodores. Florida played what was easily its worst game of that national title season in Nashville. Losing to Florida State was disappointing, but the 1996 Gators played far worse against Vanderbilt. The Commodores are pesky against Florida, and the Gators — even when they are good — often fail to lock in and bring the hammer.

No, this doesn’t happen all the time in Nashville. Florida has thumped VU with good teams — in 1998, 2000 and 2008 — but UF’s track record in terms of playing well against the Dores on the road has been inconsistent.

Mullen will tell his players a million different times to not be complacent or sleepy against Vanderbilt. Mere talk about staying focused might not do the trick.

A history lesson involving some of Florida’s best and most accomplished teams — especially 1996 and 2006 — might give Mullen a better way to wake up his players before a contest which has “ambush” written all over it.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

Florida Gators

Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday

Florida Football Insiders

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Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators continued their philosophy of striking “home-and-home” deals with Power 5 opposition, when they announced on Friday that they will be doing so with the Cal-Berkley Bears out of the Pac-12 coming later in this decade.

The Gators made the announcement through their website and social media mid-day Friday that they will play Cal at home first and then travel to Berkeley the following year:

A.D. Scott Stricklin has broken up the long tradition that Florida would only play two home out of conference games in September and usually, against much lesser competition before entering SEC play. Stricklin has been very outspoken that in the age of the College Football Playoff, strength of schedule is emphasized and the selection committee holds schools responsible for not playing top-notch out of conference opponents, at least some of the time.

With that in mind, the Gators opened the 2019 season in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes and won a sloppy game. And, they already have other Power 5 schools laid out to play home and away.

As we previously wrote, Florida will be playing the Texas Longhorns first in Gainesville in 2030 and then. return the game the following year in Austin.

Florida had previously announced last year that they will also play the Colorado Buffaloes out of the Pac-12, again with the first game in Gainesville in 2028 and then, returning it to Boulder the following season.

It’s interesting with Friday’s announcement that Stricklin and the football program are working backwards with the schedule. And, they will now play Cal before Colorado in September of 2026, and then will be opening on the Berkeley campus the following season.

Florida and Cal have only met two times, having played first in Gainesville in 1974 as the Gators wo 21 – 17 and then, they also met in Tampa to open the 1980 season with a Florida 41-13 blowout victory.

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Florida Gators

Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools

Jamil King

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

National Signing Day 2020 has come and gone, and several in state schools were able to improve their classes heading into spring ball. The University of Florida watched rival Georgia secure the number one overall class, but the Gators were still able to land the best class in the state with the number eight class overall.

The Gators officially signed former five-star receiver Justin Shorter from Penn State, and Florida stayed in the family today as well, Xzavier Henderson officially joined the Gators. He’s the ounger brother of  former DB C.J. Henderson.

Dan Mullen also able to dip into the state of Texas inking four-star DE Princely Umanmielen. It wasn’t all great news for the Gators, as they missed out on a few key guys, including losing out on arguably top state safety Avantae Williams to in state rival Miami. Overall it was a good cycle for the Gators both recruiting and in the transfer portal.

The Miami Hurricanes continued an impressive offseason on National Signing Day. The Canes made arguably the biggest move in the state by landing Williams and keeping him Florida. Williams became the highest rated Hurricane in the class and propelled the U to the number 13 spot.

Miami has the second-best class in the ACC behind Clemson. With an impressive offseason in the books, once again excitement will be in the air in Coral Gables. The question is: will they live up to it in year two for Manny Diaz?

Florida State and new coach Mike Norvell have been working hard to get this class rolling last minute. After a good early National Signing Day Norvell looked to keep the momentum going. The Noles took a big hit Wednesday though, with the loss of Venice four star WR, Malachi Wideman, who flipped to Tennessee.

The Noles came back from that by landing a handful of other recruits. They got the number six Juco running back La’Damian Webb, ass well as, Robert Scott, an offensive lineman and Corey Wren, an athlete/running back.

Replacing Cam Akers will be tough for Norvell and building the offensive line is a top priority. The former Memphis coach came in late like he did, yet he finishes with a decent class sitting at 22 on 24/7.

Now the work begins turning around the former powerhouse.

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