Florida (5-0) vs. Missouri (4-1) 7:30 pm
Missouri is 2-1 against Florida the past three seasons with an average margin of victory of 24 points per game. Last season, the Tigers won 42-13 in the Swamp.
The Gators have come alive the last two weeks with solid offensive performances in victories over Tennessee and Ole Miss. Florida is averaging 34.4 points per game and has shown progress in the vertical passing game under new head coach Jim McElwain. The Gators are averaging 253 passing yards per game which is a vast improvement over last year’s 180 passing yards per game output. Quarterback Will Grier has been able to step up under the pressure and continues to develop each week under McElwain’s teaching. Grier is completing 67.2% of his passes for 996 yards with 10 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He is a mobile quarterback who can “buy” time with his legs to locate receivers down the field and has added 2 rushing touchdowns on the season. Florida is averaging 140 rushing yards per game and will be challenged by a stingy Tigers defensive front seven on Saturday night in Columbia, Missouri. Running back Kelvin Taylor is leading the team with 339 rushing yards averaging 3.9 yards per carry along with 5 touchdowns on the ground. The Gators must have offensive balance against Missouri and will have to continue to make plays in the passing game to loosen up the Tigers defense. Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson leads the team with 28 receptions for 251 yards and 2 touchdowns. Teammates Brandon Powell and Antonio Calloway have been consistently improving each week and have combined for 25 receptions for 441 yards with 5 touchdowns.
Defensively, the Gators have one of the best defensive lines in the nation. Florida is allowing 16.6 points per game and is very solid in rushing defense yielding 97 yards per game on the ground this year. The Gators have a veteran secondary that is led by cornerback Veron Hargreaves III who leads the team with 3 interceptions on the season. Overall, Florida is allowing 206 passing yards per game and will look to force Missouri quarterback Drew Lock to beat them over the top of the defense. Lock does not have alot of game experience and Florida will look to mix up coverage to force him to read the defense. Florida’s defense has been able to force pressure and create turmoil for opposing offenses. On the year, the Gators have recorded 18 sacks and have been able to do it with their interior lineman which allows the Gators to be very aggressive in the secondary. Defensive tackles Johnathan Bulllard leads the team with 4.5 sacks and defensive tackle Alex McCallister is second on the team with 4 sacks. In order to get the road victory, Florida will need to force turnovers and put pressure on the Tigers offensive line. The Gators have done an excellent job so far and are +6 in turnover margin entering this game.
The Tigers have a very methodical offense this season and have struggled to put up points on opposing defenses. Missouri is averaging 21.4 points per game and has struggled to run the football this year averaging 119 rushing yards per game. In order to get the victory this coming weekend, the offense must find a way to keep the Gators off balance, otherwise, they will become one dimensional and play right into Florida’s defensive strengths. Quarterback Drew Lock had a solid outing last week in the home victory over South Carolina (21 of 28 for 136 yds. 2 TD’s) and will need another good game to give the Tigers an opportunity for the upset. On the year, Lock is completing 67.9% of his passes with 3 touchdowns and one interception. Lock took over the job from Maty Mauk who was suspended for violating team rules and will need to stretch the field on Saturday night. Running back Ish Witter leads the team with 285 rushing yards averaging 4.0 yards per carry with one touchdown.
If the Tigers are to pull off the upset this weekend, the defensive unit will need to step up and will have to continue to make plays. On the year, Missouri is allowing 12 points per game and has been solid in stuffing the run this season giving up 109 rushing yards per game. The unit has excelled at shutting down the pass this year and is yielding 154 passing yards per game to their opponents. Missouri will need to create turnovers at home to keep the home crowd involved and through the first five games, the team is +3 in turnover margin. Defensive lineman Walter Brady leads the team with 5 sacks and the unit has had 12 sacks on the season. The emotional leader of the group, linebacker Kentrell Brothers, is having an amazing season so far and has recorded 59 total tackles. Brothers can run sideline to sideline and in order for the Tigers to beat the Gators he will need another outstanding performance. Look for Missouri to take chances early in the ball game by blitzing to get pressure on Grier. If Missouri can jump up early on the Gators, they can dictate the overall of the contest. An uptempo game would not favor the Tigers as they would want a methodical low scoring game that would give their offense an opportunity to utilize a ball control attack.
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Joseph Lisi a former ABC Sports college football researcher, is the owner of www.GOFORTHE2.COM. He is a member if the FWAA (Football Writers Association Of America),Maxwell Football Club and is currently the content editor at www.2FiveSports.com.He contributes regularly to www.Sid-Rosenberg.com and has been a featured guest every Tuesday night from 10:30-11:30pm EST on Yahoo Sports Radio With Ken Thomson(www.sportsxradio.com).
Joe has been featured on the FNTSY Sports Network and The Sid Rosenberg Sports Radio Show 640AM Sports (South Florida). You can follow him on Twitter: @Goforthe2.
Joe has a weekly radio show on www.blogtalkradio.com with former Georgia Bulldogs WR Corey Allen called: