The game: Nov. 3 in The Swamp.
Last year’s result: Less than a week after Jim McElwain was forced out, the Gators laid an egg at Missouri, showing little fight in a 45-16 loss. Quarterback Drew Lock led the Tigers, throwing for 228 yards and three touchdowns.
Key players returning: QB Drew Lock (3,964 yards passing and 44 touchdowns last season), RB Damarea Crockett (481 yards rushing and two touchdowns), DT Terry Beckner, LB Terez Hall, WR Emanuel Hall (33 receptions for 817 yards and eight touchdowns), TE Albert Okwuegbunam (29 receptions for 415 yards and 11 touchdowns).
Key losses: RB Ish Witter (1,049 yards rushing and six touchdowns last season), WR J’Mon Moore (65 receptions for 1,082 yards and 10 touchdowns), DE Marcell Frazier, S Anthony Sherrils, S Kaleb Prewett.
Scouting the offense: Quarterback Drew Lock, who appears to be a first-round lock in the NFL draft, and the Tigers are expecting to light up opposing defenses like they did the second half of last season. They were almost unstoppable. The Tigers need to find a way to replace two of their most productive players in 1,000-yard rusher Ish Witter and 1,000-yard receiver J’Mon Moore. Lock has some viable options in running back Damarea Crockett, who has some star qualities, and wide receiver Emanuel Hall. Lock should have time to operate the offense behind a line that returns three starters.
Scouting the defense: The Tigers have a dominant player up front in senior tackle Terry Breckner, but there is a lot of inexperience around him on the defensive line. Where the Tigers look really strong is at linebacker and the cornerback spots, where all the starters return, led by senior linebacker Terez Hall.
Scouting the special teams: Special teams emerged as a team strength last season and all the starters return — kicker Tucker McCann, punter Corey Fatony and returner Richaud Floyd, who returned two punts for touchdowns last season.
“With Drew, I think you look at some of the things skill set-wise that he’s able to do. Working with the staff that he’s got, working on his footwork, working on the timing with the receivers, working on the understanding of reading the defense and maybe putting us in a better play call with what we’re getting on that side of the ball, the understanding of how all 10 other moving parts work, along obviously with his position, he’s grown so much football IQ since January. Things have slowed down for him a great deal.” — Barry Odom