The 2020 season gets another restart on Halloween against MIssouri. Florida has had no football operations in place for almost 2 weeks, but now has only 6 days to get ready for an important home game. We won’t know who is available until kickoff, so there could be some key contributors on both offense and defense missing. Talk about a huge challenge for the entire team and the coaching staff. After having to wait an additional 3 weeks to start the season, the Gators now have to manage a 3 week break between games during the actual season.
Missouri actually has some momentum coming into the Swamp. They rolled up 45 points in a huge upset win at home against LSU, and shut down Kentucky last week, allowing only 10 points while running the ball over 60 times. Lerry Roundtree is their workhorse RB, and unless the Florida front seven can control the Tigers’ running game, this one could get dicey. Missouri installed freshman QB Connor Bazelak during their second game after a slow start on offense, and he seems to have provided a spark to their passing game to provide some balance to their attack. He has two good WRs in Jalen Knox and Damon Hazleton who have had success in the SEC. Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham has had 2 additional weeks to fix some of the problems with the Gator defense, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Even if there are some schematic changes, the loss of 2 weeks of practice is going to hurt……we just don’t know how much until the game is played. The D-line will get Kyree Campbell back to bolster the DT rotation, but I’m not counting on him too much until he gets into game shape. The rest of the D-line and the LBs have a lot to prove, and there is no room for error the rest of the way if the Gators are going to make noise nationally.
It could be a challenge for the Gator offense to come out with the same precision and production it showed the first 3 games, after this schedule pause with no official practice time until this past Monday. Sadly, until the defense shows a pulse, they may be forced (again) into scoring 30+ points and having that constant pressure on their shoulders the entire game. If the timing is off early in the passing game, I hope Coach Mullen isn’t afraid to lean on his stable of running backs to keep the defense fresh and, until they prove their worth, off the field. Missouri is led by LBs Nick Bolton and Devin Nicholson and DT Trajan Jeffcoat, so they are strong up the middle. All 3 have played well this season and will need to be neutralized as much as possible. If given time, Kyle Trask should find success against a Tiger secondary that has struggled against good passing attacks. It’s still a mystery as to when Ethan White returns to give the O-line another quality starter and more depth.
Missouri will have a decided advantage as they are in a weekly schedule rhythm and are sharp. It’s imperative that the Gators somehow come out strong early and play smart, controlled football. On top of this, Dan Mullen is one of the 4 staff members who has tested positive for Covid-19, so the entire coaching staff has it’s hands full attempting to get both themselves and the team ready to go from the start while dealing with reduced contact with the players on and off the field. It would not shock me if the Tigers pulled off an upset, but it would be a massive disappointment for the team and Gator Nation to see the season suddenly on the brink. There’s no home field advantage at the Swamp with only 17,000 or so fans, instead of nearly 90,000 to help the team through any rough stretches.
Prediction: Florida 34 Missouri 24