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PREGAMIN’ FLORIDA

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ANYONE DOWN FOR A STREAK? FIRST, LET’S VISIT THE SWAMP FOR AN EXTRA SPOOKY MATCHUP WITH THE GATORS. SOMEONE GRAB THE LYSOL WIPES!

Josh Matejka

Keep Calm and Wear a Mask!

  • Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that Florida hasn’t been the chillest place in the country re: COVID-19. And according to the Tampa Bay Times, it’s hard to even say how bad things have been, as the state’s dashboard may be inaccurate.
  • Alachua County (where Gainesville is located) is seeing peaks and valleys like everywhere else, though they seem to be riding an upward wave at the current moment.

All Aboard the Hype Train!

I think I’ve finally figured out that one of the secrets of the Eli Drinkwitz era of branding can simply be chalked up to better video quality. Not that the video was ever low quality in the Barry Odom area, but there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to which videos were chosen for the hype videos. Now, specific footage seems to be chosen based on certain themes, and each week’s hype video follows a different aesthetic pattern. This week’s almost has a movie trailer vibe to it, especially at the beginning with lots of warm-up and entrance shots — all of which are propelled by a sort of sailboat rocking effect.

So Fresh and So Clean, Clean

I think I speak for everyone at Rock M Nation when I say that if you would like a perma-ban from this website, you will criticize the all-whites.

But the all-whites with the gold Block M?

Lord.

Have.

Mercy.

What the “Experts” are Saying

FOLKS, WE OFFICIALLY HAVE A *blaring airhorns* WIN “STREAK” ON OUR HANDS! No one in their right minds would’ve predicted Mizzou to upset LSU and Kentucky to run their record to 2-2 in early October, but here we are. In your professional opinion, what has been the single biggest factor in this turnaround?

Josh Matejka, Deputy Manager: It’s Drinkwitz, and there isn’t too much you can say to argue differently. In both wins so far, Missouri simply out-schemed and outcoached LSU and Kentucky. They had the gumption to run with the Tigers and the horses to muscle the Wildcats into submission. You know when we never saw Missouri adjusting their style of play to suit their opponent? In the Barry Odom years. Yes, Larry Rountree has been dominant. Yes, the line has been better than expected. Yes, Connor Bazelak has been a minor revelation. But you don’t get any of that without the man in the visor.

Brandon Kiley, Lead Football Writer: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As the great Lou Brown once said, “we won a game yesterday. If we win today, it’s called “two in a row”. And if we win again tomorrow, it’s called a “winning streak”... It has happened before!” Mizzou has won two in a row. It’s not a streak yet... But it could be if they pull off another victory on Saturday!

As for the question at hand, the biggest factor is pretty simple: Connor Bazelak.

Missouri has a legitimate starting quarterback. Bazelak is 50-for-64 (78%) for 607 yards (9.5 yards per attempt), four touchdowns and zero interceptions. He’s added 16 rushing attempts for 43 yards in those two games, as well. He’s third in the SEC in completion percentage, and fourth in the conference in yards per attempt and quarterback rating.

Our biggest question about this team coming into the year was whether or not someone would step up at the quarterback position. Bazelak has done exactly that, and he’s done it in a big way.

Aaron Dryden, Staff Football Writer: I think it’s pretty simple. It’s Connor Bazelak, and it’s Eli Drinkwitz. Bazelak has given this offense a calm, steady feel. He’s always in control, he doesn’t ever look overwhelmed. He’s converting third downs, and not turning the ball over. You don’t see many freshman QB’s doing that. You just don’t. At the same time, someone is calling the plays, and that someone is Eli Drinkwitz. Not only has his play calling been fantastic, but he’s done a fantastic job over the past two weeks playing complimentary football, and having his team ready to play. They weren’t afraid of LSU. They weren’t afraid of Kentucky. That tells me that his players EXPECT to win. That’s all coaching.

Let’s dream big here. Mizzou (whether you want to acknowledge it or not) controls its destiny in the SEC East, and it starts with a tough matchup against Florida this weekend. Be a dreamer here: what is Missouri’s ceiling currently for the 2020 season?

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Matejka: It’s really not that much of a stretch to say 7-3 is the ceiling for Missouri. Missouri has two games on the rest of its schedule in which it’ll be considered the underdog, and will more than likely lose one. But the Tigers have a better-than-average shot against Florida (more on that below), and will emerge in the back stretch with very winnable games against South Carolina, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Vandy. Is it reasonable to expect them to win out in that stretch? Probably not. But at this point, you’d have to think that 7-3 is far more likely than 4-6 or 3-7.

Brandon Kiley: Spoiler alert: I’m not picking Missouri to win this game.

... But I wouldn’t be stunned if they do.

