I had a strong feeling going into the Georgia game that Florida’ struggling offense would make the Bulldogs’ struggling defense look good, and that’s exactly what happened. Throw in six turnovers to go along with the overall lack of offensive production and the Gators had to stomach a 17-9 loss that prevented UF from clinching the SEC’s Eastern Division. Take away the takeaways and the Gators would be sitting at 8-0 right now and making plans for Atlanta.
But we’re not supposed to be letting that Georgia loss linger. So we won’t. We’re ready to move on to Missouri, in what really is a huge game for Florida. Not only does it keep the Gators in the race (no matter how slightly), but a win pretty much assures that this team will be 10-1 heading into the FSU game — which would be a tremendous accomplishment for a team that barely became bowl eligible a year ago.
Just like every SEC game for the Gators, this is not going to be an easy one. It’s going to be painful to watch at times, especially when the UF offense has the ball. Which brings me to my first prediction: the Gators will fall behind early, the offense will look like it’s incapable of scoring and some boo birds will emerge in what will be yet another frustrating first half for the Gators.
The difference this week is the Gators will take care of the football and eventually find some things that work offensively — kind of the game plan that worked during the 7-0 start to the season.
I’m not an offensive coordinator, but if I’m calling plays for this offense, I’d let Jeff Driskel start taking some shots down the field on first down. This seems to be UF’s only hope of making something happen in the downfield-passing game. The Gators have been running the ball on first down almost 80 percent of the time, and opposing defenses are now wise to that stat and are stacking the line of scrimmage. In obvious passing situations, it’s been almost hopeless for the offense. Teams have brought the heat and Driskel has had no time to throw. I say let Driskel air it out on first down and see if he can’t hit some big passes early that would open some opportunities in the running game.
The bottom line is, Florida is better than Missouri, a team whose only SEC win is against hapless Kentucky. But the Gators better get back to taking care of the ball or the potential is there for a miserable day in The Swamp, and a crushing loss for the second week in a row.
It’s going to be close, it’s going to be ugly, but the Gators will find a way to come out of this game with a W — and that’s all that matters.
Prediction: Florida 14, Missouri 10.