The Florida Gators celebrate Homecoming against conference – rival Missouri at noon on Saturday. The Tigers roll into Gainesville with the same record as Florida (3-2, 0-2 in SEC), but are coming off a near upset of then No. 1 Georgia in CoMo.
The following are my three keys to a Gators victory and a prediction, as well.
1. Florida must get production from the defensive front seven. Three of Florida’s four leading tacklers on the year are mainstays in the secondary. That means teams are moving the defensive line and gaining chunks of yards at a time. This is a major problem for the Gators. The defensive front seven need to dominate the line of scrimmage early, especially in the running game, if Florida is going to be successful Saturday.
Mizzou RB Cody Schrader rushed for nearly 15 yards a carry against the vaunted Georgia defense last week and Florida’s run defense has been terrible. Mizzou has the SEC’s eighth ranked run game, three spots ahead of Tennessee, who ran for 227 yards against the Gators just two weeks ago.
It’s not just about stopping the ground attack though. Florida’s linemen have largely struggled to get to the quarterback with just eight sacks on the year despite a pair of matchups against an FCS opponent and a poor group of five team. Gervon Dexter (0.5 sacks) and Brenton Cox (0 sacks), among others, must make an impact and get to the quarterback.
2. Get the ball to Ricky Pearsall. Ricky Pearsall is a threat to score every time he touches the football. We saw his explosiveness on his 75 yard WR sweep touchdown last week. Pearsall is also a clean route runner and has good hands.
Expect to see Pearsall get the ball in space more frequently. Head coach Billy Napier will likely do whatever it takes to get the ball in his hands thanks to his extraordinary ability.
Pearsall in the slot and Justin Shorter’s emergence on the outside the last two weeks has helped QB Anthony Richardson settle in. If Richardson is comfortable, the sky is the limit for the Gators offense.
3. Win the turnover battle. This one is pretty obvious. Florida is 0-2 when they turn the ball over more than once. Mizzou has turned the ball over nine times so far including four times against Kansas State. How did the Tigers maintain a lead for three quarters against Georgia? They protected the football. If the Gators can force turnovers, they will win this game.
Prediction: Florida is the more talented team in this matchup, but that doesn’t always translate to victories. I think we see a shootout in Gainesville Saturday resulting in a Florida win. Gators 34, Missouri 28.