1st Down: Josh Bledsoe vs Kyle Pitts
If Missouri wants to pull an upset in the swamp, containing Kyle Pitts is going to have to be the first and foremost priority for the defense. Pitts, a junior tight end, has been a game breaker for the Florida offense. Through three games, he’s 2nd on the Gators in receptions (17), 1st in receiving yards (274), and 1st on the team with seven (yes, seven.) touchdowns. He’s been as physically imposing as those numbers suggest.
On the flip side, you have the Missouri defense which plays a lot of man coverage. I don’t expect that to change, so there’s a good chance you’ll see Bledsoe covering Pitts in those situations. DC Ryan Walters isn’t afraid to put Bledsoe in man coverage against elite players (See: LSU goal line stand). Bledsoe is extremely talented and should be up to the task, but it’s something to keep your eye on, especially in the red zone as Bledsoe is six inches shorter, and thus at a height disadvantage.
2nd Down: Missouri Defense vs Kadarius Toney
When I turned on the film to watch Florida, Kadarius Toney absolutely popped. He, like Kyle Pitts, is another game breaker for that Gator offense. He’s shifty, has a lot of speed, and does a lot of different things for this Florida offense. You may see him in the slot one play, and the next you may see him in the backfield. He compares somewhat to our very own Tyler Badie, though Toney may be just a tad more explosive.
He’s going to require attention from this Missouri defense, and it’s going to be on every level of the defense to account for him in the passing game, but also the running game as well. Discipline is important every week, but against players like Toney, you need disciplined eyes, you need disciplined hands, and you need to break down and make tackles because if not, it’s six points.
Toney has the ability to turn a game on its ear if you let him, and it’s going to take the whole team to slow him down.
3rd Down: Connor Bazelak vs Florida Defense
Bazelak, through his first two starts of the season, has checked all of the boxes. Efficient, smart, and poised. He also has gone two for two in the win department as well. To win this week, however, he’s not only going to have to meet that standard, but exceed it too. This is a game in which I think Bazelak is going to have to push the ball down field and exploit what I believe is a weak Florida secondary. The Florida defense is second to last (#1- LSU) in the conference in passing yards per game, is coming off a two week layoff, and won’t have a full length, regularly scheduled, padded practice before the game on Saturday. That leads me to believe that Bazelak should be able to move the ball enough through the air.
The Florida defense hasn’t performed up to snuff so far this season, but the recruiting rankings tell us that there is still an abundance of talent on that defense, and with the extra time, you just know that Florida defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham, has been teaching scheme as much as possible over this break. So, despite the track record that their defense has earned so far, it’s important to remember that they’ve played only three games and still have talent that you cannot underestimate.
Pulling this upset in the swamp is absolutely possible, but it’s going to require a good, clean, turnover-free performance from the young freshman.
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