When: 12:21 p.m. (ET) Saturday Oct. 19, 2013; SEC Network
Where: Faurot Field/ Memorial Stadium; Columbia, Missouri
TIME TO LOOSEN UP
The Florida offense has been wound tighter than a two dollar watch this year. It has gotten to the point (again) where it isn't fun to watch. There have been plenty of excuses, too many injuries to count and it appears that second string quarterback turned starter Tyler Murphy is counted on that list but will be able to play after playing a little bit through the pain last week.
Second string turned starting running back Mack Brown has a slight injury, but played through that last week as well. That opens the door for freshman Kelvin Taylor to let it loose this week when he gets on the field.
The top three receivers in Trey Burton, Solomon Patton, and Quinton Dunbar have performed okay this season but the Gators need to get more. One thing I would like them to do is trot Burton out in a running back role a couple of times early, then get the defense to play a linebacker on him, then back to the passing game. Burton has been matched up with faster defenders since he moved to receiver and has yet to break that real long play that should be coming.
We saw freshmen receivers Ahmad Fulwood and Demarcus Robinson get a little more involved in the offense last week and hopefully that is about to take off. It will take them being on the same page, but we should start seeing more of that as we move forward and the Gators would like to find a big play maker among the two.
Missouri is ranked dead last in the SEC in pass defense at 293.2 yards per game. Taking some play action shots could be very beneficial.
On the offensive line, let's just start with staying away from the penalties. The Gators have proven decent in ‘moving the chains' but the penalties have been an issue with getting away from that. As we have said, they need to loosen up, but when it is time to play straight up and run the ball, they need to stay away from the cheap penalties that have haunted them.
Defensively the Gators may be facing a quandary if Ronald Powell isn't playing which should be expected at this point. The junior BUCK hasn't been racking it up on the stat sheet but he has been affecting the offenses on the field. Plus, the previous loss of Dominique Easley for the season allows a lot less flexibility up front.
With Powell out, it appears that starting BUCK Dante Fowler will have to play his regular position almost exclusively and that defensive end Jonathan Bullard will have to play that position almost exclusively. They were sliding those guys over and playing Bullard at defensive tackle to get a little more push from the inside. That means the defensive tackle trio of Damien Jacobs, Leon Orr, and Darious Cummings need to step up and oddly enough it may be a loss at another position that causes a ripple effect and pulls the red-shirt off of a freshman defensive tackle, most likely Jay-nard Bostwick.
Powell's absence at SAM is probably replaceable with the overall play at linebacker, and Darrin Kitchens or Neiron Ball could fill in there. Antonio Morrison needs to step up, he's racking up tackles, but needs to play closer to the line of scrimmage for my blood. Play like Michael Taylor.
The secondary is playing ok, but needs to get away from the penalties that have plagued them. The Missouri receivers are huge, but that is a good matchup for the Gator secondary in my opinion which was built with size and to defend size.
Missouri enters with issues of their own at quarterback as starter James Franklin was having a terrific year and went down to injury last week. He was replaced by red-shirt freshman Maty Mauk who will start against Florida.
Mauk has completed all of five passes on six attempts this season including going 3-3 last week in the Tigers great win over Georgia. He is supposed to be the future in Missouri and the future gets an early start.
The Tigers are second in the conference in rushing at 239.3 yards per game. Henry Josey, Russell Hansbrough, and Marcus Murphy have combined for 1099 yards and 15 touchdowns. It is a strong trio but their running game does appear hurt with the loss of franklin who also had over 300 yards himself.
The receivers are huge and the big weapons are L'Damian Washington who has 455 yards and seven touchdowns and sophomore Dorial Beckham-Green who has 399 yards and four touchdowns through the air. Marcus Lucas actually has the most catches at 30 but averages just 10 yards a catch with his 300 yards and a touchdown.
Missouri's offensive line is solid and a good reason they are one of the more efficient offenses in all of college football.
Defensive ends Michael Sam and Kony Ealy are the stars up front. Sam has 10 tackles for loss and six sacks on the season so far. Ealy has three TFL, 2.5 sacks, and a team leading five passes broken up.
Mike linebacker Andrew Wilson leads the team in tackles with 44, just what you want from your middle linebacker. Kentrell Brothers and Donovan Bonner are the outside guys and all three backers are over 240 pounds.
The Missouri defense sits 12th in a 14 team conference allowing 419.3 yards per game. The are dead last in pass defense allowing 293.2 yards through the air per game. To make matters worth, the best player in the secondary E.J. Gaines is questionable for the game Saturday after getting injured against Georgia.
Depending on the overall health of Tyler Murphy the gator passing game will get a look at one of the better bend but don't break pass defenses in the league and may be able to rack up some yardage.
Missouri's rush defense is decisively better allowing just 126.2 yards per game and third in the conference. Florida is hoping for a shot in the arm from freshman running back Kelvin Taylor.
The bottom line, when Florida is offense they are only going to have success when they mix things up. Missouri comes in with the 12th ranked conference defense, but Florida is going to have to hit some big plays a for a change as the Tigers are stingy in keeping the ball out of the end zone.
Missouri has been really balanced on offense and are 2nd in pass offense and 3rd in rush defense in the conference. They are also scoring 45.7 yards a game, good for 2nd in the SEC.
They take a big hit with the loss of Franklin and maybe more in the running game with his rushing yards he is good for. Their offense will be much more contained because of the loss of franklin, which plays in the Gators favor.
Ass mentioned above, they really have three receivers that make all the catches and size is less a worry for Florida than big time speed and skill. I really like the matchup of Florida's secondary vs the receivers of Missouri.
Compounding issues with the loss of Franklin is that Missouri is susceptible to the sack. They are 11th in the conference allowing 15 on the year. Dante Fowler should be smiling.
Florida is looking to overhaul their kicking game with a kicker that has played one game but is two for two and burning the red-shirt on freshman punter Johnny Townsend.
As bad as some folks consider the Gators to be in those two categories, Missouri is struggling in every facet of special teams. The Gators are solid in kick returns and pretty good in punt returns. The Tigers are 12th in the conference in both net punting and kickoff coverage.
With the issues on both teams at quarterback turnovers will likely be a big factor. Missouri is tops in the SEC in turnover margin, but charging forward in that category is the Gators who are now sitting 4th in the conference. I think the difference here is a new quarterback in Mauk throwing against a very good secondary. Because of that I am going relatively low score and take the Gators 24-21.
Here is more from the week leading up to the game…
Taylor hoping for improved run defense
Murphy looks to take pressure off of run game
Pease Notebook: Taylor will have his chance
Durkin wants better play up front
Secondary prepping for BIG challenge
Offensive line expecting better
Brown says backs need to step up