Coach: Barry Odom (fourth season, 19-19).
Last season: 8-5 overall, 4-4 in the SEC (T-4th in the East). Lost to Oklahoma State 38-33 in the Liberty Bowl.
Last year’s game: The Gators had problems slowing down Missouri’s big-play offense and the Tigers rolled to a stunning 38-17 victory in The Swamp. Struggling quarterback Feleipe Franks was replaced by Kyle Trask in the second half.
Starters returning: 13 (5 offense, 6 defense, 2 specialists)
Strengths: Even though star quarterback (and recent Gator nemesis) Drew Lock has moved on to the NFL, the Tigers figure to again be potent and balanced on offense. The new quarterback will be Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant, who seems a perfect fit for the Tigers’ spread offense. Bryant will have plenty of options in the passing game. Three of the top five receivers return, led by wide receiver Johnathan Johnson (59 receptions for 727 yards and five touchdowns last season) and standout tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, who is a huge mismatch problem for opposing secondaries. Once again, the Tigers should have great balance between the pass and run. Mizzou has a potent 1-2 punch at running back with Larry Roundtree (1,216 yards rushing and 11 TDs in 2018) and the elusive Tyler Badie. The secondary, which was atrocious two years ago, steadily improved over the course of last season and should be even better in 2019.
Possible problem areas: Missouri has been banned from a bowl this season by the NCAA, so that might be a mental hurdle for this team to get over. On offense, the line is somewhat of a question mark, with three starters needing to be replaced. On the other side of the ball, the biggest playmakers up front last season, tackles Terry Beckner and Walter Palmore and end Nate Anderson, are gone and depth at linebacker is a serious issue.
The schedule: The Tigers have the easiest schedule in the East, with their West opponents being Arkansas and Ole Miss. In past years, the Gators have drawn Missouri the week after the Georgia game, which has been problematic for UF. This season, the Gators play Vanderbilt at home before going to Mizzou, while the Tigers are at Georgia the week before the UF game.
Quotable: “I think you look at the way that we’ve spent time, we’ve committed to time spent with our players and our student-athletes on the personal development side of it, on the personal development side of moving our program forward. Our team has embraced that. We’re all aligned with the same vision and direct approach on how we can be our best throughout our habits, our preparation. It’s called, for us, the winning process of how we go about things.” — Barry Odom