GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The main goal is gone. Winning the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division is on hold again.
All they have to play for in November is bowl eligibility.
The Vanderbilt Commodores are familiar with the feeling. The Florida Gators are getting a pretty good handle on it, too.
Coach Will Muschamp's team is struggling to get to six wins for the second time in three seasons, a position the powerhouse program has rarely been in over the last four decades.
A slew of injuries, many to key starters, has Florida (4-4, 3-3 SEC) there now.
It also leaves Vanderbilt (4-4, 1-4) with arguably its best chance in years to get a victory in one of college football's most lopsided series Saturday.
The Gators have won 22 in a row against the Commodores, a streak that started in 1989.
"We are both 0-0 this week, so none of that really matters," Vanderbilt defensive end Walker May said. "We are going into this game with the mindset that only this week matters."
Vanderbilt has to like its chances of becoming bowl eligible for the third consecutive year. The Commodores finish with Kentucky (2-6), Tennessee (4-5) and Wake Forest (4-5). A win over Florida, though, would be huge for coach James Franklin's team, which upset then-No. 15 Georgia three weeks ago.
The Gators, meanwhile, probably need to extend their dominance in the series to make a bowl for the 23rd straight year. Florida finishes the season against No. 13 South Carolina (7-2), lower-division Georgia Southern (4-4) and third-ranked Florida State (8-0) - and only one of those is a gimme.
"Obviously, this is not what we expected," Gators defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. said. "This is not our standard here. ... We are where we are. We're mad. We're not OK with it. We're a mad team. We want to win. Definitely, definitely not the spot we thought we'd be sitting in.
"When you get to this point, you kind of have to put arms around each other and play for each other."
Here are five things to know about Vanderbilt and Florida heading into Saturday's game:
INJURY BUG: One of the strangest seasons in Gainesville just keeps getting worse. The Gators opened fall practice without quarterback Jeff Driskel (appendectomy), running back Matt Jones (viral infection) and guard Jon Halapio (torn pectoral), and those setbacks proved to be a glimpse of things to come. Florida has lost nine players, including Driskel (broken leg) and Jones (knee), for the year. The latest season-ending injury came Tuesday night when offensive tackle Tyler Moore sustained a compound fracture of his right elbow in a scooter accident near campus.
SCORING SPREE: Even though the Commodores lost senior quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels against Georgia to a left leg injury, they kept scoring. The Commodores have scored at least 24 points in 14 straight games, which they had never done before. That is a big reason why Vanderbilt is 11-4 over its last 15 games. Vanderbilt is averaging 32.1 points a game this season, on pace for the most productive season in school history.
PENALTIES PILE UP: The only thing more mounting than injuries for Florida are penalties. The Gators lead the SEC with 62 penalties for 497 yards - on pace to top the league in flags for the third consecutive year under Muschamp. "In the heat of the game, a lot of stuff can happen," Florida linebacker Michael Taylor said. "It's all a matter of keeping our composure."
DEFENDING MATTHEWS: Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews leads the SEC with 66 catches and is third with 890 yards. He became the SEC's all-time leader for receiving yards (3,172) against Texas A&M. He has topped 100 yards receiving in five of eight games this season, but could face his toughest test against Florida's highly touted secondary that includes Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Roberson and freshman Vernon Hargreaves.
HOMECOMING STREAK: Florida has won 31 of its last 33 homecoming games, and both losses were pinned on key injuries. Playing without star running back Emmitt Smith, the Gators lost 16-0 to Auburn in 1988. And Florida dropped a homecoming game three years ago against Mississippi State, failing to manage points in a 10-7 loss without accurate place-kicker Caleb Sturgis. Could it happen again against Vanderbilt?
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