Before we dig into the stats, I thought it would be useful to peruse the Florida depth chart a bit.
Murphy has not faced a test like LSU in Baton Rouge yet, and yes, he might wilt in the moment. He would be excused if he did so.
But if the moment doesn't get to him, LSU might not either. In the nearly three games since starter Jeff Driskel went down against Tennessee, Murphy hasn't been a Heisman contender by any means, but he's been exactly the efficiency guy the Gators need. Whereas Driskel took sacks on 13 percent of his pass attempts, Murphy's sack rate is only 5 percent. And in his first two starts, he completed 78 percent of his passes. Many of those passes didn't really go anywhere, but that's not really the point. Sacks are devastating for a team that plays a conservative style and needs to win the field position battle. Murphy doesn't take many, and thus far, LSU hasn't come up with many, either.
Safe to say, Murphy wilted a bit. With a Death Valley crowd on him and no running game to support him, Murphy completed 15 of 27 passes for just 115 yards and was sacked four times for a loss of 40. Yards per pass attempt, including sacks: 2.4.
How much of that was Murphy regressing toward the mean after playing a little too well against Kentucky and Arkansas? How much was it simply Death Valley getting into the head of a new starter? How much was it LSU's defense turning a corner?
We'll begin to find out on Saturday. Mizzou's crowd will be loud, but it isn't Death Valley. Still, Missouri's pass rush is top notch -- just ask Aaron Murray and Austyn Carta-Samuels -- and Murphy will be under some duress. How does he respond?
Murphy is not as bad as he looked against LSU, but he's probably not as good as he looked against Arkansas and Kentucky. But I look at it this way: He's not as good as Aaron Murray, and Florida's offense isn't as good as Georgia's. The Gators will score, but it would be disappointing if they scored more than about 21 or so, both because that's a lot to give up to a mediocre offense, and because Mizzou shouldn't be expected to score more than 21 either.
It was supposed to be Matt Jones' turn to play the role of workhorse this year after Mike Gillislee did a decent job of it in 2012. But Jones is out for the season, leaving a career backup (Brown) and a freshman (Taylor). Taylor's shown quite a bit of potential (and because he's a Florida freshman, that automatically means he was a blue-chip recruit), but he's a freshman. If nothing else, they usually can't be trusted to block on passing downs. That said, Taylor did have 10 carries to Brown's 15 against LSU, and he actually got somewhere with a few of them. Florida's offense isn't hopeless.
And I look forward to the collisions between Hunter Joyer and Andrew Wilson.
Quinton Dunbar (6'2, 194, Jr.) | 31 targets, 20 catches, 283 yards (9.1 per target)
Demarcus Robinson (6'2, 201, Fr.) | 10 targets, 4 catches, 31 yards (3.1 per target)
Solomon Patton (5'9, 177, Sr.) | 25 targets, 22 catches, 380 yards (15.2 per target), 4 TD
Ahmad Fullwood (6'5, 196, Fr.) | 6 targets, 3 catches, 24 yards
Chris Thompson (6'0, 167, Fr.)
Starters: 89 targets.
Backups: 16 targets.
We know who they're going to throw to. And lord, I hope E.J. Gaines is healthy enough to go. Solomon Patton didn't have a very good game against LSU -- 4 targets, 3 catches, 32 yards; 1 carry for -1 yards -- but he's had his moments this season: 6 catches for 118 yards against Miami, 6 for 124 against Arkansas. Quinton Dunbar's decent, and Trey Burton is a possession man. That's pretty much it.
D.J. Humphries (6'5, 285, So.) | 9 career starts
Max Garcia (6'4, 311, Jr.) | 6 career starts
Trip Thurman (6'5, 315, So.)
Florida's line is pretty decent at the power thing, but it lets defenders into the backfield at a pretty decent clip. That's very, very good news for Missouri's active line.
Really, that's the game right there. If Mizzou can get into the backfield, as it did against both Georgia and Vanderbilt, Florida's going to struggle dramatically. Murphy was fending off defenders, both real and imagined, for most of the game against LSU, and if Mizzou was able to get into Aaron Murray's head, you have to like the chances of getting into Murphy's. As Mizzou's lines go, so goes Mizzou. (Of course, that's been the story all year.)
