The Florida Gators can't afford any more mix-ups if they hope to play for the big stakes in the SEC championship game in a few weeks.
So after suffering its first loss of the season, Florida will look to bounce back when it hosts the Missouri Tigers Saturday afternoon (noon ET, ESPN2) at the Swamp.
Question is, can the Gators cover 17 points, which was the number at most sportsbooks tracked by OddsShark.com this week? Or can Mizzou keep this one close?
This is a Tigers team that has lost eight of 10 recent games as an underdog, so they have not posed a serious threat in recent years away from home," said Jack Randall in an interview Friday.
Florida opened this season with a win over Bowling Green, then began SEC play with a 20-17 victory at Texas A&M. The Gators then dispatched of Tennessee and Kentucky, then got the big win at home over LSU.
Florida then backed that up with victories over Vandy and a shorthanded South Carolina.
But last week the Gators turned the ball over six times, including once about a yard from a touchdown with three minutes to go, and were the victims of a crucial flimsy defensive holding call in the fourth quarter that led to a Georgia touchdown in a 17-9 Florida defeat in Jacksonville.
So Florida, at 7-1 overall and 6-1 in SEC play, leads the East Division by a half-game over Georgia, and sits at No. 7 in this week's BCS standings. But the Gators do not own the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Bulldogs, so they need to win Saturday and have UGA stumble in one of its last two conference games to quality for the SEC championship game.
Mizzou, meanwhile, opened this season with an easy victory over Southeastern Louisiana, then lost its SEC debut at home to Georgia 41-20. The Tigers then picked up a 24-20 non-con win over Arizona State, but then lost at South Carolina 31-10.
Missouri stepped back out of conference to beat Central Florida, but then lost back-to-back games to Vandy (19-15) and Alabama (42-10).
Finally, last week, the Tigers picked up their first-ever SEC victory, beating Kentucky 33-10.
So Missouri, at 4-4 overall, needs two wins in its last four games to become bowl-eligible.
According to the Sagarin ratings at USAToday.com Florida has played the seventh-toughest schedule in CFB this season, Missouri the 17th-toughest.
Statistically speaking, the Tigers have been outgained this season by a 334-317 YPG margin, and outrushed 139-128. The Gators, meanwhile, have outgained opponents 340-281 and outrushed them 196-101.
The Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings indicate Florida should be favored by 21 points for this game, which would indicate some line value on the Gators at -16.5.
Playing against the weekly expectations, the Gators are 6-2 ATS this season, while the Tigers are only 3-4 vs. the numbers.
These two teams last met back in the 1966 Sugar Bowl, when No. 6 Mizzou, coached by Dan Devine, held off unranked Florida, quarterbacked by some kid named Spurrier, 20-18.
Free Pick: Florida might be a little shaky mentally after last week's loss, and its offense is certainly no powerhouse. But the Gators should take care of business Saturday. (courtesy of PickShark.com)
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