After all the angst of the postponement of the LSU game due to Hurricane Matthew, and the drama and complaining from the Corndogs in Baton Rouge and Inbreds in Knoxville, Florida moves on to it’s Homecoming game, hosting the Missouri Tigers at the Swamp.
The Gators admittedly needed the unexpected week off due to a myriad of injuries along the defensive line, and also to allow Luke Del Rio another week to rehab his knee and get in more practice reps. The originally scheduled off-week comes after this game, before a critical stretch against Georgia and Arkansas – Florida has to take advantage of this good fortune if it wants to have a say in who represents the East in Atlanta.
Missouri comes in after an off-week of their own and coming off of a beatdown loss at LSU, where they were physically manhandled on dominated along the LOS. On offense, they have changed from their run-heavy philosophy of last year to depending on sophomore QB Drew Lock to throw early and often to a solid corps of WRs led by J’Mon Moore and Emanuel Hall. The Tigers aren’t afraid to throw downfield early and often, sacrificing efficiency for big plays. They have had some success with this against weaker secondaries, but LSU shut them down, and Florida’s secondary matches up well. The Gator secondary will be busy all afternoon and it’s depth tested – it’s time for Duke Dawson in the slot and the safeties behind Marcus Maye to step up. Tiger RBs Ish Witter and Damarea Crockett has been a good change-of-pace and occasionally do some damage – it will be interesting to see if Missouri uses the off week to change things up to try and confuse the Gator defense and keep them off-balance with more runs. Hopefully there are enough healthy bodies along the D-Line to keep players fresh and allow them to be effective through the end of the game – Jordan Sherit and Joey Ivie won’t be back until the Georgia game.
Florida gets LDR back at QB, but no one knows how sharp he’ll be after not playing for a month. Austin Appleby did an adequate job in relief, but the offense really struggled the past 6 quarters, and needs a jolt of energy and more effective passing to get back on schedule. Everyone is still waiting to see if another WR can become a consistent threat other than Callaway. Another thing to watch will be the RBs – has Jordan Scarlett shown enough the past 2 games to get the majority of carries, or will the Gators continue with the 4-headed rotation depending upon a run or pass call and who may have the hot hand? Finally, the O-Line performance has regressed lately, and it may be time for some changes. Tyler Jordan is back to start again at guard, but will Martez Ivey get the chance to play tackle ahead of David Sharpe, who has struggled recently? This home game may be the time to find out what the best combination is for the rest of the season.
This is a big game for the Gators, and they must take advantage of the good fortune from an extra week of rest and begin this part of the schedule with a win at home. After all the talk about a game that wasn’t played, it’s time for the staff and players to focus on the one that will. There is still a lot on the table for Florida to potentially achieve, so we’ll see if the team is ready to elevate it’s coaching and play, or stay in their recent funk.
Here’s to a Happy Homecoming!
Prediction: Florida 27 Missouri 17