On Saturday (11:00 A.M., ESPN2), the Missouri Tigers (4-4, 1-4) travel to Gainesville to take on the #7 Florida Gators (7-1, 6-1) in Southeastern Conference action. Florida is coming off of a 9-17 loss to Georgia.
Florida Head Coach Will Muschamp has a defense which ranks 6th nationally in total defense (280.88 yards/game) and 4th nationally in scoring defense (12.75 points/game).
In support of his defense, Coach Muschamp's Florida offense has run the football on 69% of the Gators' plays from scrimmage. Senior RB Mike Gillislee 5'11" 209 is Florida's workhorse ball carrier. On the season, Gillislee has 161 carries for 729 yards (4.5 yards/carry) and 7 rushing TDs. He's averaging more than 20 carries and 91 yards per game.
"I don't think you stop him," said Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel, speaking of Gillislee. "I think you try to contain him the best that you can."
Gillislee's primary complement in Florida's run game is sophomore QB Jeff Driskel 6'4" 237, who is second on the Gators with 79 rushing attempts on the season for 317 rushing yards (4.0 yards/carry) and 4 rushing TDs. Not counting lost yardage for sacks, Driskel is averaging 9.4 yards/carry! Between Gillislee and Driskel, they account for exactly two-thirds of Florida's rushing attempts.
That other one-third of Florida's rushing attempts is spread out among several players, including back-up RBs, fullbacks, and receivers. One of Florida's most dangerous run threats, WR Solomon Patton, will miss the Missouri game after suffering a broken arm against Georgia. He's averaged 10 yards/carry this season on various sweeps and reverses. Junior flanker Trey Burton 6'3" 228 will likely pick up some of the slack. He'll line up everywhere, at QB, at RB, in motion. Burton's a triple threat. On the season, he has 18 carries for 117 yards and 2 TDs, he's 2-2 passing, and he has 9 receptions for 97 yards.
Florida's first-year Offensive Coordinator is Brent Pease, whom Coach Muschamp hired away from Boise State.
"Florida is probably the most multiple offense that we've seen," said Missouri defensive line coach, Craig Kuligowski. "They truly have more personnel groupings, and more different plays probably than anybody that we've played all year."
Missouri Defensive Coordinator Dave Steckel said Florida utilizes "a zillion formations". Steckel also compared Driskel to Kansas State's Collin Klein.
When Florida does throw the football, Driskel has been efficient. On the season Driskel is 99-153-3 for 1,114 yards and 8 TDs passing. His passer efficiency rating is 139.20.
Of course, Florida has talented receivers. On the season, fifteen different players have at least one reception, and twelve Florida Gators have multiple receptions on the season. Fifth-year senior WR Frankie Hammond Jr. 6'0" 187 has 13 receptions for 220 yards (16.9 yards/reception) and 3 TDs. Sophomore WR Quinton Dunbar 6'1" 189 has 18 receptions for 214 yards (11.9 yards/reception) and 2 TDs. Senior WR Omarius Hines 6'2" 217 has 11 receptions for 122 yards (11.1 yards/reception). Junior TE Jordan Reed 6'3" 243 may be the most dynamic athlete on the team. He's leading Florida in receiving, with 30 receptions for 355 yards (11.8 yards/reception) and 3 TDs. Half of Reed's catches have been for a first down, and he is clearly Driskel's favorite target.
Speedy junior WR Andre Debose 5'11" 189 is the Gators' return man, averaging 9.3 yards /punt return and 24.1 /kick return.
Florida excels in the battle for field position. Sophomore punter Kyle Christy ranks 2nd in the country with a 47.8 yard average, and Florida ranks 1st in the country in net punting, with a 44.48 average.
Senior kicker Caleb Sturgis is 15-17 on field-goal attempts this season, including 3-for-3 from beyond 50 yards.
As would be expected, Florida has great athletes all over the field. Nowhere is that more evident than on the defensive side of the football, where Florida is extremely talented, and very deep. The Gators regularly play nearly twenty players on defense. Their speed and athleticism may make it appear that all twenty of them are on the field at once. Florida plays a 4-3-4, and the Gators will probably play a lot of nickel or dime against Missouri.
