Finally, the Gators get to go to a den of Tigers that isn't Death Valley.
Before we get to this game, let's run through the picks so far:
2012 season: 5-7, (2-6 SEC)
Coach: Gary Pinkel, 13th season (90-61)
Last result vs. Florida: Florida 14, Missouri 7 (2012)
Series record vs. Florida: 1-1
Game date: Saturday, October 19th, 2013
Game location: Faurot Field, Columbia, Missouri
Who Are You?
The Missouri Tigers are the SEC's newest whipping boy. Gary Pinkel has been known to put forth respectable teams in the tough Big 12, but last year, he put what turned out to be easily his worst team in at least seven years (and maybe in his tenure at Mizzou) onto the fields of SEC opponents, who all happily gobbled them up for an easy win. All except the Gators, that is. Fresh off a season-deflating loss to Georgia, Florida played weak, uninspired football and needed Josh Evans to pick off James Franklin in the end zone to win in the closing seconds. With the venue for this game moving halfway across the nation to the Tigers' turf, and coming off of what could be another tough loss (this time to LSU), the Gators better be careful.
Missouri's offense should be slightly better in 2013. The Tigers do lose wideout TJ Moe and running back Kendial Lawrence, but practically everybody else is coming back. From a healthy James Franklin at QB to dangerous playmaker Dorial Green-Beckham and steady receiver Marcus Lucas, the Gators have a lot to watch out for. As if that's not enough to worry about, Henry Josey returns to carry the rushing load after missing 2012 with an injury. The problem is, last year Missouri had all these players aside from Josey, and the offense was just abominable in big games.
Missouri Offensive Strategy
The Tigers are going to do what Gary Pinkel had them do in last year's game- run the spread, bleed the clock, move the chains, and score some touchdowns. Meaning more than one, because 7 points won't do it. But since Florida is going to shut their offense down if they don't try something different, Missouri will do just that. Look for Pinkel to call some deep passing plays, and see if he can't catch Florida napping in the secondary. The Tigers have been raving about the guy they call DGB ever since he signed with them. It's time for him to make all that crowing worth something.
Florida Defensive Strategy
James Franklin is one of the most underrated dual threat QB's the Gators have ever seen. He absolutely torched UF last year with his scrambling ability; so that's what Will Muschamp is not going to let him do this time. Expect Florida to blitz wide and drop a couple of linebackers back in coverage in a zone blitz, to take away the outside scramble and make Franklin have to run straight forward, where linebackers are there to meet him. Obviously, Missouri's going to run a little bit too, but Florida has enough confidence in its front seven to shut down Marcus Lattimore, Todd Gurley and anybody LSU throws out there; they should have no problem stopping Josey.
Missouri Offensive Grade: C-
The Tigers could have a surprisingly stingy defense in 2013. True, they do lose lose Will Ebner, Sheldon Richardson, and Zaviar Gooden, but there is still plenty of talent. Defensive coordinator Dave Steckel has placed a large responsibility on his front four, and builds his defense up from there. He'll look to Michael Sam and Kory Ealy to provide the big, mean and tough image of past Tigers teams. Missouri also has an adequate secondary, led by EJ Gaines, to back its front seven up.
Missouri's Defensive Strategy
Simple. Get to Driskel and try to rattle him. Faurot Field can be a tough place to play, and if Mizzou can really get to him, it's going to be hard for him to get back on track. This is going to require a lot of strength up front, a lot of speed on the edges, and lockdown coverage on receivers for at least four seconds. Obviously, it's not so easy to do all three of those things, so the Tigers will just focus on one at a time. The first one has to be getting some push up the middle to make him scramble. If they can do that, and force him to make throws under duress, then everything changes- and it will be hard for Florida to get back on track.
Florida's Offensive Strategy
Missouri will likely key on Driskel, so expect Brent Pease to use him as a decoy- meaning lots of running plays to Matt Jones and some quick tosses to receivers in the flat. These plays should be relatively undefended, and if the Gators' offense can just block well enough for the running game and short passing games to be established, the Gators can take the entire crowd right out of the game. Thus, the home field advantage that Missouri is supposed to have will be neutralized- and that would make Will Muschamp about as happy as anything on this day.
Missouri Defensive Grade: C+
Missouri Overall Grade: C+
The turnover battle. Like the Arkansas game, Missouri is a trap game. Unlike Arkansas, Florida doesn't get Missouri at home. So the Gators really need to be careful with the football. Turnovers are an underdog's best friend; they're more likely to happen in an unfamiliar, unfriendly environment.
This game has trap written all over it. First of all, this is by far the farthest the Gators have ever had to travel (about 1,010 miles) for a conference game, and it's the farthest they ever will have to unless the SEC adds Oregon (or Nebraska, or Michigan. You get the point). It's also the farthest the current players have ever had to travel- period. Then you factor in that the Gators are either coming off a big win or a big loss (and I projected it would be a loss) at Tiger Stadium in LSU. Either way, though, it's a large amount of emotions that this team will be carrying into this game. So it's not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination. Like last year, though, Florida will find a way to pull through, this time in a slightly more convincing fashion; Missouri's just not good enough to pull this off, even at home. Florida could easily blow a winnable game in 2013. This will not be one of them.
Florida 28, Missouri 14.