I like storylines. A good storyline elevates an already good game or adds intrigue to an otherwise out-of-sight/out-of-mind game.
Jim McElwain was relieved of his duties in Gainseville. McElwain’s Gators won two SEC championships as he picked up the pieces after the failed experiment with Will Muschamp. But it’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-today industry and, going into this game against Missouri, Florida is 3-4 with no hint of an offense.
As for Missouri, first-year head coach Barry Odom is nursing a 3-5 record. The Tigers are coming off of a would-be impressive road win against UConn. Drew Lock looked magical as he completed 83 percent of his passes while tossing five touchdowns. But please, let’s put that performance in perspective. It was against a bad UConn team.
So what’s intriguing about this matchup?
For Florida, it’s going to be about pride. Will the mid-season firing of their coach be considered a gut check opportunity for the Gators? This is a road game for Florida and those can always be dicey in the SEC even when the road team is traveling to the Siberian northern region of the conference.
Missouri needs to build on the recent wins against Idaho and UConn. As Dave Matter pointed out, a bowl game is still on the table for Missouri. It’s difficult to argue against math. Numbers don’t lie. But 6 or 7 wins are potential outcomes. As for the probability of being bowl eligible? Well, that depends on if you’re a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty type of fan.
What we do know is that Florida has set its course. McElwain is out and a new coach will be hired. Firing him was questionable to me. Doing it mid-season was downright BOLD. If Florida plans on hiring a current coach – like Dan Mullen – then the AD gained nothing by firing the coach midseason. If the Gators are going to go whale hunting – going for a Chip Kelly or Bob Stoops – then a midseason shakeup makes a bit more sense. Having said that, if the AD is playing Moby Dick, then that whale of a hire better be made. Otherwise, it’s going to be more like Mopy Dick at Florida.
This game for Odom and Missouri is now more precarious. Florida doesn’t have a head coach and the performance of the team has been underwhelming to date. The storyline makes this a must-win game for Odom if he hopes to keep the morale of the fanbase as a glass-half-full proposition. This game is also important for recruiting. Odom had made head-way into the South and was hoping to do the same in-state. Verbal commitments have been lost and the in-state talent couldn’t care less about Missouri. A win against a struggling, but name brand SEC school like Florida will help Odom’s elevator pitch.
I’m not going to make a prediction about this game. There are too many unknowns with these teams and there has been far too much on-field inconsistency from each of these teams. What can be said is this – there’s intrigue with this game and it could make for one of those classic mid-season SEC games.
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