Following an unscripted two-week hiatus, the Florida Gators will retake the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for a homecoming bout against Mizzou. Although the Gators are a 13-point favorite, this game could present some challenges. Florida will only have around 53 scholarship athletes available for Saturday night’s kickoff, and they’ve been forced to cease all football activities amidst the COVID-19 outbreak within the program.
In addition to the unfortunate hand that the Gators have been dealt these last two weeks, Mizzou has looked like an improved football team. The Tigers have won two consecutive games in completely different fashions; a high-scoring shootout with LSU and a grinding victory over Kentucky. Which Mizzou team will show up on Saturday is anybody’s guess. The duality could make things difficult for defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham.
When it comes to the Gators’ defense, it’s kind of a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that they only have two weaknesses. The bad news is that their weaknesses are stopping the run and defending the pass. Recent remarks from Grantham suggest that he doesn’t intend to try to change things up as far as their scheme goes, meaning it will be up to the players to suddenly get better while not having the opportunity to practice.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Gators. There is legitimate cause for excitement and it’s the reason that I think they will win this game. The Gators’ offense is one of the most potent offenses in the country and even if Mizzou attempts to control the clock, as they did against Kentucky, Kyle Trask has an arsenal of quick strike weapons at his disposal. None greater than the matchup nightmare that is Kyle Pitts.
Pitts leads the Gators in receiving yards (274) and receiving touchdowns (7), and is too fast for opposing linebackers and too large for the average defensive back. Expect a healthy dose of the Kyle-to-Kyle connection Saturday night. While Kyle is targeting Kyle all over the field, it is likely that Mizzou will attempt to slow them down with Joshuah Bledsoe. The extraordinarily talented safety has come up big in several moments this season, including the pass deflection that sealed the Tigers’ victory over LSU two weeks ago. But, as I stated earlier, Pitts is too big for the average defensive back and will have a clear height advantage (6 inches) in that matchup.
While the Gators offense is wow’ing the fans, they will be doing so in style. The team will be wearing their wildly popular throwback uniforms, albeit with a new twist. Replacing the white helmets, will be blue lids with the throwback “F” logo. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t comment on what the team is wearing, but these throwbacks have been one of my favorite uniform combinations that ANY team has worn in quite some time. However, we must press forward and talk about what to expect when these two teams collide under the bright lights of The Swamp.
Neither team has been especially good on defense this year, but if there is a clear edge, it would be third down success. Bottom line, Florida has struggled to get opposing offenses off the field on third downs this season. Meanwhile, Mizzou has done pretty well, allowing opponents to convert just under 37% of their third down possessions. With that in mind, I believe that the one-two punch of Connor Bazelak and Larry Rountree III will do just enough to keep this one interesting late. Ultimately, though, the Gators have too much talent (even with their depleted roster) for the Tigers to overcome.
Florida will kickoff their homecoming celebrations at 7:30 EST on the SEC Network alternate channel. I will be looking for a lot of fireworks as these two SEC East foes go toe-to-toe. I think there have been too many obstacles these past two weeks for the Gators to cover the spread, but I still think they pull out the win. Gators come away with a 41-31 homecoming victory.