For the second straight week the Florida Gators (3-2, 2-2) will take on the Tigers. Last week brought a heartbreaking loss to LSU but a new week brings new opportunity with the Missouri Tigers coming in to town.
Missouri is coming off of a much different loss than the Gators. Last week Georgia blasted the Tigers at home 34-0.
Both teams enter this week needing a win to stay in the race in the SEC East but how do the two teams that will take the field matchup between the lines?
When Florida throws…
The Gators have struggled mightily trying to throw the football this season. The Gators are averaging just 161.8 passing yards a game against SEC competition and were only able to amass 110 yards against LSU.
Missouri’s pass defense is ranked ninth in the SEC, allowing 225.2 a game. Their pass defense is fueled by the defensive front that uses speed to get after the quarterback and make him feel uncomfortable in the pocket. Last season, the Tiger’s defensive line filled their highlight reels running circles around the Florida offensive line. The Gators’ line has been much improved this season but this will be the fastest defensive line that they will face this season.
Missouri is third in the SEC in tackles for loss (45) and third in sacks (19). The key here for the Gators will be to get solid play from an offensive line that is on pace to allow 11 fewer sacks than they did a season ago and get whomever is playing quarterback some confidence by hitting high-percentage, short passes early in the game.
When Missouri throws…
Quarterback Maty Mauk is coming off of a career worst game where he threw four interceptions and a season low 97 yards. On the year, Mauk is averaging a hair over 200 yards a game and is tied with Jeff Driskel for the most interceptions in the SEC (8).
Missouri’s offensive line allowed Georgia to get a serious rush on Mauk last week and they have allowed 10 sacks in six games this year.
Dante Fowler, Alex McCalister and Bryan Cox Jr. need to get in Mauk’s face, hit him early and not allow him to get comfortable or Mauk could match his performance from a year ago when he lit up the Gators for 295 yards.
When Florida runs…
The Gators rushing attack was Jeff Driskel last week. With Matt Jones sidelined due to injury, the coaching staff showed just how little confidence they have in Mack Brown and Kelvin Taylor. The running backs rushed the ball 10 times last week and gained only 17 yards. That’s not Will Muschamp football and that’s not the brand of football that has won Florida games under Muschamp.
Jones was back at practice starting Monday this week and if he’s healthy, expect him to be the bell cow against a Missouri defensive front seven that allows more than 150 yards on the ground a week this season and more than 160 to conference opponents.
Georgia — minus Todd Gurley — rushed for 210 yards last week, the second time this season Missouri has given up more than 200 rushing yards.
If Matt Jones plays and is healthy enough to finish the game this week the Gators should have no problem running the football.
When Missouri runs…
The Tigers are currently ranked 10th in the SEC, rushing for just under 157 yards per game this season. That number, however, takes a drastic dip in conference play to just 99 yards per game.
The Tiger’s offense has been balanced but they are running just 65 plays per game. Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy have split the load running the ball 75 and 71 times respectively. Hansbrough’s six yards per carry average is impressive and he will be a test for Florida’s front seven.
The Gators continue to lead the nation with a 26.63-yard return average on punt returns. To put that into perspective, Missouri is fourth in he SEC averaging just 11.7 yards per return. Andre Debose continues to provide a spark in the return game that can’t be ignored.
The Gators kicking issues this season have been greatly over exaggerated. Florida is fourth in the SEC with a 81.8% success rate (9-of-11), while Missouri is actually having trouble finding someone who can kick the ball through the uprights, converting just four-of-seven attempts this season (57.1%).