Keep your eye on the two guys in the middle of Missouri’s D-line – Josh Augusta (6-4 and a biscuit or two more than 350) and freshman Terry Beckner (just 19 years old and still growing at 6-4, 310). What they’ve been able to do so far this season is clog up the middle, forcing teams to try their luck running outside the tackles. Missouri figures if you’re trying to get outside, then there is every good chance tackling machine linebackers Kentrell Brothers and Michael Sherer will run you down. Last year the two of them combined for 236 tackles. They’ve got 92 between them through five games in 2015.
Missouri gives up only 109.4 yards per game on the ground and just 2.85 yards per carry. The defensive idea is familiar – make the opponent one-dimensional by eliminating the threat on the ground. It’s what every SEC team tries to do, but few do it as well as the Tigers, whose defense has carried them to two straight SEC East championships and two straight wins over the Gators by a 78-30 margin.
This will be the best defense Florida (5-0, 3-0 SEC) has faced all season and moving the football starts with figuring out a way to successfully attack the big guys in the middle. One way might be to use tempo since the Tigers only rotate six players on the D-line. Kentucky used that tactic successfully, wearing down the Tigers to the point the pass rush was non-existent in the second half. The key stat for Kentucky was the 9.2 yards Patrick Towles averaged per pass attempt. Tempo gassed the Tigers, allowing Towles plenty of time in the pocket to attack the secondary 12-18 yards downfield.
It also helped that Kentucky protected the football, something South Carolina failed to do last week. Missouri picked off three South Carolina passes last week and has seven on the season.
Offensive keys for the Gators will be (1) wear down the defensive line; (2) get enough of a running game going that the Tigers can’t continually drop seven into coverage and (3) no fumbles and no picks.
Defensively, Florida cannot allow Missouri to finally get its running game going. The Tigers ran for 163 yards against South Carolina last week, their best game of the season. Russell Hansbrough, who gained more than 1,000 yards last year, is finally healthy after a high ankle sprain in game one, so Florida has to keep him bottled up. If the running game isn’t reliable, Mizzou will have to depend on freshman QB Drew Lock against Florida’s ferocious pass rush and lock down secondary.
This is a game Florida should win, but the Gators should have beaten Missouri last year and lost 42-13 largely due to six turnovers. For the Gators to turn Missouri’s homecoming celebration into a bad day at the ball yard, they can’t be giving points away by losing the turnover battle.
Last week: 6-3
#11 FLORIDA 21, MISSOURI 10: Nobody is going to score a lot of points in this one, but the Gators have better firepower and their defense is every bit as good as the one Mizzou will throw at them. As long as the Gators don’t turn the ball over, they’ll move to 6-0 for the first time since 2012 and become the first bowl-eligible SEC team.
#7 LSU 34, South Carolina 14: Because of the flooding in Columbia, this one will be played at Tiger Stadium. The Gamecocks only chance to slow down Leonard Fournette would have been to play at Williams-Brice with the field two feet under water. On dry land, South Carolina has no chance.
#8 Alabama 28, Arkansas 14: This could turn out interesting if Arkansas can get into a rhythm with its ground game early on. That’s what worked last year when a bad call by the zebras and a missed extra point were all that stood between the Hogs and an upset in Fayette Nam. Alabama stuffed Nick Chubb until garbage time last week. The Tide will do the same thing to Alex Collins of Arkansas this week. Derrick Henry could run for 200 yards.
#14 Ole Miss 55, New Mexico State 21: What better way to lick the wounds of a 28-point hammering at the hands of Florida than to play a team like New Mexico State, which will gladly accept humiliation in exchange for an $800,000 paycheck.
#19 Georgia 35, Tennessee 20: Call this the self-esteem bowl. After blowing three two-touchdown leads the Vols are on the verge of an inferiority complex and Butch Jones needs an image makeover. After going belly up in another marquee game, Mark Richt needs an in-home visit from Tony Robbins to start feeling good about himself again. The Dogs have a way of losing one or two games every year they have no business losing. This could be one of the two although conventional wisdom says Georgia wins.
