No. 11 Florida (8-2, 5-2 SEC, No. 11 CFP) at Missouri (5-4, 2-3)
Today: 12 p.m. EST
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850
Line: Florida by 7.
Series record: Missouri leads 5-3.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Florida trails Georgia by a half-game in the SEC East and the Bulldogs hold the tiebreaker. So, the Gators need to beat the Tigers just to keep pace in the race for the league title game. Missouri has lost three straight to Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Georgia and needs to beat the Gators, Tennessee or Arkansas to become bowl eligible.
The Gators, who have lost back-to-back games to the Tigers by a combined score of 83-33, say they won’t enter this game with a sense of security because Missouri is riding a three-game losing streak, with two of those losses coming against Vanderbilt and Kentucky. That’s because the Tigers are a much different team at home, where they are 5-0 and averaging 40.5 points a game. “They’re obviously talented and have won some games at home to understand that we need to bring our A game,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “ It’s really about us playing to our identity and ability and standard. That’s what we’re concerned about.”
Tough test for Trask
As everyone now knows, the Gators don’t have a running game. UF is pretty much strictly a passing team now, which may be an advantage for the Tigers, who have been suffocating in the secondary, making opposing quarterbacks struggle to find open receivers. The Tigers, who are giving up only 147.7 yards a game passing, made it real tough on standout Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm last Saturday. Fromm completed just 13 of 29 passes for only 173 yards. The reality is, this may be the best secondary Trask has faced this season and should be a stern test for a team that has to have success in the passing game to win games.
Bryant back in the shotgun
Not only are the Tigers better at home than on the road, they’re better with Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant at quarterback, something that was evident last week. With Bryant out against Georgia with an injured hamstring, the Missouri offense could not move the ball. The Tigers were shut out and gained less than 200 total yards. Bryant returned to practice this week and will play today. The dual-threat QB brings a more explosive dimension to the Mizzou offense. He’s thrown for 1,845 yards and 14 touchdowns with only five interceptions. He’s also rushed for 205 yards and a touchdown. He’s a potential difference maker today.
Florida’s passing game vs. the Missouri secondary:
This will be a matchup of strength vs. strength. With Kyle Trask and his bevy of talented and proven receivers, the Gators have been flying up and down the field with a highly efficient passing attack. Trask is coming off a career-best performance against Vanderbilt in which he threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns. So, he’s coming into this game hot. But Trask and those receivers may be facing their sternest test of the season in this Missouri secondary that has been sound all season, giving up just 147.7 yards a game and only nine touchdowns in nine games. UF can’t run the ball, so for the Gators to get out of Columbia with a win today, they’re going to have to win this matchup. Maybe in a big way.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Florida: TE Kyle Pitts has caught 18 passes over the past three games, highlighted by his 108-yard performance in the Gators’ 42-28 loss to LSU. Pitts has 42 catches for 528 yards and five scores this season.
Missouri: QB Kelly Bryant missed last week’s shutout loss to Georgia because of an ailing hamstring, and he was sorely missed. Taylor Powell struggled in his place in the 27-0 loss between the hedges.
Today’s game questions
- Will quarterback Kyle Trask and the UF passing game struggle against a sound Missouri secondary?
- The Tigers have really hurt the Gators on the ground the past two years. Can the defensive front shut down Larry Rountree and Tyler Badie and make the Tigers one-dimensional on offense?
- Today’s game features two of the best tight ends in the SEC, maybe even the nation. Who has a bigger impact? Kyle Pitts? Or Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam?
- Can the Gators make something big (and positive) happen on special teams?
- After losing big to the Tigers the last two seasons, the Gators are hoping to get off to a fast start in this one. Do they make that happen?
Click back Monday for Andreu’s answers
Florida 24, Missouri 21
(Season record: 8-2)
FACTS & FIGURES
Florida is seeking a sixth SEC win for the first time in three years. … Trask is completing 66.7% of his passes since becoming the starter. He has two 300-yard passing game. … The Gators are one of six teams nationally with at least four receivers with at least 25 catches, 375 yards and three TDs. … Ten different Gators have a TD catch. … Florida is outscoring opponents 113-29 in the fourth quarter. … The Gators lead the SEC and are third nationally with 21 takeaways. … Florida is second in the Big 12 in scoring defense (15 points per game) … Missouri leads the SEC and is fourth nationally in pass defense (147.7 yards). … The Tigers are playing a home game for the first time since Oct. 12. They are 5-0 at Faurot Field. … The Tigers were held to 198 yards by Georgia, their worst offensive output since 2015. They failed to score for the first time since 2014.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.