On paper, Florida could be in real trouble today.
You look at the stats and Missouri is fourth in scoring, third in passing and third in total offense in SEC play.
Florida has issues in the secondary and we have no real clue how effective CJ Henderson will be with his bruised back. To make matters worse, Missouri’s Emmanuel Hall was back at practice this week after missing a couple of games with a groin injury.
Hall leads the SEC in receiving yards per game and is second in yards per catch despite only playing four games.
On paper, Florida should have no problem today.
The Gators have played in a ton of big games and are ranked for a reason. They have some high-level wins and Missouri’s best win was over Purdue back when Purdue was losing three in a row.
Florida already has four wins in the rugged SEC and Missouri has the same as UCF, zero-point-zero.
Florida is at home, is favored and won’t be distracted by Homecoming unless a float runs over CeCe Jefferson.
Of course, games are not played on paper unless you’ve folded it up and flicked it across a table with your middle finger. They are played on the field between scholarship football players in a rigidly-timed game on a gridiron (I slip that in only because of the great George Carlin “Baseball vs. Football” monologue. Google it if you’ve never see that.)
You have to add in this part of the human equation — both teams are coming off devastating losses. Florida’s was to arch-rival Georgia and eliminated the Gators from SEC title game consideration. Missouri snatched defeat from the jaws of victory last week at home against Kentucky.
The point is that none of us know what kind of mindset players on either side will have. They are wounded, hurting and probably feeling a little sorry for themselves.
Losing to Georgia can do that to a Gator. Losing to everybody you’ve played in the SEC can do that to anybody. Both sides have had a little swagger knocked out of them.
What we have here is the Inconsistency Bowl. That’s why Florida, for all of the good things it has done this season, was eliminated from the East race before we got to my birthday month (Nov. 14, if you’re thinking of getting a present).
And it’s why Missouri only seems to have two gears on offense — good and awful.
The Tigers have a great offense if you only look at the overall numbers. Drew Lock is a NFL first-round pick and he has a tight end in Albert Okwuegbunam who is a match-up problem already with 39 catches this season.
(By the way, just to let Florida’s defense know. I checked with the NCAA and you are allowed to cover the tight end).
On the other hand, there is this — Lock has one touchdown pass and five interceptions in four SEC games; he’s got 15 TDs and one pick in the non-conference games.
Of course, as many of you know, the Tigers had eight possessions in the second half against Kentucky last week and had eight three-and-outs when two first downs might have clinched the game.
So there’s that and there is this — that Missouri comes into the game with the worst pass defense in the country.
Yo, Feleipe, are you seeing this?
Feleipe Franks could use a good game, especially coming off four turnovers in his last two games. More than anything, he needs to take care of the ball.
I think Feleipe needs to take the advice of Gerry Goffin and Carole King, who wrote the great song “Take a Giant Step” for the Monkees.
“Come with me leave yesterday behind.
And take a giant step outside your mind.”
But maybe I’m reading too much into the mental side of things. Or maybe Franks can quit worrying about everything and throw more passes like he did for a third-quarter touchdown and fewer like he did for a first-quarter interception against Georgia.
Because in those two throws, he showed exactly why this is the Inconsistency Bowl. It’s like Dan Mullen said after the Georgia loss, that there were times when Florida looked like a great football team and times when it looked like it hadn’t practiced (I am paraphrasing).
Like a defense that can stop a top-10 team with six shots from the 1-yard line, but had a problem stopping it from a lot further out.
So we’ll see today about the Gators and about Lock and the Tigers and about the adjustments both coaches make and about the crowd factor and which sorority wins the float contest.
Mostly, we are going to see this — the team that plays with the most consistency is going to walk away a winner.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.