Each Friday, the Sports Illustrated-AllGators staff will provide predictions and pre-game analysis before the Florida Gators take on their weekly opponent.
We have decided to tally prediction records as the season goes on. These are purely based on Gators' win/loss predictions, and not factoring in the spread.
After a two-week bye amid a COVID-19 outbreak within the program, Florida returns to the field to host the Missouri Tigers in The Swamp, Saturday night at 7:30 P.M. It has yet to be seen how Florida's game day roster will be affected by the outbreak, but as positives continue to creep in with six new cases reported this week, it's safe to assume there will be implications in spots.
Missouri, meanwhile, heads to Gainesville riding a two-game win streak under redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Bazelak and first-year head coach Eliah Drinkwitz. Bazelak tossed for 406 yards and four touchdowns in his first start against LSU, while Missouri controlled the clock for 43:10, going 10-of-20 on third downs and 4-of-5 on fourth downs in a 20-10 victory against Kentucky's highly-ranked defense a week ago.
Missouri's offense has found ways to win games that have proven to cause issues for the Gators' defense this year. Needing to shake off some rust following a team-wide quarantine, our predictions suggest that this will be no easy contest for Florida.
Predictions and takes!
Zach Goodall (2-1): Florida 38, Missouri 27
Florida is far more talented than Missouri, but the Tigers can move the ball in ways that have given Todd Grantham fits this year. Three weeks of poor play followed by two weeks of quarantine leads me to believe the Gators won't magically fix those issues, and Missouri will score.
Provided the time off, Florida's offense may have to shake off some rust, therefore I'm predicting a "slow" start. As in, Florida probably doesn't score on its first drive. Or maybe it does, but just a field goal. The Gators have scored a touchdown on every opening drive this year.
With that, Missouri chews clock and scores early on to keep this game closer than it appears, covering the 12.5-point spread at the time this story was written. But Florida will get in a groove and put things away behind offensive efficiency in the second half.
Note: My prediction on the Locked On Gators podcast, recorded Thursday night, had Florida beating Missouri, 35-27. Earlier in the week, I predicted 41-30. Florida will win, I just can't decide by how much.
Demetrius Harvey (2-1): Florida 42, Missouri 41
I have a feeling this game is going to be a tight one.
While Florida is coming off of an extended bye period, its offense has remaining sharp since Week 1, that’s a great indicator of the talent the team possesses. I do believe this one will end in a shootout.
While Missouri isn’t a powerhouse, it has gone toe-to-toe with one of the best offenses in the SEC, defeating the LSU Tigers by a score of 45-41 just two weeks ago. Missouri has firepower with an intriguing young quarterback and sound run game to pair, and it will be intriguing to see how the Gators defense combats it after several weeks to prepare in isolation.
Brandon Carroll (2-1): Florida 38, Missouri 28
With the Gators entering their first matchup since coronavirus ran a rough shot through the program, getting back into the swing of things will ultimately determine this game's outcome against Missouri. Despite Florida’s well-oiled machine of an offense to this point in the season, the idea that they could falter on the first possession or two given their time off has not been lost on me.
Given the Tigers' ability to control the clock and rush the football, there is a thought in my mind that this may be lower scoring that many may think to believe. Along with the fact that Missouri does many things well, Florida has struggled with defensively during the season.
This game ultimately is closer than the spread indicates, but the Gators still come out on top by two scores.
Graham Marsh (2-1): Florida 48, Missouri 35
Until I see a reason not to, I’m going to predict shootouts for the Gators. This Missouri team isn’t good, but its offense can score points.
If UF’s defense continues to look like it has thus far through the season, assume that it will be another frustrating game on Todd Grantham’s side of the ball. As for the offense, also expect more of the same. Maybe there will be some rust, but quarterback Kyle Trask and Co. should find very little issue putting points on the board, often.
Florida will win the game, but not necessarily in a satisfying fashion.
Donavon Keiser (2-1): Florida 45, Missouri 34
The Gators must be laser focused against SEC East foe Missouri after three weeks of a bad taste from the loss to Texas A&M in their mouths.
The Florida defense will be tasked with stopping Bazelak and running back Larry Rountree III, which will be a difficult task even though the Tigers have only won two games over Kentucky and LSU. Todd Grantham and the UF defense has struggled so far this season and they must adjust with certain personnel changes.
On offense, the Gators should have no issues with moving the ball on the Tigers if they do not turn the ball over. I expect Trask to have a big day and get more receivers not named Kadarius Toney and Kyle Pitts in the game.
Although I can see the Gators struggling, they should be juiced under the lights in the Swamp, even adding their defensive anchor in Kyree Campbell back on the field. Still, the Gators will be tested by not having practice in the past few weeks and having holes throughout the roster due to the outbreak.
Michael Knauff (2-1): Florida 37 Missouri 27
If any game on the schedule provides a strong dose of anxiety to Florida fans, it’s Missouri. The Tigers of Columbus have been a thorn in the Gators side for the past three seasons, besting Florida twice in 2017 and 2018, and then playing a grind-it-out game last season. I’d expect the same come Saturday.
Missouri isn’t really exceptional at any position. They’re good at running back, solid at receiver, steady at quarterback and sound defensively. Not flashy, just going to do what they need to do to win games.
That being said, Florida will struggle out of the gate. The lay-off from COVID-19 protocol will hamper the sharpness of the team, and it’ll lead to a close game heading into the 4th. However, Florida's offense gets rolling late with Trask making some clutch third-down throws and Florida finally feeding running back Dameon Pierce to ice the game.