I’m not sure if that will be rock bottom for most Gator fans the 2017 season, but it certainly was for me and for Jim McElwain, as he so kindly gave a parting gift to Gator Nation with the worst loss to Georgia in 35 years. He certainly used the week off wisely, hanging himself in front of the national media by lying to the Athletic Dept., while not doing one damn thing differently to help his team for this game. He allowed the same crap that hasn’t worked all season to continue, and showed he doesn’t have the guts to do what’s right for his players, letting his cronies ruin this season while he collected paychecks. Well, it’s a shame he’ll get even one more, as apparently he wised up and decided to negotiate a reduced buyout as opposed to getting fired with cause.
I could have sworn it was 1982 again with John Lastinger, er, Jake Fromm, throwing only 7 freaking passes all afternoon while the Gators gift-wrapped a blowout win with it’s usual garbage passing game and a defensive front seven that mailed it in for the first time in memory. Florida easily won the time-of-possession battle, while losing the war. The Gator O-Line again played admirably and ground out close to 200 yards rushing against another defense that had zero fear of Feleipe Franks doing any damage through the air. Franks was never very good this season, but he bottomed out in the second half, looking absolutely awful while taking more unnecessary sacks and not protecting the football. Even the 2 times Florida marched deep into Puppy territory before garbage time, Coach Noose failed to call anything creative when only a few yards were needed for a touchdown – no rollouts, no jet sweep, no wildcat, no……anything. I can’t wait to see him gone form this program soon.
There is no need for any in-depth analysis of this game. That performance alone was a fireable offense in my book, notwithstanding the laundry list of other reasons Mac got his ass walked out. Unfortunately, the handful of coaches (Noose, Dixon, Nord) that have done nothing to develop the players get to stick around for 4 more games. They should forfeit their paychecks back to UF and coach for free – that’s what their efforts have been worth.
Florida is on the road this week at Missouri, to face another struggling team. The Tigers have been Jekyll-and-Hyde this year, beating up weak non-conference teams while looking horrible against SEC competition. Maybe getting away from Gainesville will prove beneficial for the Gators, as the team can employ a “circle-the-wagons” mentality and focus solely on the game.
Missouri’s offense is led by QB Drew Lock. The Tigers run a spread attack and are almost 50-50 run/pass. Their passing game could prove troublesome if they can isolate the safeties or LBs in coverage – WRs J’Mon Moore, Johnathan Johnson, and Emanuel Hall are all quality players. RBs Demarea Crockett and Ish Witter are solid, and can hurt a defense if the Florida D-Line doesn’t play it’s assignments. It’s doubtful more than 1-2 LBs will be on the field at any time, so the D-Line has to control the LOS and slow the running game. On must-pass downs, the Gator DL should have a decided advantage and should be able to apply pressure on Lock. I expect a lot of nickel and dime packages the entire game – the secondary is going to have it’s hands full and be under pressure. The Tigers have run up a vast majority of their statistics against FCS teams, making their overall numbers look good, but they have been slowed considerably in conference play.
Missouri’s defense is wretched. They have little SEC talent, and have been victimized by both the run and pass. One major development is the announcement that Malik Zaire will start at QB for the Gators this week. He has been unfairly criticized for his small sample size of playing time at UF, as he has been thrown into games late that are out of hand where he’s expected to play catch up by throwing more often. I expect to see a heavy emphasis on the running game, which should have little trouble moving the ball – under normal circumstances. This would prove beneficial as it would allow Florida’s defense some rest and to defend fewer possessions. Florida has shown a solid running game in conference play, and if the O-Line is focused and playing hard, it could be a big day for Lemical Perine and Mark Thompson. Adarius Lemons may also get a few carries, as Malik Davis incurred a knee injury last week that will require surgery. Zaire is a very capable runner, and I’m hopeful that Kedarius Toney has recovered more from his recent injuries and can get touches both on jet sweeps and in the wildcat formation. On the few passing plays that are called, the WRs have to take advantage of their matchups and make some big plays. It won’t be a glamorous day for them – they will be blocking more often than running routes.
I have no clue as to what the mindset of the players will be this week. The best case scenario is that they use the embarrassment of last week as fuel and show some fire, instead of the zombie-like effort against Georgia. Maybe the coaching change provides some juice to the team. Interim Head Coach Randy Shannon and the staff have to find a way to get the players focused on playing simple, effective, physical football on both sides of the LOS. I can’t believe the Gators are a 3.5 point underdog to such a bad team, even on the road. A team can go 2 ways when a head coach is fired midseason – pack it in and give up, or pull together and play hard. We’re going to see really quickly which way this team is headed.
Prediction: Florida 24 Missouri 21