Jonathan Bullard (6'3, 270, So.) | 12.0 tackles, 1.5 TFL (1.5 sacks), 2 QB hurries
Bryan Cox, Jr. (6'3, 260, RSFr.) | 1.0 tackles, 1 TFL (1 sack)
Damien Jacobs (6'3, 300, Sr.) | 6.0 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 PBU
Dante Fowler, Jr. (6'3, 266, So.) | 17.5 tackles, 7 TFL (3 sacks), 2 FF, 1 FR, 3 QB hurries
Alex McCalister (6'6, 238, RSFr.)
The loss of tackle Dominique Easley to season-ending injury hurt, but let's just say that Florida's more well-equipped to handle such losses. The new tackle rotation of Orr, Cummings, and Jacobs: all former four-star recruits. Jonathan Bullard (who sometimes lines up inside) and Dante Fowler: both former five-star recruits. There is speed, strength, agility, and ridiculous ability here, even without Easley.
LSU had periodic success running the ball against Florida. Jeremy Hill and Kenny Hilliard had three carries for 29 yards to start the game, and Hill had four carries for 45 yards in a fourth-quarter field goal drive that iced the game. The rest of the game, Hill had 13 carries for 56 yards.
Antonio Morrison (6'1, 230, So.) | 24.5 tackles, 1 QB hurry
Michael Taylor (6'0, 233, Jr.) | 25.0 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 FR, 1 PBU, 1 QB hurry
Neiron Ball (6'3, 235, Jr.) | 7.5 tackles, 1 PBU
Ronald Powell blitzes quite a bit (when UF even needs to blitz), Michael Taylor and Neiron Ball are jacks-of-all-trades, and Antonio Morrison is the resident tackling machine. The line controls the play, and the linebackers clean up what's left.
Marcus Roberson (6'0, 195, Jr.) | 4.0 tackles, 2 PBU
This is, without a doubt, the best trio of cornerbacks Missouri will face this year. These three have decent size for corners, and ... well, there are three of them. Thus far, no team has been able to limit all of Missouri's passing options, but L'Damian Washington, Dorial Green-Beckham, and Marcus Lucas will be more well-covered than usual this Saturday. That's not necessarily good news considering it'll be a new quarterback trying to throw them the ball.
Brian Poole (5'10, 205, So.) | 6.5 tackles, 1 INT
When you've got great cornerbacks, you can have fun with your safeties. Cody Riggs is 5'9 and almost leads the team in tackles for loss (he's second to Fowler). Meanwhile, Jaylen Watkins and Jabari Gorman are lovely ball hawks.
This is a terrifying defense. Again, the goal has to be to get to 21 points and hope. Turnovers and field-flipping plays -- either single offensive bursts or special teams returns -- will be simply enormous. Big plays are always the most important thing in a football game; in this one, they will be doubly important.
Austin Hardin (5'10, 208, RSFr.) | 11-for-11 PAT, 4-for-8 FG (4-for-5 under 40)
Frankie Velez (5'9, 182, Jr.) | 2-for-2 FG (1-for-1 under 40)
Johnny Tonwsend (6'1, 191, Fr.)
Kyle Christy (6'3, 198, Jr.) | 21 punts, 39.6 average, 10 fair catches, 7 inside 20
Kyle Christy was quite possibly the best punter in the country last year, and he hasn't necessarily been really bad this year. Still, after ranking ninth in the country in Net Punting last year, the Gators are 85th this year. Considering how much of Florida's game is based around field position and defense, that's a significant development, significant enough that apparently Christy has been replaced. Hey, New True Freshman Punter, if you're in the market for a dropped snap or something, I wouldn't stop you.
Austin Hardin (5'10, 208, RSFr.) | 29 kickoffs, 61.8 average, 38% touchback rate
Solomon Patton (5'9, 177, Sr.) | 8 KR, 23.6 average (long: 38)
Loucheiz Purifoy (6'0, 190, Jr.) | 1 KR, 21 yards
Vernon Hargreaves III (5'11, 192, Fr.) | 2 PR, 2.5 average (long: 4)
Marcus Roberson (6'0, 195, Jr.) | 7 PR, 12.3 average (long: 38)
BTBS preview coming tomorrow.