In one week, the No. 11 Florida Gators (5-0, 3-0 SEC) have gone from a surprise team to favorite in the SEC after a 38-10 upset of former No. 3 Ole Miss.
Florida fulfilled last week’s upset alert by beating the Rebels, but the Gators now find themselves on the other side of the equation.
Florida will travel to face Missouri (4-1, 1-1 SEC) on Saturday in a game that could be more difficult than it looks on paper. It is a big game for both teams in the conference standings, but it is also Missouri’s Homecoming game.
The Gators have lost to Missouri in each of the past two seasons.
“I’m sure based on that history, they felt pretty good about us being their homecoming.” Florida coach Jim McElwain said on the SEC coaches teleconference Wednesday.
Here is how the Tigers could win for a third straight season and upset the Gators:
Statistically, Missouri has the best defense in the SEC
Missouri’s offense has looked anemic at times this season, search no farther than a 9-6 win over UConn in Week 2. The Missouri defense, however, has been the stingiest in the conference.
Through five games the Tigers have given up just 12 points per game. Missouri also leads the SEC with just 263.6 yards allowed per game.
Over the last two weeks, Florida’s offense has accounted for 747 yards. so this Saturday’s matchup will be a clash of two units playing at a high level.
Florida quarterback Will Grier played his best game of the season against Ole Miss completing 82.8 percent of his passes for four touchdowns and no interceptions. The freshman had thrown an interception and completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes in each of the Gators’ previous three games.
Missouri has forced an SEC-best seven interceptions.
If the Tigers can pressure Grier into mistakes, they will have a chance to pull off the upset.
How will Florida react to being a national favorite after a big win?
Florida appears to be the clear favorite in the SEC East after controlling an Ole Miss team that defeated Alabama in Week 3.
Florida finds itself in a similar scenario to what the Rebels were facing after Week 3. The Rebels moved into the top 3 of the AP Poll after beating Alabama, but they haven’t looked the same since. Ole Miss narrowly avoided Vanderbilt’s upset bid, then followed that escape up with last week’s loss in The Swamp to Florida.
Florida now faces the challenge of following up a statement victory when the team is expected to win.
“Expectations are what you sign up for,” McElwain said on Wednesday. “If you don’t have expectations of success, it’s never going to happen.”
The Gators will enter Saturday’s game against Missouri with a high confidence level, but just two games ago Florida barely escaped with a 14-9 win against over Kentucky.
The following week, Florida needed a late miracle touchdown pass on fourth-and-14 to beat Tennessee.
Not many expected McElwain, a first-year coach, to lead Florida to a 5-0 start.
Florida looked like a contender last week, but now it has to prove that statement.
If the Gators don’t come out with the same intensity they displayed last week, Missouri could take advantage.
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock an upgrade over Maty Mauk
Missouri started the season with junior quarterback Maty Mauk, but he has been suspended indefinitely.
Freshman Drew Lock started for the Tigers last week against South Carolina, and looked great completing 21-of-28 passes for two touchdowns and no interceptions. Of course everyone has looked good against South Carolina’s defense this season, but it was still an encouraging performance for Lock’s first career start.
Mauk had a bad habit of throwing interceptions, he has thrown 17 in his last 18 games, including four this season. So far, Lock has just one in 53 passing attempts.
Florida’s defense has not forced turnovers at the rate of Missouri’s defense, but the Gators do lead the SEC in turnover margin at (+6).
Turnovers will likely play a huge role in this game, so it is crucial for Lock to limit critical mistakes.
If Missouri can limit its turnovers, then the Tigers will have a good chance to spoil Florida’s undefeated season.
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) October 7, 2015