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No. 11 Florida Has One of Country’s Best Secondaries

The Gators’ defense — especially the secondary — has helped them surpass expectations this year.

NCAA Football: Florida at Georgia Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Another week, another solid defense Missouri has to face.

No. 11 Florida has been one of the country’s best teams at shutting down opposing quarterbacks, allowing just 170.1 yards per game (11th in FBS, 2nd in SEC) on 52.3 percent passing. On top of that, they’ve let up just eight touchdowns through the air through their first eight games.

However, five of those came in the Gators’ past two games against No. 6 Georgia and Vanderbilt. Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm had himself a day, going 17-for-24 (70.8 percent) for 240 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Bulldogs’ win last week. Vanderbilt gunslinger Kyle Shurmur completed half his passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 27-point performance two weeks ago.

Regardless of opposing quarterbacks’ recent success against Florida’s secondary, it’s silly to expect Missouri to do the same come Saturday.

Although wide receivers Emanuel Hall and Nate Brown are both on the Tigers’ depth chart for this week, they’re still not listed as starters. True freshman Jalen Knox and junior Richaud Floyd will presumably see the majority of the snaps at wide-out Saturday, as they have the past few weeks. Knox has filled in admirably thus far, notching two SEC Freshman of the Week awards, but he doesn’t have the chemistry with Lock that Hall does.

Hall was Lock’s favorite target last year and started off the 2018 campaign red hot, nabbing 18 grabs for 430 yards and three touchdowns in three games. If Hall is healthier than his third-string spot on the depth chart indicates, though, then we may see the resurgence of a Missouri passing attack that’s been lacking since his groin injury.

Luckily for the Tigers, they may not have to rely on throwing the ball, as Florida’s run defense hasn’t been at the same level as its secondary.

The Gators give up 166.4 yards per game on the ground, ranking 74th in the country and 10th in the SEC. Contrary to what many people thought coming into this year, running the football has become the focal point of this Missouri offense. Running backs Damarea Crockett, Larry Rountree III and Tyler Badie have proven themselves to be one of the better running back groups in the country, as the Tigers have averaged 185.6 yards per game on the ground and have scored the majority of their touchdowns this year via the run.

Expect to see Missouri utilize its strength to its advantage early and often Saturday, giving the Florida front seven a heavy dose of Crockett, Rountree and Badie. Dominating the line of scrimmage and taking care of the football will be vital in making this game competitive, but Lock has to step up and show up in a big way if the Tigers are to have any chance of upending the 11th-ranked Gators in the Swamp.