#14 Florida Gators (4-1, 2-1 SEC) vs. Missouri Tigers (2-3, 0-2)
Saturday October 15, 2016; 4:00 P.M.
Gainesville, Florida; Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
TV: SEC NETWORK
Tabor and defense hungry for the challenge
They still have the bitter taste of the last half of the Tennessee game in their mouth and the Florida defense feels like they have something to prove. A dud of a Vanderbilt road game and then a missed chance at redemption with the postponement of the LSU contest has Jalen Tabor anticipating the contest with the high octane Missouri Tigers.
The Florida defense has given up seven touchdowns in five games. Five of those came in one half against Tennessee, meaning the Gators have given up just a half of a touchdown per game outside of those two quarters.
There are still a lot of questions being asked and Jalen Tabor knows the public is questioning their skill and their grit. The team’s perception of what the public thinks of them is far different than they believe in themselves.
“They think we skipped out of LSU,” Jalen Tabor said following practice on Tuesday. “They think we got blown out by Tennessee. They think we (didn’t smash) Vanderbilt like we were supposed to. UMass hung around. That’s probably the perception they think.”
Perception isn’t always reality and in this case, Tabor says that while they are eager to get back at it, they know they have to show up every week.
“We take care of business, we have everything we want in front of us,” Tabor said. “You know whoever wins in the Atlanta will be in the Final Four, unless you have two losses. Everything is in front of us. We just need to keep doing what we we’ve been doing, and just have fun when we’re out here.”
“I feel like every time we step on the field we’ve got a point to prove. We get everybody’s best game. We’re the Florida Gators. We’ve always got something to prove at the end of the day. We get everybody’s best game so you’ve got to come out with your best game."
The Missouri Tigers come to town with the league’s best passing attack at 350 yards per game. He knows it will be a test.
“Yeah, as a defensive back you like teams that throw the ball,” he said. “It’s high risk, high reward. You can get bombed and torched up or you can make some money. Put up and shut up.”
When posed with the thought that Missouri quarterback Drew Lock is the number one passer in the league, Tabor was confident in his response, "I think we’re number one too."
With Lock spreading it around, Missouri could have any receiver in the Tiger arsenal lining up across from Tabor or fellow corner Quincy Wilson. Either guy could draw J’Mon Moore who leads the SEC with six touchdown passes.
“Me and Quincy play left and right, so whoever comes on left side will get me and whoever goes on the right side will get Quincy, so have fun,” Tabor said.
Finally, Tabor says he and his teammates are excited to get back to The Swamp and play in front of the home town fans. Saturday will mark the first time in almost a month to run out of the tunnel at Steve Spurrier Field in front of a rabid fan base that is ready for some football.
“Oh man, being on the road those two games and not playing LSU last week, I’m really anxious to get back into The Swamp,” he said. “I hope everybody comes out and we have a great turnout in The Swamp. There’s no place like the Swamp in college football.”
The Game… A couple of big keys for the Gator offense involve a quarterback that hasn’t played in a game in a few weeks and protecting said quarterback. Luke Del Rio hasn’t had the best week of practice, but he is gives the Gators the best chance to produce well on offense. Florida should try and lean on the running game against the 11th rated rush defense in the conference in Missouri who is giving up 189 yards per game on the ground.
Protecting Del Rio is the other key and keeping junior defensive end Charles Harris off of the gator quarterback is priority one. Florida tackle David Sharpe allowed Harris to get to the quarterback a year ago and he is looking to step his game up.
If the Gators can run the ball consistently, thigs will open up in the passing game.
For the Florida defense, it is all about keeping the ball in front of them. The Tigers get the ball out quickly in the passing game and Lock doesn’t take sacks. The front is going to have to be disruptive and understand they aren’t likely going to get him on the ground as much. The Florida defensive backs are going to have to play on the ball, but be careful not to let one get by them. Unlike against Tennessee I don’t see the Gators blitzing linebackers and leaving the middle of the field wide open as much. They have to have a layer of defenders in the second and third level because the corners on the outside are going to be playing a lot of press man.
In the end, I think the Florida defense is the more talented group in their matchup. I think Del Rio will be a little rusty, but get a feeling there will be a big play or two in the passing game as Missouri crowds the line of scrimmage like most teams do to try and get Florida to bust one.
Earlier I was projecting a slightly bigger win for Florida, but will go with the Gators still with a decisive, but closer score…
FINAL PREDICTION: Gators 27 Tigers 13
MORE COVERAGE OF THE GAME