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Mizzou-Florida Q and A with Nick Marcinko of GatorCountry

The Missouri Tigers head to The Swamp in need of a win. How winnable of a game is it? We find out with Nick Marcinko of GatorCountry.

South Florida v Florida Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

The Missouri Tigers (2-3, 0-2 SEC) take on the Florida Gators (3-2, 0-2 SEC) in The Swamp as both teams really need a win here. Kick-off on Saturday is set for 11:00 a.m. CST on ESPNU with John Schriffen (play-by-play), Dustin Fox (analyst), and Lauren Sisler (sideline reporter) on the call.

To get a perspective on the Gators and how things are going in Billy Napier’s first season, we talked it over with Nick Marcinko of GatorCountry to preview the game with a Q and A:

Sammy Stava: After what seemed to be a statement win over Utah in their season opener, Florida has started 0-2 in the SEC with losses to Kentucky and Tennessee, plus they survived a close call over South Florida. What has gone wrong for the Gators since the Utah game?

Nick Marcinko: There’s a few things to point out here. The inconsistent play from Anthony Richardson cost the Gators a loss to Kentucky and a close call to South Florida. We’ve seen Richardson gain more than 500 total yards in a near upset victory on the road against Tennessee. We’ve seen performances where Richardson struggled to complete a forward pass. The Gators will go as far as Richardson takes them.

The second part to this answer, and possibly the most relevant, is the Florida Gators’ defense. The Gators rank 10th in the SEC in total defense and 12th in rush defense. The inability to stop the run has made it painfully easy for opposing teams to move the football.

SS: Having said that, Florida is off to a 3-2 overall start in their first year under Billy Napier. Was a 3-2 record through five games pretty much the expectation going into this season?

NM: A 3-2 record to start the season was the expectation for almost everyone. The Utah win elevated everyone’s expectations; I don’t think many people expected the Gators to win that game. The close call against USF is really the only question mark on this season.

SS: Florida transfer and current Missouri linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper makes his return to The Swamp and is arguably Mizzou’s best player. How big of a loss was Hopper transferring from the Gators and how bad does Florida’s defense miss him right now?

NM: Ty’Ron Hopper is a great player and one the Gators could use right now. His versatility and athleticism is missed in the Gators’ linebacker room. His ability to stop the run and defend the pass makes him a threat for opposing offenses. Gator linebackers have struggled stopping the run and defending tight ends at times this season

SS: Through five games, Anthony Richardson is 73 for 131 (55.7 percent completion %) with 1,116 yards with four pass TDs (five rush) and six interceptions. How would you grade/evaluate his performance this far?

NM: It’s extremely difficult to grade Richardson’s performance through five games. He’s played three games where he’s passed with flying colors and two where it looked as if he wasn’t meant to be a quarterback.

Richardson has every tool in the bag and can beat you in a variety of different ways. We’ve seen Richardson tasked with commanding an offense while primarily running the ball. We’ve seen Richardson go completely air raid and have success in doing so. Richardson is at his best when he’s a threat to run the football. His 6-4, 232-pound frame is one that not many players can bring down in open space. In the two games Richardson has struggled, he was not running the football.

Inconsistency is really the determining factor when evaluating Richardson’s performance this year. I’ll give him a C+ grade. There’s no question that the upside is there; we will see if he can put together another strong performance in week six.

SS: Florida comes in as an 11-point home favorite. How do you see this game playing out on Saturday?

NM: I think the Gators’ offense will be too much for the Tigers to handle on Saturday. You can expect Florida to try and hold on to the ball as long as they can, keeping the Gators’ defense off the field. I think Missouri will find success running the football, but Florida’s defense will make stops when they need to. Florida wins 34-21.

You can follow Nick and GatorCountry on Twitter for all things Florida coverage this week leading up to the game.