Vegas currently views the Tigers as a 12.5-point underdog. I think that’s too high. I think this will be a one score game late. Some of that is due to Florida’s questions surrounding COVID. And some of it is my belief that Missouri is a pretty darn good team.

So with that said, I’m going to say Missouri’s ceiling for the year is 7-3. I don’t necessarily think they’ll reach it. But it’s possible. I think the over/under right now should be set at 5.5. Hitting the over would require winning each of the final four games, or pulling off an upset against either Georgia or Florida. I would probably take the over, but I think that’s where the line should be.

It’s worth noting that if you told me before the season that this team would fight for six wins, and possibly settle for five, I would’ve taken it in a heartbeat.

Aaron Dryden: I’ve wondered this all week.... but why can’t Missouri win 6-7 games? In the east, despite what some may think, after Georgia, I don’t see that much a difference between Missouri and the Tennessee’s, Florida’s and Kentucky’s of the division who are in that middle of the pack. To answer your question, I think that with the quarterback improving every game, and the schedule getting quite easier after Georgia, I think winning six games is absolutely within the realm of possibility, and honestly, so is seven if everything goes right.

Florida is a legit Top 10 team this year, but has been decimated by COVID over the past few weeks and could be playing with razor-thin margins on Saturday. What’s the strategy going into a game against a team in Florida’s current situation?

NCAA Football: Florida at Mississippi Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Matejka: There’s absolutely no way Florida is going to be at 100 percent this Saturday from a conditioning or roster standpoint. Florida is going to come out keyed up but sloppy, which means Missouri needs to hit them with a dose of what it gave Kentucky last week — pound the ball with Rountree and dominate the time of possession. Once the game gets into the back half and Florida is starting to wear down? Gear up the engines and kick into up-tempo. Even if the Tigers are trailing at that point, the Gators will be struggling to keep up after nearly two weeks of layoff.

Brandon Kiley: It’s hard to know because we don’t have a good grasp on which players will play, and which players will be out. Is future first-round tight end Kyle Pitts playing? Is one of the best QBs in the SEC, Kyle Trask, available? How does the offensive line look? All of these questions loom large in how the Tigers should attack Florida, and we simply don’t have the answers.

Without that information, it’s hard to say exactly what the gameplan should be, but I know this much: it will almost certainly adjust on the fly. If it’s announced on Saturday that Florida’s starting cornerbacks are out, then I would fully expect Eli Drinkwitz to attack their replacements. If the Gators are down three interior defensive linemen, then the running game suddenly takes center stage.

If these last two games have taught us anything, it’s that Drinkwitz will formulate a gameplan that takes what the defense gives him. I expect more of the same on Saturday.

Aaron Dryden: Florida hasn’t really practiced. They haven’t had very much contact. I wanna know how well can they tackle. I would attempt to punch these guys in the mouth early, and see how ready they are to play a full game of football. I think going up-tempo is something I’d do early and often as well. That doesn’t mean be pass heavy, but the opposite. Smash mouth physical football is the name of the game. Maybe not so smash mouth that we give Rountree 37 carries, but maybe something like 22 to 27 carries would work. Missouri needs to win the time of possession again and keep some of those explosive skill guys on the Florida offense off the field.

PICK ‘EM! Florida opened as a two-plus touchdown favorite and the line has held relatively steady. Does Missouri beat the spread for the third-straight week?

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Matejka: I’ve been bearish on Missouri against the spread since those first two weeks, and Missouri has proven both times that they’re more than up to the task against LSU and Kentucky. Logic tells me they can’t keep this up, even against a hobbled Gator squad.

But as I said on Twitter last week, Missouri has a swagger that hasn’t existed in this program since the Pinkel years. They’re confident, they’re improving and, more importantly, they smell blood in the water. I’m probably high on my own supply at this point, but that confidence — coupled with Florida’s long stretch of down time and roster uncertainty — puts this game within reach for the Tigers. I think they get it done, along the lines of a 34-30 score.

Brandon Kiley: I think Missouri wins against the spread, but without knowing what the COVID situation is for Florida, I’m going to take the Gators to win straight up, 31-24.

Florida’s offense is a nightmare matchup for opposing defenses, if healthy. Trask to Pitts is one of the best QB to pass catcher combinations in the country. If the Tigers can shut down Pitts, they’ll have a real shot. It’ a fascinating matchup that becomes difficult to predict because of the questions that still remain who will or will not be available for the Gators.

Aaron Dryden: Florida is currently favored by 13, and like last week... it’s just too damn high. Missouri is a good football team, and I’m a bit surprised that the sharks aren’t giving them more respect, but I digress. I like the matchup on offense, and I really think the COVID situation is going to be a factor for Florida in this game. I believe in my Tigers so much that I’m actually going to put my money where my mouth is and bet their money line. Mizzou wins 38-31. I hope Drinkwitz likes going on Finebaum, because ole Pawl will be calling next week to have him on again.