For the first time since October 12th against Ole Miss, the Missouri Tigers (5-4, 2-3 SEC) will be back at home on Saturday. That date also happens to be Mizzou’s last win, as the Tigers are reeling on a three-game losing streak. Similar to last season, Missouri will face the Florida Gators (8-2, 5-2 SEC) with an average and underwhelming record. if you recall, last year’s upset win over Florida in The Swamp turned the 2018 season around... Can the Tigers do the same this year in Columbia? Kick-off is set for 11:00 a.m. CST on Saturday as Missouri looks to continue to have Florida’s number.
To get a Florida perspective, here’s what Will Sammon from The Athletic had to say about this upcoming match up with his thoughts on Dan Mullen, Kyle Trask, and much more.
Sammy Stava: We all know Dan Mullen is a great coach, but after Florida’s 4-7 season in 2017, Mullen is now 18-5 in his first 23 games as Gators’ head coach. Are you surprised with how quick of a turnaround this has been?
Will Sammon: Dan Mullen has been an SEC head coach since 2009. Before that, he was an offensive coordinator in the league. He knows how to win, but, more importantly, he knows how to build a program. It’s not just him, though. Strength coach Nick Savage and the rest of assistants also got players to buy in quickly. There was a good amount of returning experience on the Gators in 2018 — plus Florida added solid transfers such as Van Jefferson, Tre Grimes and Adam Shuler — so I figured they had a decent shot at winning eight games. But a New Year’s Six bowl in Mullen’s first year and a chance at another one in Year 2? The firings of two coaches from the same 2017 hiring cycle as Mullen illustrates how difficult the job of taking over at a new program can be; the level of success to this point for the Gators should be acknowledged.
SS: How impressed have you been with Kyle Trask after taking over the injured Feleipe Franks?
WS: Kyle Trask won the Gators their game against Kentucky, and he has been consistent ever since. He is an accurate passer who makes good decisions. Still, he lacks game experience, and that showed earlier in the season when he stayed in the pocket too long under pressure. The offense is built around the team’s wide receivers, and so his job to get them the ball in space on slants, screens and mostly other short and intermediate throws. Trask is certainly competent, and Florida has proven it can win with him.
SS: After Missouri upset Florida last year in The Swamp last year, do you think the Gators have had this one circled on their calendar all season for a revenge factor, or are they just going to approach this like any other game on the schedule?
WS: It has probably been marked as a game they would like to win, but players haven’t shared much about that publicly. Some guys like Shuler, however, have described it as a bitter taste. That’s understandable. Similar to last year, Florida has tangible goals in front of it heading into this game. So, the Gators have added motivation beyond just wanting to avenge last year’s loss. There is still some slight hope for the Gators to win the SEC East, but, more realistically, Florida is looking to surpass last year’s win total and advance to a New Year’s Six bowl.
SS: Since 2011, it has either been Florida, Georgia, or Missouri representing the SEC East in SEC Championship games. Just out of curiosity, what do you think the Florida fan base’s opinion is on Missouri being an SEC East member?
WS: Missouri deserves respect, and most Florida fans I spoke to acknowledged before the season that playing on the road against the Tigers in November isn’t exactly a sure-win. Historically, Missouri has been a thorn in the side of Florida, so the feelings probably aren’t warm, but respect is likely there.
SS: How do you see this game playing out on Saturday? Do you have a final score prediction?
WS: I have Florida winning by around 7-10 points. The Gators are the better, more consistent team. I think Vanderbilt did an admirable job defending Kelly Bryant, forcing him to throw deep, and I suspect the Gators will try and do the same. Missouri’s pass defense is very strong, but Florida’s passing attack is battle-tested and will be the best the Tigers have seen this season.
Thank you to The Athletic’s Will Sammon for the time, and you can follow him on Twitter on the Florida side of things.