Dooley: Missouri to test UF


Missouri running back Marcus Murphy celebrates after scoring on a nine-yard touchdown run during the second half against Kentucky on Oct. 27 in Columbia, Mo. Missouri won 33-10. (The Associated Press)

Published: Friday, November 2, 2012 at 7:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 2, 2012 at 7:46 p.m.

If you are a college student, you get a mid-term exam and a final. There may be a few pop quizzes sprinkled in and the occasional oral exam but it's nothing like being a football player in the Southeastern Conference.

Because in the SEC, it's a test every week.

“I said it before and I stand by this,” said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. “The difference in the SEC and other conferences is that there are a lot more good teams in the SEC. I think that's fair to say.”

Hey, the league has its open-book tests. But even Kentucky gave Georgia some trouble and somehow, some way Auburn barely lost to LSU.

For the Florida football team, the final test of the conference season is today. One more exam to determine its grade. These Gators hope there will be one more but hope is all they have.

As long as they take care of business today.

This is a test that must be passed for this season to be considered a success. The Gators win today and they are all but assured of a 10-win season with Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State up next.

They move up a notch in the bowl pecking order with a win today. They finish a conference season with a 7-1 record. And there is always that chance that schizophrenic Georgia will stumble.

Maybe most importantly, Florida needs to show that when Will Muschamp talks about the team's maturity, it's not just a cliche or a throw-away line. After that devastating loss to Georgia, you can't help but wonder where their heads are.

“We have a mature bunch that is able to put it behind them,” Muschamp said. “I don't want them to forget the loss. I want them to take it and use it as motivation. If you can't use it as motivation in a positive way, then you do need to forget it, and some guys are like that. We're all created differently, we all handle losing differently.”

How they handle losing will only be part of the equation today. It's a noon start and the stadium will not be filled. The energy will be nowhere close to what it was for the last two home games against LSU and South Carolina.

And these guys have computers and televisions. They know that Missouri has only one SEC win and that came against Kentucky.

Gator fans hope they know that quarterback James Franklin's injury is one reason the Tigers have struggled.

“I didn't expect a lot of the issues we're having,” Pinkel said.

It's also important that they know how big a game this is for Missouri. It's not only their chance to announce their SEC presence with authority but to take a big step closer to bowl eligibility.

All of these things come to play for this test. Some tests are physical. This one is mental.

This test is may not get you all tingly but it counts just the same as any of the seven previous ones.

It would be easy to dismiss Missouri as a bottom-feeder in its first season in the league but the Tigers can cause a lot of problems. They lead the nation in forced fumbles and when your team coughed it up six times a week ago that has to make you nervous.

More than anything, today is not about Missouri's first foray into The Swamp or how odd it will be to see a team from Columbia playing in Gainesville that is not named the Gamecocks.

It will be about Florida.

Let's see what ya got, Gators.

Muschamp has talked about how this team plays to the level of its opponent. Let's see them play above it. Let's see this team come out with a purpose and a sense of urgency.

It's the last test. As good a time as any.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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