The Swamp returns

Pat Dooley
Gator Sports

Imagine if a man from the future (uh-oh, where is this going?) had sidled up next to you at the Florida State game (rout) last November and told you this:

You won't see Florida play a second home game until Halloween.

  And then he got into his DeLorean and went back to the future. Or maybe it was that Bill and Ted phone booth or the Deadpool 2 fancy arm bracelet.

Doesn't matter.

You would have been left sitting there with a bewildered look on your face trying to figure out what disaster takes place in 2020. 

But that is where we are tonight, with an important game for the Gators who can never seem to shake their younger brother named Missouri. Eight games since the youngsters joined America's Conference and half of them have gone the wrong way.

History doesn't matter, of course, because this is about as unique a setting for a must-win game as you can get. The last opposing team to win in The Swamp is probably wondering as much as we are about what kind of team the Gators will put forth in their first non-nooner of the year.

Will we see a team that looks like a team that just went two weeks without a practice or in-person meetings, then eased back into things this week?

Will we see a team that struggles late in the game with conditioning?

Will we see a defense that will come out with a fire or will we see a defense that has to count on the offense having plenty of Febreze to cover the odor?

I don't think any of us know what we are going to see. In the first place, Missouri has won by playing two completely different styles of football the last two weeks and many of the Tigers' strengths play right in the face of the Gator defensive problems.

But maybe we see a Florida defense that plays the way Todd Grantham believes it will, pointing out this week that the problems weren't schematic. 

Even though there won't be a lot of energy in the stands because of reduced attendance, UF quarterback Kyle Trask has insisted there will be plenty on the field. Look, when you finally get a chance to be the starting quarterback at a school where is it very important, you're not about to let it go just 13 starts in, no matter how bizarre the circumstances.

This is the kind of game Trask was built for. You think it's hard waiting three weeks to get back on the field? Try waiting through all of high school and most of college for a start.

So, like we have seen for so many college teams this year, it comes down to a little bit of a battle of attrition for both teams. Eli Drinkwitz said he's down to 64 scholarship players and that doesn't even include COVID-19 cases.

Dan Mullen, as has become his style during this season, will let us all know a couple of hours before the game which players are not available without explanation for why they are not available.

“There’s no way to know, as we know in the SEC,” Drinkwitz said. “You just go in assuming that they’ll be at full strength. We know the challenges we have. We know the kinds of scheme that they’re going to try to run. We’ll adjust while we’re in the game. I don’t think we’re going to act like they’re not going to have their best guys.”

Yep, eventually, everybody on both sides of the field and in the stands will know who is playing and who isn't and whether or not Missouri had an advantage playing last week while Florida watched.

"I really didn't WANT to not be playing for three weeks and not practicing for two weeks," Mullen said.

Well, at least they should be fresh.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.