Missouri-Florida Week 8 Positional Preview

The Florida Gators try to pick themselves up off of the floor and continue forward on what has already been a tumultuous season. The Gators are coming off a gut-wrenching 30-27 loss to LSU at the hands of a last second 49 yard field goal. Florida had numerous opportunities to close out the game and just couldn’t do so. They let victory slip through their finger tips and this is a loss that truly strings.

They allowed an LSU receiver to run down the field untouched on third and 25. They were unable to score a touchdown on first and goal at the three yard line late in the fourth quarter. That drive included a drop by tight end Tevin Westbrook on a ball that hit him right in the chest on third down. The Gators were driving at the LSU 45 in the closing seconds before Jeff Driskel committed his third turnover with a terribly costly interception that led to the game-winning LSU field goal a few plays later.

Winning this game would have put the Gators in the driver’s seat of the SEC East. However, even with the loss, they still find all of their goals directly in front of them. They have Missouri, Georgia, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina remaining. If they can somehow run the table and get at least one Kentucky conference loss along the way, they can still somehow find themselves in Atlanta for the conference championship.

Those may seem like long odds, and they very well could be, but this team just needs to take it one game at a time starting this weekend with Missouri. This weekend is homecoming and a perfect chance for the Gators to bounce back and gain momentum before their off week and the beginning of preparations for Georgia.

Florida can’t look past Missouri though. Despite the 34-0 shutout loss to Georgia last week and a disappointing home loss to Indiana earlier in the year, the Tigers are still a formidable foe. This is how it breaks down by position in terms of which team has the advantage:

QUARTERBACK: MISSOURI. Maty Mauk gives the Tigers the advantage at the quarterback position. He has been given the reins of the offense and done a nice job so far as the full-time starter. He has completed 98-of-180 for 1,207 yards, 14 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. The Gators will be going with a two quarterback system. They plan to start Jeff Driskel but have freshmen Treon Harris see some significant time as well. The Gators are still searching for answers at the position and Missouri has the advantage.

RUNNING BACK: FLORIDA. Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy give Missouri a two-headed monster on the ground game. Together they have 797 of the 940 rushing yards for the team through six games. The Gators entered the season with a three-headed monster at the position as Kelvin Taylor, Matt Jones, and Mack Brown shared the bulk of the carries. That three headed monster has turned into the dual threat of Jones and freshman Brandon Powell. Powell is a nice change of pace back who is good in protection, an area where Taylor struggles. The Gators figure to have a Jones back for this game after dealing with an injury, which gives them the advantage.

WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END: MISSOURI. Bud Sasser is responsible for about a third of all Missouri passing production. The Gators will need to lock him down in order to shut down the Tigers’ air attack. Darius White and Jimmie Hunt are two other explosive options that will need to be accounted for. For the Gators, Demarcus Robinson and Quinton Dunbar are the big play threats. Andre Debose has been a huge weapon on special teams and the Gators will look to get him the ball more on offense. At the tight end position, the Gators rely on Clay Burton and Westbrook, who had a key drop on 3rd and goal last week vs. LSU. The Gators really miss Virginia transfer Jake McGee, who was hurt in the season opener.

OFFENSIVE LINE: MISSOURI. The Tigers have a fairly experienced offensive line that has held up pretty well and can open up holes for the running game. The Gators have struggled in this area of the game and are still looking for the starting unit that will gel together. Giving D.J. Humpries another week to heal should help, but Mizzou has the advantage.

FRONT SEVEN: FLORIDA. The Gators have one of the best front sevens in the country led by Dante Fowler Jr., Bryan Cox, Jr., and Neron Ball. Florida has been in their opponents backfield all season and could make it a long day for Maty Mauk. Missouri needs to do a better job of getting pressure on Driskel and Harris. They really struggled in that area last week in their 34-0 loss to Georgia. Florida has the clear advantage in this one.

SECONDARY: FLORIDA. Missouri also struggled in the secondary last week against Georgia, making Hutson Mason look like an experienced four-year starter. They will have to do a better job this week against Driskel and Harris. Giving the two quarterbacks a wide variety of different looks should help. The Gators are led by Vernon Hargreaves III and have really seen Jalen Tabor come on at the other corner the past two weeks. Keanu Neal has been playing great at one of the safeties and the Gators have the advantage at this positional group as well.

SPECIAL TEAMS: FLORIDA. The Gators are coming off their best special teams week of the year last week when Andre Debose ran wild on LSU in the return game. He gives UF a dangerous return man who can break any of his returns for a touchdown. He is a nice compliment for All-American punting candidate Kyle Christy and the tandem of Frankie Velez and Austin Hardin at kicker. The Gators have the advantage and need to keep up the momentum in the special teams game to try and pull this one out.

MATCH-UP TO WATCH: MISSOURI OFFENSIVE LINE VS FLORIDA DEFENSIVE LINE. It will be a battle of line play in this one. The Gator front seven is the strength of the team and Missouri will need to bring their best effort to keep them away from Maty Mauk. If Mauk is running for his life or not able to give his receivers time to get open, it could be another long day for their offense. This match-up will go a long way to deciding the winner of this one.

OVERALL ADVANTAGE: FLORIDA. Despite the tough loss to LSU, the Gators have looked like an improved and very competitive team the past two weeks. They are at home and desperate for a win. They will turn to a two quarterback system to try and spark this offense and give the defense enough support for a victory. A win here and the Georgia game in two weeks becomes a lot more important.

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