Missouri at Florida: Five Things to Know
There is plenty at stake in the Florida-Missouri match up on Saturday. While the chances of an SEC title are probably out the window for both programs, pride and a chance at bowl eligibility are still on the line. Missouri and Florida still have a chance at New Year’s Eve bowl game and could also play spoiler to other higher-ranked teams in the country and the SEC. There are no givens in this game, but a loss could be more detrimental than a win at The Swamp this weekend.
The opinion of those “in the know” about the future of Gators head coach Will Muschamp is as much a kept secret as who would win the Heisman Trophy last season. It is true Muschamp should be relieived of his duties at the end of the season and that Gators Athletic Director Jeremy Foley would evaluate the situation at the end of the season. But a loss to Missouri could open the door for a change to be made sooner rather than later.
Mark Long of the Associated Press said on 1010XL AM and 92.5 FM in Jacksonville, FL said he thought that if the Gators lose the game on Saturday, Foley could make a move in the off week for the Gators. Mat Hayes of the Sporting News said on the same radio station that he thought nothing would happen until after the season and the prospects of replacing Muschamp were not great because there are not a lot of coaches who would take the job.
Either way, this is a game of intrigue – if not for the teams playing, then surely for the man who stands of the sideline of the home team.
Here are five things to know about this game.
AN ELIMINATION GAME
For Missouri for sure. The ship probably sailed with the loss to Georgia for Missouri. Looking ahead at Missouri’s schedule after Florida and Vanderbilt, the finishing kick against Kentucky, at Texas A&M and Tennessee and versus Arkansas looks treacherous. There may be only one win in that entire stretch.
While there have been moments this season and lots of yardage gained, the Gators offensive unit has nt been that good. The Tigers will be crying if Florida, and its quarterback platoon of Jeff Driskel and Treon Harris, light up the scoreboard in The Swamp. The Gators have struggled offensively almost as much as the Tigers this season. Missouri needs to keep that trend going. Defensive coordinator Dave Steckel’s unit has made great strides since the Indiana loss.
Driskel has struggled, completing less than 55 percent of his passes with eight interceptions and only six touchdowns. Gator Nation is clamoring for Harris, but he’s inexperienced aside from a late-game appearance at Tennessee when he completed two of four passes for 17 yards.
THE KEY MATCH UP
Remember that speed kills in football. Missouri needs to protect better up front and quarterback Maty Mauk needs to make better decisions consistently, but it won’t matter if the Tigers’ receivers don’t get open. The Gators’ starting cornerbacks, junior Brian Poole and sophomore Vernon Hargreaves III, are as good as it gets.
THE DEFENSE RESTS
Florida averages more than three sacks and eight tackles for a loss per game. Backup defensive end Alex McCalister, who had 1 1/2 sacks and 2 1/2 tackles for a loss last week against LSU, leads the charge along with fellow end Dante Fowler Jr., who is tied with McCalister’s team lead at five tackles for a loss and second with 2 1/2 sacks.
PREDICTION: FLORIDA 27 MISSOURI 23
This is one of those games where I would not be shocked to see Florida win or lose. The loss just places another nail in Muschamp’s coffin. The Gators need this one. Had they played their first game of the year against Idaho and had they not dripped a pass in the end zone last week against LSU, the Gators would be 5-1 heading into this game – which makes Muschamp’s job a little safer. Regardless of the offense and its propensity to falter, Florida should win this game.