Mississippi State 44, Troy 10: After spending a large portion of last week running for his life to escape Garrett Myles, Dak Prescott will enjoy being the hot knife cutting through the butter soft Troy defense.
COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY: WEEK SIX EDITION
EXTINCT SPECIES LIST
1. Tim Beckman, Illinois
ON LIFE SUPPORT
1. Mike London, Virginia (1-3): It’s time to apply the can of beans theory with Mike London. Eat a can of beans and you realize there are so many beans that it’s virtually impossible to pinpoint which ones made you fart. So much has gone wrong at Virginia that it’s virtually impossible to pinpoint which problems are going to cause London to be looking for gainful employment at the end of this season.
2. Kyle Flood Rutgers (1-3): Technically speaking Flood didn’t coach the last three games because he was suspended by the school for allegedly trying to influence a faculty member to help out one of his players in the classroom and for all sorts of off the field shenanigans by several other players. He’s back coaching again this week and Michigan State comes to town, not exactly the kind of game that can get him back in the good graces of the administration.
3. Darrell Hazell, Purdue (1-4): The Boilermakers had Michigan State on the ropes last week and that would have bought plenty of good will in West Lafayette, but defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory. Hazell is 5-24 for his tenure at Purdon’t. He needs to go 5-2 the rest of the way to avoid negotiating a buyout.
4. George O’Leary, UCF (0-5): The Knights are 0-5 and rank dead last in the NCAA in total offense. The next five games are very losable. The administration at UCF has been wanting to jettison O’Leary for years. Here’s their chance.
5. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State (2-2): The 2-2 record doesn’t sound so bad until you see that one win is over D1AA Northern Iowa and the other is over Kansas, which has already lost to a D1AA team. Texas Tech, TCU and Baylor are the next three opponents and that translates into three brutal losses.
6. Trent Miles, Georgia State (1-3): The Panthers desperately want and need someplace to play other than the Georgia Dome where average attendance for two games is 10,882. Losing last week to D1AA Liberty didn’t help the quest for the new stadium and it didn’t do much for the job security of Trent, whose career record is 2-26. It will be 2-27 after the Happy Appies take the Panthers to the cleaners Saturday.
7. Al Golden, Miami (3-1): Barring some sort of healing the three lepers miracle in Tallahassee this weekend, Al will be 0-5 against FSU. Al has lost 23 games in 4+ seasons at the helm of The Good Ship U, maybe none more humiliating than last week’s unexpected beat down at the hands of Cincinnati. If the Himmicanes go belly up early against FSU and this turns into an embarrassment, Luther Campbell will be passing KFC buckets through the stands next home game at Sun Life Stadium asking fans for donations toward the buyout.
ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST
1. Norm Chow, Hawaii (2-3): Norm and his merry band of Rainbow Warriors (that’s the team name, I don’t have to make that up) have been outscored 83-0 in their last two games. Fortunately, for the mighty Bows, next up is San Diego State, which isn’t nearly as good as Wisconsin or Boise State. The game is in Hawaii so there is hope the visiting Aztecs will suffer from jet lag.
2. Willie Taggart, USF (1-3): The Bulls could have sprung the upset that might have saved Taggart’s job last week against Memphis and it might have happened if Taggart’s quarterback could hit a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle. He’s got to go at least 5-3 the rest of the way and one of those wins has to be over UCF if he intends to be gainfully employed at USF next year.
3. Butch Jones, Tennessee (2-3): The only thing worse than getting his doors blown off by Georgia this weekend would be for Butch to figure out a way to blow a two-touchdown lead for the fourth time this season, which, by the way, leads the nation. A blowout and the ground beneath Butch will feel like quicksand. A two-TD blown lead and Butch will think he’s being burned at the stake.
4. Mike Leach, Washington State (2-2): The Pirate and his troops were in the hunt until the very end last week at Cal. There is every good chance they will be in the hunt until the very end this week at Oregon, too, since Oregon can’t play a lick of defense. The problem is Wazzoo can’t play defense either which means a loss and the buzzards will begin to circle.