Senior safety Josh Evans 6'2" 201 and junior safety Matt Elam 5'10" 202 are about the only Gator defenders for whom substitution is a rarity. They're also two of Florida's leading tacklers, and most productive players. Evans has a team-leading 50 total tackles on the season, along with 2 sacks, 3 PBUs, 1QBH, and an INT. Elam has been named a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award. He has 41 total tackles, along with 4 TFLs, 1 sack, 3 PBUs, a forced fumble, and 2 INTs.
Junior corner Jaylen Watkins 6'0" 187 also plays the nickel back for Florida. He's made 21 tackles on the season, to go with 8 PBUs and 2 INTs. Sophomore corner Loucheiz Purifoy 6'1" 189 has 35 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 PBUs, and 2 forced fumbles.
The Gators rotate in half a dozen LBs, and they're all very productive. Senior MLB Jonathan Bostic 6'1" 246 and junior WLB Jelani Jenkins 6'0" 237 are among the leaders of that group. Jenkins has been battling injuries for much of the season, and left the Georgia game after "tweaking" a hamstring. Bostic is second on the team with his 45 total tackles, to go along with 6 TFLs, 3 sacks, 2 QBHs, 2 PBUs, and a forced fumble. Jenkins' back-up, true freshman Antonio Morrison 6'1" 218, has played a lot, and he's been very productive as well, with 26 tackles, 1 TFL, and 1 QBH.
Up front, Florida is deep and talented. This group is led by senior DT Omar Hunter 6'0" 313 (27 tackles, 3 TFLs, 3 PBUs) and junior DT Sharrif Floyd 6'3" 303 (30 tackles, 7 TFLs, 3 QBHs, 1 blocked kick). Fifth-year senior DE Lerentee McCray 6'3" 249 plays the Buck position, and he has been very productive, with 18 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 QBHs, 1 INT, 1 FF, and a fumble recovery.
Florida relies primarily on their defensive front for pressure on the QB, but they'll heat it up at times with a variety of blitzes, usually from the LB or safety positions.
Florida enjoys a +8 turnover margin, with 18 takeaways.
Game time temperatures on Saturday in the Swamp are expected to be near 80 degrees.
[NCAA Ranking in Brackets]
MISSOURI_____________________FLORIDA 317.38 [109th]_ _ Total Offense__ 339.88 [100th] 128.25 [91st]___Rushing Offense__ 196.25 [34th] 10___________TDs Rushing__________ 16 189.13 [99th]___Passing Offense_ 143.63 [114th] 107.38 [112th]_ Passing Efficiency__ 136.97 [48th] 7____________TDs Passing___________ 8 24.38 [87th]____Scoring Offense___ 27.50 [68th] 334.00 [25th]___ Total Defense____ 280.88 [6th] 138.50 [41st]__ Rushing Defense__ 100.50 [13th] 15________ TDs Allowed Rushing_________ 7 195.50 [22nd]___Passing Defense__ 180.38 [16th] 129.24 [59th]__ Pass Effic. Defense___90.63 [3rd] 9_________ TDs Allowed Passing_________ 4 23.63 [46th]____Scoring Defense____12.75 [4th] +0.75 [23rd]__ Turnover Margin__ +1.00 [13th] 20 / 6_ ______ Fumbles/Lost_______ 14 / 7 7_________ Interceptions Thrown_________ 3 5_________ Interceptions Gained________ 11 25.38 [17th]___Kickoff Return Avg._ _ 22.74 [47th] 16.86 [6th]____ Punt Return Avg.____9.30 [50th] 33.64 [108th]__ Net Punting Avg.____ 44.48 [1st] 2.38 [36th]_______Sacks By_____2.00 [T-56th] 2.38 [88th]_____ Sacks Allowed____ 3.25 [112th] 28:45 [T-88th]__ Avg. Time of Poss.____34:04 [4th] 31.7% [111th]___3rd Down Conv._ 40.0% [T-64th] 31.3% [T-105th]__4th Down Conv._ 57.1% [T-45th]