5 Things to Watch: Missouri at Florida

Some things to keep an eye on during Missouri's game at Florida on Saturday...

Here are five things we’ll be keeping an eye on when Missouri (2-3, 0-2) plays at No. 18 Florida (4-1, 2-1) on Saturday afternoon…

DREW LOCK

Missouri sophomore quarterback Drew Lock has already surpassed the numbers he put up during his freshman campaign with his 1,675 passing yards, 56.8 completion percentage and 14 touchdown passes.

The next step for Lock will be stepping up against better competition. 

Against Eastern Michigan and Delaware State, Lock has completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 852 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. 

In the Tigers’ three losses, against West Virginia, Georgia and LSU, he has completed 50 percent of his passes (63 of 126) for 823 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. Three of those touchdown passes (and three of the interceptions) came against Georgia.

FLORIDA’S DEFENSE

It won’t be easy for Lock and the Tigers’ offense to get going in The Swamp.

Florida enters Saturday’s game ranking as one of the best defenses in college football, allowing 11.6 points per game and 230.4 offensive yards per game (139.8 passing, 90.6 rushing). 

Missouri is coming off the 42-7 loss at LSU where the visitors gained just 265 yards (188 passing, 77 rushing) and had 14 first downs. 

If Lock and Co. can’t get going early on Saturday, they could be in trouble.

MIZZOU RUN GAME

The Tigers have struggled to run the ball in their three losses against Power 5 opponents. 

They ran 47 times for 180 yards, an average of 3.8 yards per carry, at West Virginia. They ran 37 times for 95 yards, an average of 2.6 per, against Georgia. Then they ran 22 times for 77 yards, a 3.5 yards-per-carry average, in the loss at LSU.

That’s 106 carries for 352 yards, at 3.3 yards per carry, over three games. 

The Tigers didn’t produce a rushing touchdown in any of those losses.

Among the offense’s struggles a year ago were the lack of an effective run game and not being able to take pressure off Lock and the passing game. So far, through three games against Power 5 teams, that remains a big issue.

Here’s hoping the potential return of senior running back Alex Ross, who we haven’t seen since early in the second game against Eastern Michigan, can spark the rushing attack. He carried 18 times for 67 yards, a 3.7 average, in the loss at West Virginia. 

DEFENSIVE CHANGES

The Missouri coaching staff hinted at potential changes among the defensive personnel this week. 

We know of at least one with redshirt freshman safety Ronnell Perkins expected to enter the starting lineup, according to his high school coach, though we don’t know who he is set to replace — either Anthony Sherrils, Cam Hilton or Thomas Wilson. 

Missed tackles were a huge issue against LSU, and to a lesser extent against Georgia, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see a few changes on defense. 

The Tigers could have one starting lineup change on the defensive line, among the linebackers and in the secondary and it wouldn’t be too surprising.

KICK RETURNS

Missouri head coach Barry Odom expressed his disappointment with the Tigers’ production in the kick return game on Monday. 

Odom’s squad is averaging 18.5 yards per kick return this season, on 16 attempts, while their opponents are averaging 23.2 yards per return.

The return of Alex Ross, who was an All-American kick returner at Oklahoma as a sophomore, should help the Tigers in this department and if they can get a boost here it could help get the offense going a little bit with better field production to work with. 

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com.

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