5. Kevin Wilson, Indiana (4-1): The Hoosiers are two games away from bowl eligible and four of the last seven games are winnable. Six would have saved Wilson’s job last year. This year it will take seven.
6. Doug Martin, New Mexico State (0-4): It would have been bad enough if the Aggies traveled to Ole Miss the week after the Rebels had beaten Florida, but unfortunately Hugh Freeze and his gang got their butts handed to them on a platter in Gainesville. Somebody’s got to pay for last week and the Aggies are primed to take a beating of Little Big Horn proportions, all for an $800,000 payday.
7. Paul Petrino, Idaho (1-4): At the top of the Vandals’ prayer list is that Mississippi State will do such a fine job of ripping and shredding Troy this week that a Sun Belt Conference win could be attainable on October 17. When you’re talking about Idaho football, you have to look for your inspiration in strange places. Paul Petrino is actually a good coach but he’s coaching at a place that isn’t the end of the world but there are signs that can point you down a road that will get you there in 15 minutes.
8. Randy Edsall, Maryland (2-3): The Turtles and Edsall travel to Columbus this week. At some point you know the Buckeyes are going to put an end to all the nonsense and start playing like a championship team. All signs point to the breakout happening this weekend, which is not good news for Edsall, who’s about as popular with Maryland boosters as the guy who broke wind in the elevator.
9. Paul Haynes, Kent State (2-3): Haynes pulled off a daily double last week. By beating Miami (Ohio), he kept his head off the chopping block for at least one more week and put Miami coach Chuck Martin’s job security in doubt.
VERY WEAK PULSE
1. Curtis Johnson, Tulane (2-2): Beating UCF last weekend made this a more pleasant week for Curtis. That’s the good news. The bad news is Tulane is on the road at Temple this week and it could get ugly early.
2. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt (2-3): With an open date this week and South Carolina next, Mason could possibly win his first SEC game and reduce the flame burning under his butt.
3. Chuck Martin, Miami (Ohio) (1-4): Miami was once known as “The Cradle of Coaches.” The way things have been going the last few years that name could soon be changed to “The Graveyard of Coaches.” This is now a place where coaching careers go to die an early death.
4. Dan McCarney, North Texas (0-4): On paper Saturday’s encounter with D1AA Portland State is just the kind of break an 0-4 team needs. Then you see that Portland State already has a win over Washington State. Things are not looking good for Dangerous Dan, the former UF D-line coach.
5. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado (3-2): The good news is Mac is halfway to the bowl game that will save his skin. The bad news is Colorado will only be favored in two of the last seven games and the Buffs could only manage 24 points last week against Oregon’s inept defense.
6. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech (2-3): Barring something odd like VaTech suddenly channeling its inner Alabama, it will take Frank Beamer another three years to get the 25 wins he needs to join the Division I 300-win club. There is every good chance he will be the only member of the club to never win a national championship. Of course, getting to 300 wins means surviving this season and that might not happen the way things are going these days.
SAVED BY THE BUYOUT
1. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa (5-0): The last time the Hawkeyes started a season 5-0 was 2009, which was also the year he got that ridiculous 10-year contract with the ironclad $3 million a year buyout.
2. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia (3-1): The Mounties were hosed by Oklahoma last week and this week they play Okie State followed by Baylor and TCU. That’s not conducive to keeping your job unless you have this huge buyout and an athletic department that isn’t exactly swimming in money.
3. Charlie Strong, Texas (1-4): The administration is determined to give Charlie the rest of this year and next. The current buyout is $15 million.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
What are your three keys to victory against Missouri and your final score prediction?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Since the Gators are playing Missouri on homecoming weekend in Columbia, it seems only fitting to feature Mizzou alum Sheryl Crow for today’s music. Her first album was “Tuesday Night Music Club,” for which she won Best New Artist at the 1995 Grammy Awards. The single “All I Wanna Do” won Grammys for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Record of the year. The album sold 7,000,000 copies in the US.