Florida Gators vs. Missouri Tigers Complete Game Preview
The reins of the SEC East are up for grabs.
No. 22 Florida packs its bags to face No. 14 Missouri, who is flying high after last week's 41-26 upset at Georgia.
The undefeated Tigers (6-0, 2-0) are chomping at the bit, showing week-in, week-out that they're rising as an SEC powerhouse. While Mizzou's record left Georgia unscathed, its roster didn't. Tigers starting QB James Franklin suffered a shoulder injury, marking redshirt freshman Maty Mauk as Missouri's new starter.
Mauk certainly has his work cut out for him in his inaugural starting test in the form of a top-ranked UF defense.
Last weekend, Florida (4-2, 3-1) wasn't able to pull off the upset at LSU, falling 17-6 in Baton Rouge. The Gators' main killer came at the helm of poor protection and lack of explosive plays on offense.
However, Mizzou's huge victory over Georgia showed that the SEC East is anyone's game at this point. Will Florida take control or will Missouri continue its dominance at the top?
When: Saturday, Oct. 19; 12:21 p.m. ET
Where: Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium, Columbia, Mo.
TV: SEC TV
Radio: Sirius 112, XM 200
Spread: Florida (-3.5) Via Team Rankings
Florida Keys to Victory
Don't Crumble Under Pressure
The Gators succumbed to the pressure of the Tigers last week, and they can't afford to crumble against these Tigers come Saturday. UF QB Tyler Murphy was sacked four times against LSU, and the Gators showed their struggles in adjusting to a team that can overwhelm the backfield efficiently.
Against Mizzou, Murphy and his offense need to work on anticipating the pressure, adjusting routes accordingly and getting the offensive line in the proper protections.
"That way, we can show that we can handle the pressure," Murphy said at a press conference Monday, as reported by Gator Vision. "They'll back off and things will lighten up a little bit."
Create Explosive Plays on Offense
Florida's offense was quiet in Week 7.
All six of the Gators' points at LSU were posted via field goals. Despite the fact the defense held LSU to 17 points (the Tigers' lowest of the season), the offense failed to step up and create big plays of its own to make an impact on the scoreboard. This is a key to UF's success moving forward, especially when facing ranked conference opponents on the road.
Florida is currently only averaging 7.7 explosive plays per game with 46. The Gators have completed 30 runs of 10 yards or more and 16 passes at 20 yards or more.
On the road in that situation, we have to create more positive momentum for our football team. We had them against Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee; we had 11 against Miami and didn’t take care of the football. But we've got to create more explosive plays offensively in both running and throwing the ball.
Missouri Keys to Victory
Overwhelm a Struggling UF Offense
Mizzou's veteran defense can disturb an already shaky Florida offense. The Tigers lead the nation in interceptions at 13 while Michael Sam leads the SEC averaging one sack per game. MU has the ideal artillery to add pressure to the Gators offense by targeting its prevalent protection holes. Mizzou boasts a ball-hawk defense that can throw Florida off balance just as LSU did last week.
Take the Pressure Off QB Maty Mauk
Florida's top-ranked SEC defense is going to be a nightmare for Maty Mauk's first start at quarterback. The Gators are a physical, merciless crew that certainly won't be taking it easy breaking him in. With James Franklin out and Mauk in, the Tigers need to relieve some of the pressure that's undoubtedly coming Mauk's way.
That's not to say Mizzou's road to an unblemished season thus far wasn't earned exclusively at the quarterback slot, and the Tigers can continue to be successful as long as they make adjustments around Mauk.
While Mauk's a talented dual-threat QB who flashed his potential against UGA, for now, the focus should be allowing Mauk to effectively manage the game. Against the Gators, he needs to get the ball to proven playmakers like WR L'Damian Washington and TB Henry Josey.
Florida Players to Watch
Kelvin Taylor (RB, Fr.)
The injury bug continues to plague the Gators, taking Matt Jones as its latest victim. With Jones' season-ending meniscus tear, redshirt junior Mack Brown and freshman Kelvin Taylor will take over at running back. Taylor had a standout game against LSU on Saturday, posting 10 carries for a total of 52 yards. Before Baton Rouge, Taylor had just six carries with a total of 46 yards.
