GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- No. 7 Florida plays its final Southeastern Conference game of the season on Saturday at Florida Field against Missouri. Here’s a look at the Tigers:
Record: 4-4 (1-4 SEC)
Coach: Gary Pinkel, 12th season (89-58); 22nd season overall (162-95-3).
Series record: Missouri leads 1-0.
Top players: RB Kendial Lawrence (632 yards, 7 TDs); QB James Franklin (79-128-2, 821 yards, 4 TDs); DT Sheldon Richardson (57 tackles, 4.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries); LB Andrew Wilson (50 tackles, three pass breakups, four forced fumbles).
Scouting the offense: The Tigers run a spread offense and have a dangerous player in Franklin, who is back in the starting lineup after missing time with a left knee injury. Lawrence has blossomed as the Tigers’ top rusher since becoming the No. 1 tailback in the eighth game of last season. WRs Marcus Lewis and T.J. Moe aren’t big-play receivers. They’re averaging 10.2 and 9.6 yards per catch, respectively. Missouri has really struggled in the red zone. The Tigers have scored only 12 TDs on 26 trips in the red zone and failed to score any points on seven possessions.
Scouting the defense: The Tigers’ defense hasn’t struggled in the transition to the SEC as many expected. They’re pretty good on third down (29.7 percent, 10th in the NCAA). Richardson is leading the team in tackles despite being an interior lineman. He’s producing against elite teams, too; he had 14 tackles and a sack against Alabama. The Tigers are holding teams to 334.0 yards per game and allowing 138.5 yards rushing per game.
Three keys to victory:
There’s no doubt the Tigers’ offense was explosive last season, but the spread offense has not exactly flourished in the SEC in the past few seasons. It works if you have a dual-threat QB like Franklin, but he has been banged up all season and getting yards against the Gators will be tough.
Florida is going to have to deal with CB E.J. Gaines in the passing game. Gaines was a first-team All-Big 12 selection as a sophomore last season, knocking down 16 passes and picking off two more. He’s not shy about coming up in run support, either. He hasn’t had trouble transitioning to the SEC. He’s got 46 tackles, six pass breakups, and two forced fumbles.
UF’s offensive line is coming off one of its worst games of the season. Missouri isn’t getting a lot of sacks, but the Tigers will surely go after QB Jeff Driskel after watching tape of what Georgia did last weekend. Richardson is a beast inside, and DEs Kony Ealy, Brad Madison and Michael Sam each have 3.5 sacks.