Mizzou will look to capitalize on their momentum after the South Carolina win, and they have a good opportunity to do so with a struggling Florida team coming into town.
Kick-off on Saturday is set for 3:00 p.m. CST on the SEC Network.
To get a perspective on the Gators, I talked it over with Christopher “Topher” Adams over at Alligator Army to preview the game with a Q and A. Here’s Adams’ thoughts on what the heck is going on with the Gators right now.
Sammy Stava: In the preseason, Florida came in ranked No. 13 in the AP Preseason Top 25 despite losing a lot from last year’s roster. They started 3-1 with just a two point loss to Alabama. Um, so what the heck has happened to the Gators ever since?
Topher Adams: That’s a great question. This was always going to be a rebuilding year for Florida, but that was supposed to be a 10-2, 9-3 type of season. Nobody saw this coming. This team has been wildly inconsistent and has completely eroded since losing to Kentucky. I keep thinking “it can’t possibly get worse” but it keeps getting worse. Fortunately the Gators avoided ultimate rock bottom and escaped a mediocre FCS team at home (sigh), but there’s no signs this program is heading in the right direction. There’s no one reason we’ve gotten to this point. The staff decisions last season, the personnel decisions this year, the recruiting, Dan Mullen’s potential NFL dreams last year; they’ve all played into where Florida is now.
SS: How hot is Dan Mullen’s seat right now as head coach? Has this team really quit on him? Do you think there’s a scenario where he’s gone after this season? If he’s out, who does you or the Gator fanbase want Florida to hire as the next head coach?
TA: At this point of the season, I don’t know if any active head coach has a hotter seat than Dan Mullen. Florida is a place with championship expectations, and given the resources, location and history, those are valid standards. This season has been a tipping point for the Mullen era, with all of his biggest weaknesses being exposed. Bad staff hires, poor recruiting, mentality issues; all of these have led to where Florida is now. I really don’t know if the team has given up on him. The players say the right things and seem to genuinely mean it, but then the Samford game happens, so I don’t know. If Florida misses a bowl game, Mullen won’t survive. He has a VERY long leash with the administration, but I can’t see a way losses to South Carolina, Missouri and Florida State would be tolerated, plus the recruiting is well below standard. There’s not much of a consensus on potential replacements, there isn’t a super obvious pool of candidates, but names like Lane Kiffin, Mel Tucker and Louisiana’s Billy Napier are popular names amongst fans.
SS: Like Mizzou, Florida is 5-5 and a bowl game is on the line for both teams on Saturday. A bowl berth would be nice for the Tigers but of course expectations were different and bigger for the Gators. With not a whole lot to play for other than a bowl game on Florida’s side, are you worried about them not wanting to be there in Columbia on Saturday?
TA: They didn’t seem all that interested two weeks ago when they went to the other Columbia, so I do have worries about motivation. Maybe a win last week, as embarrassing as it was, can get the mentality right and the Gators will show up ready the next two weeks, but I’ll have to see it to believe it. I also want to add that making a bowl game, even if it’s just the Liberty Bowl, would be a nice way to end a weird, disappointing year and could end the year on an upswing.
SS: Looking at his stats, junior QB Emory Jones has thrown for 2,139 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. On the ground, he’s rushed for 628 yards with four touchdowns. How would you grade the quarterback play for the Gators this season?
TA: Emory Jones is a good college quarterback. Based on a season of evidence, I wouldn’t say he’s great and I don’t think he has an NFL future, but he’s a good college quarterback. He’s been inconsistent and made a lot of sloppy mistakes, plus the nagging Anthony Richardson questions probably haven’t helped his confidence. He put up silly numbers against an atrocious Samford defense, but also had good games against Tennessee and Alabama. When he’s in a rhythm, he looks great, but his streakiness and sloppiness have really hurt Florida at times this year. But for all of his limitations, he’s not the problem with Florida this season, and either he or Richardson will be a promising starter next year.
SS: Florida opened as a 7.5 point road favorite over Mizzou, which may come as a surprise. How do you see this game playing out on Saturday? Have a final score prediction?
TA: There’s a decent SEC team in there somewhere. It’s not that hard to picture a world where the Gators show up and win this game by two or more scores. But based on how this team has trended the last two months, I don’t think we’re going to see that. Missouri is not a good football team and after running through Samford, I expect the offense to put some points on the Tigers’ defense. But Florida’s defense is so bad right now, I don’t know how they can win a game. In the last two games, which to remind you were against South Carolina and Samford, Florida has given up 989 yards and 92 points. I don’t care how bad Missouri’s offense is or isn’t, the Tigers will score and will likely score a lot. I’ll take the home team to pull the upset and win a wacky shootout in the realm of 42-35.
A big thanks to Topher Adams for his time on these. He’s certainly down on the Gators right now and picked Missouri to win — which we don’t often get on these opponent Q and As. You can follow Topher and Alligator Army on Twitter for all things Florida coverage this week.
Let’s get bowl eligible. M-I-Z!