At 5'10", 214 pounds, Taylor is showing what he can bring to the table for the Gators in his solid runs and quick decision-making skills. As a high school junior, Taylor passed Emmitt Smith to become the state of Florida's all-time leading rusher. Former NFL/UF RB Fred Taylor's son is the newest Gator to keep an eye on as his role for Florida is only expanding moving forward.
Johnny Townsend (P, Fr.)
Against Mizzou, Florida will debut a new punter: freshman Johnny Townsend. It's no secret that veteran Kyle Christy (a 2012 Ray Guy Award finalist) has been struggling this year. Most recently, Christy missed out on two opportunities to pin the LSU Tigers in their own territory, launching two punts deep into the end zone.
Townsend is a 6'1", 191-pound, first-year player for Florida who averaged 44.6 yards per punt as a senior at Boone High School (Orlando, Fla.). In Baton Rouge, the Gators debuted a new kicker in Frankie Velez who went 2-for-2. Townsend could be the latest special-teams debut to come up big for UF.
Missouri Players to Watch
Maty Mauk (QB, Fr.)
While Mizzou won at Georgia, the Tigers lost starting QB James Franklin. Due to Franklin's separated shoulder, redshirt freshman Maty Mauk will be making his first career start on Saturday against the Gators. After coming in against the Bulldogs midway through the fourth quarter, Mauk finished last weekend's game completing all three of his passes for 23 yards.
All eyes will be on Mauk as he's the new offensive leader tasked with continuing the Tigers' undefeated streak this season.
Michael Sam (DE, Sr.)
This week, UF coach Will Muschamp described Michael Sam on GatorZone.com as a "NFL-type" defensive end who does a solid job pressuring and creating negative plays for opposing quarterbacks. He's already earned back-to-back SEC Defensive Line Player of the Week honors halfway through the season stemming from his play against Arkansas State and Vanderbilt.
Though Sam's single sack on UGA's Aaron Murray was erased due to a defensive penalty, he still showed that he's one of Mizzou's top playmakers. Sam recovered a fumble, taking it 21 yards for a TD to put the Tigers ahead.
The 6'2", 255-pound veteran leads the SEC in sacks (six) and tackles for loss, averaging 1.67 a game. Against the Gators, Sam can feast. Florida's offensive line struggled in protecting QB Tyler Murphy, allowing the Tigers to rack up four sacks on Saturday.
What They're Saying
Florida head coach Will Muschamp on Missouri during his press conference Monday (GatorZone.com):
Not many Gators have been to Columbia, Mo., before and it’s an early kickoff. We’re looking forward to getting back on the field. As a competitor you always want to get back out and play again, and that’s what our guys are looking forward to...They’re a team that’s very explosive and it catches your attention when you turn on the tape on both sides of the ball.
Gators QB Tyler Murphy on playing in colder weather than Florida is used to. Weather.com's forecast shows a high of 61 and a low of 39 in Columbia, Mo., Saturday, while the high in Gainesville is estimated at 87 with a low of 64. (GatorVision):
Usually when I go home (Wethersfield, Conn.) for Christmas, it's in the 'teens, so that's cold. It's kind of funny to see people around here (Gainesville, Fla.) when it's in the 60s, they'll have hoodies and sweatpants on. I'm the only person in shorts and a T-shirt.
Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel during his press conference Monday (MUTigers.com):
(The Gators) lost their starting quarterback a couple weeks ago, and anybody in our business knows the impact that has on a team. Their quarterback in now (Tyler Murphy) is playing really well for them. They have great receivers, and the offensive line plays well. They will be a great challenge for us, and it is exciting for us to be back at the "ZOU" and back home.
Tigers WR Dorial Green-Beckham on freshman QB Maty Mauk's play (MUTigers.com):
Maty can throw the deep ball real well, and he can also run. All of those threats like that are big for us as an offense. We know what he is capable of doing. We just have to see it from him when we go out there. We know that he is going to be motivated, and he is going to feed off the rest of our energy.
Mizzou showed that it can truly hang in the SEC with an undefeated run thus far, but seasoned Southern veteran Florida is going to ruin that record. The loss of QB James Franklin just before facing off against the Gators' top-notch defense will prove to be too costly. While the home atmosphere will certainly help, expecting Maty Mauk to manage the Tigers to victory against an aggressive Florida defense in his first full college game is unrealistic.
Florida 21, Missouri 17