GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators hope the old saying "home sweet home" translates to a Homecoming victory on Saturday.
They need one.
Florida hosts Vanderbilt at Florida Field in search of its first win since the Gators' last home game, a 31-17 victory over Arkansas five weeks ago.
Since they improved to 4-1, 3-0 in the SEC in the victory over the Razorbacks, the Gators have lost at LSU and Missouri, and then dropped the annual Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville a week ago.
They limp home at 4-4 and in a fight to keep their streak of winning seasons and bowl games intact. Florida has not had a losing season since 1979 and has not missed a bowl game since 1990.
"First home game in over a month. Seems like it's been forever,'' Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "Motivation is what you saw in the second half [against Georgia], those guys playing for each other. We’ve got a close-knit football team, a team that’s got character and you wouldn’t have seen that in the second half if that wasn’t the case.
"So our guys will play, they’ll play hard."
The Gators fell behind to the Bulldogs 20-0 in the first half but rallied to within 23-20 at the start of the fourth quarter. However, Georgia held on to extend Florida's quest for a much-needed victory.
The Commodores come to town with an identical 4-4 record. Third-year Vanderbilt coach James Franklin has infused the program with confidence, which showed three weeks ago when the Commodores upset Georgia at home.
Vanderbilt is 11-4 in its last 15 games and finished 9-4 a season ago, its most wins since 1915.
Despite their recent struggles the Gators have no plans to throw in the white towel. That was a constant theme from players and coaches this week.
The first hurdle to clear is a win over Vanderbilt.
“It’s pretty weird, but back in 2011, it was kind of the same feeling,'' senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins said of Florida's predicament. "We did become bowl eligible, and we did have a lot to play for that year."
Let’s take a look at the Florida-Vanderbilt matchup with The Opening Kickoff:
FIVE STORYLINES TO WATCH
The Gators enter on a three-game losing streak but have not lost to the Commodores since 1988. Florida has won 22 consecutive games against Vanderbilt, a streak that started in 1989.
With four regular-season games remaining, Florida needs two wins to become bowl eligible. The Gators host Vanderbilt, travel to South Carolina, and then close with nonconference home games against Georgia Southern and Florida State.
The Gators will use their sixth different starting combination on the offensive line in nine games after starting tackle Tyler Moore suffered a season-ending injury (fractured elbow) in a scooter accident Tuesday night.
Vanderbilt's quarterback situation is somewhat unknown. Starter Austyn Carta-Samuels has been hampered by a left knee injury and did not play in a loss to Texas A&M. Patton Robinette started against A&M and Johnny McCrary served as the backup.
The Gators want to get off to a faster start than they have lately. Florida fell behind to Georgia 17-0 in the first quarter and has been outscored 62-29 in the first quarter this season, 48-16 during SEC play.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Starting left guard Max Garcia will move to left tackle in place of the injured Moore, who has moved from right tackle to left tackle against Georgia in place of injured D.J. Humphries. With Garcia moving outside, veteran reserves Kyle Koehne and Ian Silberman will play left guard.
Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews is the SEC's all-time leader in career receiving yards (3,172). Matthews, 6-3, 206 pounds, is the Commodores' most dangerous weapon and a priority for Florida's defense.
Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy flashed the kind of running ability against Georgia that Jeff Driskel did a year ago against Vanderbilt. Murphy rushed for 56 yards (28 officially after four sacks) -- including a 14-yard touchdown -- in the 23-20 loss to the Bulldogs. Driskel ran for 177 yards and three touchdowns in last year's win over Vandy, a school record for a quarterback. Murphy's ability to run is a weapon the Gators might use more in the season's final month according to Muschamp.
Florida linebackers Antonio Morrison and Michael Taylor lead the team in tackles. Morrison has 46, Taylor, 45. Morrison uncharacteristically missed several tackles against Georgia and will be tested against Vanderbilt running backs Jerron Seymour (5-6, 200) and Wesley Tate (6-1, 224) in the run game.
Gators tight end Clay Burton hauled in a two-point conversion pass from Murphy against Georgia. The tight ends have been nearly absent in the passing game, with Tevin Westbrook's two receptions the only catches prior to Burton's grab.
GatorZone.com senior writers Scott Carter and Chris Harry preview Saturday's game ...
THE QUOTE FILE
"We still have more depth than we did our first year when we couldn't do anything.'' -- Muschamp on offensive line injuries
"Offensively, you can't wait for something to happen. You've got to create your own.'' -- Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease on playing with more urgency
"Usually I say, ‘we have to be ready. The game’s going to come fast.’ But we’re used to that." -- Franklin on Vanderbilt's third consecutive game with a morning start time (11 a.m. in Nashville)
"He's a guy that with his length and ability he can go up and get the ball. They throw him a lot of 50-50 balls. They put it up to him and let him go make a play. Obviously, he's come down with a lot of those. So, yeah, he can do that.'' -- Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin on Matthews
"We feel like Driskel picks up blitzes better; he reads defenses better; he’s had more time playing, so he’s an overall better quarterback. It’s different playing against Driskel [than] playing against Murphy because you can see the inexperience in [Murphy’s] play a little bit. We feel like he kind of stares down his receivers some times, so we’re going to try to exploit that.” -- Commodores defensive tackle Barron Dixon
Vanderbilt coach James Franklin discusses his team's trip to The Swamp on Saturday ...
10 QUICK HITTERS
The Gators have beaten Vanderbilt by an average of 20.9 points since 2000. The only SEC series to feature greater margins over that span is Florida's 25.4 margin over Kentucky and LSU's 25.8 margin against Mississippi State.
The Gators own the SEC's longest streak of consecutive games without being shut out. Florida has not been shut out in 316 consecutive games; Tennessee is second at 243. The longest active streak in the country belongs to Michigan (357).
Vanderbilt was 4-4 after nine games a year ago and reeled off four consecutive wins in November to finish 8-4, its first unblemished November in 30 years.
The Gators rank second in the SEC overall in total defense, allowing 290.8 yards per game. Only Alabama (280.9) is better.
Franklin and Muschamp are both in their third seasons. Franklin is 19-15 overall, Muschamp 22-12.
The Commodores are averaging 32.1 points per game, on pace to break the school's modern-day record set last year (30 ppg). Prior to last season, Vanderbilt's high-scoring team since World War II was in 1948 (29.8 ppg).
Gators center Jonotthan Harrison is the only offensive lineman who has started every game this season.
Muschamp said competition at practice between Austin Hardin and Frankie Velez would determine who kicks Saturday.
Florida right guard Jon Halapio is expected to make his 40th career start Saturday, which is the most of any player on the team.
Trey Burton and Solomon Patton are tied for the team lead with 31 receptions. Patton's 464 yards receiving leads the team and is a career high.
Vanderbilt senior middle linebacker Chase Garnham is expected to play for the first time since the season opener. Garnham has been out with a leg injury.