Contrary to what seems to be popular opinion lately, the Florida Gators are not scared of Tigers. They are not scared of the LSU Tigers and are definitely not scared of the Missouri Tigers.
Due to Mother Nature having a mind of her own, the Gators were not able to host the LSU Tigers last weekend. Because conspiracy theorists are everywhere nowadays, a hurricane postponement somehow morphed into the storyline of Florida being scared to play a football game. Ha. The internet trolls must’ve been incredibly bored last week.
The Florida Gators are in the AP Top 25. They have no reason to be scared of anybody.
Apparently losing one road game in an SEC East rivalry with the Tennessee Volunteers means that the Gators are just going to be scared from now on. Not only do the Vols get credit for being a top 10 team, this was also the first time they had beaten Florida since 2004. For some reason, I don’t think that all adds up to mean the Gators should be frightened by the remainder of their opponents. That moonshine up in Tennessee must be great, because countless Vol fans would disagree.
So, now that we know the Gators have no reason to be scared of the LSU Tigers, let’s talk about why they also have absolutely no reason whatsoever to be scared of the Missouri Tigers.
Last year Florida marched into Columbia, Missouri, and beat the Tigers 21-3. This year’s team seems pretty similar to last year’s except with far more potential on offense, especially now that Luke Del Rio is back at quarterback. This Florida team also now has a great kicker in social media sensation Eddy Pineiro.
The Tigers have been all over the place this season. They started out with a 15-point loss on the road to the West Virginia Mountaineers. The next week they hosted the Eastern Michigan Eagles and beat them by a whopping 40 points. After that, they hosted the Georgia Bulldogs and eventually lost that game by only a point. Not surprisingly, the Tigers then beat up on the Delaware State Hornets the next week, winning that one 79-0. Two weeks ago, the Tigers traveled to Baton Rouge and lost to some other “scary” Tigers, 42-7.
That puts the Missouri Tigers at 2-3 overall. Meanwhile, the Florida Gators are 4-1, even though they’ve been missing some of their defensive line as well as their starting quarterback for the last two games.
When you look at it that way, the Gators have absolutely nothing to be afraid of this weekend. There are a lot of other ways you can look at it that will support that same Gator confidence.
Missouri’s biggest strength is its passing game. Florida’s biggest strength is probably its group of defensive backs led by likely first-round draft picks Quincy Wilson and Teez Tabor. No SEC team has more interceptions so far this season than the Gators. Georgia also has eight interceptions but has played one more game than Florida has. Only one SEC team has more sacks than Florida and unsurprisingly that team is Alabama. Texas A&M also has 19 sacks but, again, they have played an extra game comparatively.
By the way, as far as yardage goes, Florida has the fourth-best passing defense in the country. Do I hear a “DBU” chant starting?
Even though Missouri’s rushing attack hasn’t been its biggest strength, Florida is also ranked in the top ten in rushing defense. And even beyond that, Florida has only allowed an average of 11.6 points per game this season. With a defense like that, the Gators have nothing to be scared of when it comes to this Missouri team.
The Missouri defense, on the other hand, has been shaky at best. The Florida offense has performed similarly. But, now that Luke Del Rio will be starting again, I expect Florida’s offensive production to improve at least marginally.
Florida’s special teams? Well, kick returning hasn’t been great. Like I said before, Florida finally has a solid kicker in Pineiro. Florida also has a great punter in Johnny Townsend, who has averaged 50.2 yards per punt this season.
Basically, no matter which way you look at it, Missouri is the team that should be (and probably is) scared. I know that the last time Missouri came to town for homecoming, things didn’t go so well for Florida. But that was the Muschamp era and this is the McElwain era. Coach Muschamp is currently 2-4 at South Carolina, if you really needed any explanation on why the difference in head coaches is significant.
So, after a week off and a week of ridicule from LSU Tigers and Tennessee Vols fans alike, the Gators are going to remind everyone just why we aren’t scared of anybody. Championship teams often have one loss anyway, so you can’t count out the Gators just yet.
You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.
Photo of student ticket from Kristen Botica.