1) Points. Where will they come from for the Gators this weekend? An already somewhat stagnant offense becomes further hampered by injuries. What do the Gators need to do to get on the board?
Walk-on kicker Frankie Velez!
No, but seriously: Florida's going to need to put together patient drives that get it in range for short scoring plays, or hope that Missouri's defense misses tackles and allows slippery wide receiver Solomon Patton (three long catch-and-run TDs already this year) or slippery wide receiver Quinton Dunbar to make a big play. That Missouri pass rush is likely to thwart Tyler Murphy's attempts to load up and throw deep, and so Florida will have to run effectively and dink and/or dunk in the passing game to move the ball.
2) Among the great defenses Florida has had over the years, where does this one rank in your opinion?
Until Dominique Easley's injury, I would have said it had a chance to be among the top three I've seen -- which took the field in 2006, 2008, and 2012. Now, after a few games spent showing weaknesses up front that Easley's incredible level of play helped cover, I would put it in the next tier down (2001, 2009, 1996), or one below it. It's a good enough defense to win 10 games — if the offense can help it out.
3) How is Muschamp viewed among the Florida faithful? Is there confidence he can put UF back on top of the SEC?
It depends on which parts of the fan base you're talking to. I'm firmly in Camp 'Champ, and I think he's going to have Florida competing for SEC and national titles rather soon, but there are many, many Florida fans fed up with how the offense of the last two years has looked, especially in big games, and think that's a reflection of Muschamp's inability to do more than create a good defense. I think it's a reflection of how hard it is to win games when you're playing with an iffy offensive line, mostly, and I'm willing to give Muschamp more time, but I increasingly feel like I'm in the minority.
Panicking and being frustrated are more fun and more quintessentially Florida, too.
4) The SEC East race is going to be one that comes down to the final week. How do you see it shaking out?
I have a hard time answering this question without seeing this Florida-Missouri game. Is Maty Mauk going to be a reasonable facsimile of James Franklin? Is Florida's defense going to solve Missouri's offense? A loss knocks Florida essentially out of the race, while a win gives Missouri a great shot; a loss would make Missouri's road very hard, but a win wouldn't do much to help Florida, which still has Georgia and South Carolina left away from home.
Then again, Georgia beat South Carolina convincingly, while Missouri just beat Georgia at Sanford, and South Carolina's played one complete game this year — against Arkansas, so ... yeah, I really have no clue. Ask again at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
5) What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Missouri (the state)?
Harry Truman? Maybe the journalism school? (I don't think of Missouri much.)
6) How can you guys hate Georgia so much? Cute dog, friendly fans, cool town... AND you have a giant cocktail party every year with them. Sounds pretty awesome to me.
Y'all haven't heard Georgia fans bark at you much, huh? We don't get to go to Athens, so we don't get one of the few neat things about being rivals with a school in a good college town, the dog is cute only in a limited sense, and I'm guessing you all think that Georgia fans are friendly because they were never hurt by your team until last Saturday.
Let me know how friendly they are in 2014 and 2015?
7) What's an interesting fact about the University of Florida that those unfamiliar with the school should know? (traditions, historic events, etc.)
UF's a really interesting school and is one of the better public schools south of the Mason-Dixon line, though the attempts to brand it as one of the best public schools in the nation stretch credulity a bit for li'l ol' Andy Hutchins '12. But here's a neat thing: UF researches are helping pioneer a new method of testing for possible signs of Alzheimer's that incorporates peanut butter.
8) Gotta explain what's up with the "jorts" stereotype.
I think it mostly comes down to this picture, which I have the sneaking suspicion was the work of two Georgia fans who decided to wear costumes to the Florida-Georgia game some years ago. Beyond that: It's really just folks transferring an insult used to demean lower-class (and mostly lower-class and white, I often suspect) folks who buy their clothes at Walmart (and pick denim because it's comfortable and durable) to the body of Florida fans. I'd imagine every fan base has some contingent that wears jean shorts; jorts and Florida just stick together better in the mind, largely because of that picture.
9) If your defense were to have a weakness, what would you say it would be?
Defending the run up the middle. None of Damien Jacobs, Darious Cummings, or Leon Orr is really anywhere as disruptive as Easley was up front, and though all three have their moments, Florida got blown off the line with startling regularity against LSU. Florida typically has the speed to limit plays to the outside (though that was also an issue against LSU), but I'm more worried about teams just taking on Florida's soft middle head-on and attempting to run over defensive tackles who haven't proven they can hold the point up front for a full game.
Yes, even though one of those is not a defensive end. Is this a trick question?
Gators RG Max Garcia was asked (inexplicably) about Mizzou QB Maty Mauk today. He replied, "Is that their D-end?"— Jason Lieser (@PBPjasonlieser)
Both D.J. Humphries and Tyler Moore have struggled in pass protection at times this year, with a missed block by Humphries — a top prospect whose lack of bulk leaves him at a disadvantage against bigger rushers — leading to Jeff Driskel's season-ending injury and a bad day from Moore helping consign Florida to defeat in Miami. If you can speed rush around either guy, you can impact the game.
11) Finally, what's your prediction for Saturday?
This is a copout, but: A close game. I would lean toward Florida by a field goal right now, but I don't know enough about Mauk at the moment to have a definitive answer.
(Editor's Note: The confluence of Missouri (Nelly) and Georgia and Florida (Florida Georgia Line) was too great an opportunity to pass up, I unabashedly enjoy the song and the music video ain't bad.)