On the three trips I’ve made to Starkville, I’ve seen some strange and pretty unbelievable stuff. What I haven’t seen is a Florida victory.
Scott Field isn’t on anyone’s top 10 list of toughest places to play in college football, but it’s been a nightmare venue for the Gators, who haven’t won there since 1985. They’re 0-4 since then.
I covered three of those losses, two Steve Spurrier-coached teams (1992 and 2000) and one under Ron Zook (2004).
In the 1992 game, Shane Matthews and the Gators got spanked in a big way. Matthews had no time to throw, the offense went nowhere and UF was physically over-matched in a 30-6 loss on a Thursday night.
The strangest game was the 47-35 loss in 2000. That got weird right from the start. MSU won the coin toss, elected to defer, and Florida captain Marquand Manuel elected to kickoff for some reason. That meant the Bulldogs got the ball to start both halves. It went downhill from there. The lowlights included Spurrier punting on third down and tailback Robert Gillespie getting penalized for unsportsmanlike after directing the UF pep band after he scored a touchdown.
The 2004 loss, of course, is what accelerated Zook’s demise at Florida. The Monday after the embarrassing 38-31 defeat, Zook was fired, effective at the end of the season. Earlier in the season, MSU had lost to Maine at Scott Field.
So, given all that I’ve seen at Scott Field, and given Florida’s grim history there, I am very tempted to pull the trigger and predict a Bulldog upset Saturday night. It could happen, definitely.
The Florida offense isn’t scoring many points and the defense has some injury issues in the front seven, a bad thing when you’re facing a tailback as good as Anthony Dixon. And you know Dan Mullen is going to really be helping out his defense in terms of how to stop an offense that he used to coordinate.
MSU had a chance to beat LSU at Scott Field earlier in the season. The Bulldogs will have a chance to beat Florida.
This is a game that will be in doubt going into the fourth quarter. The way the UF offense is playing, it’s probably going to be this way the rest of the season, with the exception of the FIU game.
I’m going with Florida, but it’s a very shaky call.
Prediction: Florida 27, Mississippi State 17