If you would have told me two weeks ago that Missouri could realistically win every game on its schedule after the Georgia game, I would have laughed at you. For three straight weeks, Missouri played uninspired football and left much to be desired. A 28-point loss in Manhattan, a 14-point win against FCS team ACU, and a heartbreaker against Auburn didn’t necessarily spark much optimism.
Last week, however, that changed. The Tigers easily played their best game of the year, going toe to toe with the no. 1 team in the country, while retaining a lead for 3 and a half quarters. Simply put, Missouri showed its potential, potential that many didn’t know it had. The crazy part about that game is that Missouri actually beat itself. Crucial penalties in untimely places spoiled an upset worth remembering, so it’s easy for one to wonder... what if Missouri plays clean?
The defense dominated for the majority of the game and even won the turnover battle, showing that it can keep this team in any game. The offense had its struggles, but it also proved that it was capable of the big play. The big question for the Tigers is can they be more disciplined? If so, can the Tigers pull off a 7-5, or even an 8-4 season like many hoped? I’m here to remind you that it is indeed possible and to do so, the Tigers have to start it off by beating a solid Florida team at The Swamp.
As always, I’m here to break it down and explain what gives the Tigers the best chance to do so.
- Play clean football: I will die on the hill that Missouri beat itself more than Georgia beat Missouri. In the second quarter, Cody Schrader broke off a 60-yard run, right through the teeth of the Georgia defense, and made it all the way to the one-yard line. Unfortunately, a false start brought the Tigers to the six-yard line and from there, they were unable to get the ball past the goal line. IF Missouri scores a TD there, it’s a four-point swing and it’s a 26-26 ballgame. Going back to the Auburn game, Auburn missed its first field goal attempt in overtime, but an offsides call negated this, and Auburn was successful on its next attempt. I could provide more examples, but you get the point. Untimely penalties have reduced Missouri’s chance of winning time and time again. If Missouri wants to have a fair shot at winning on the road, it has to play clean. This implies that Missouri can’t negate big plays with stupid mistakes and let themselves get in their own way. If you are going to get beat, at least make sure the other team does it, not yourselves.
- Run the dang ball: Out of 131 FBS teams, Florida ranks 122nd, allowing 216 yards on the ground per game. While Missouri’s rushing attack isn’t potent, it’s still respectable, as they average 176 yards per game. With a possible absence of top receiver, Dominic Lovett, Missouri will have to look elsewhere for offensive production. Fortunately, Missouri has a stable of running backs that are more than capable. Florida has struggled heavily against the run and Missouri must take advantage of this. After all, asking Brady Cook to outright win you this game is a risk, so utilize the matchup.
- Stop the run: While Florida’s rush defense may be abysmal, their rushing attack is one of the best in the conference. Going into Saturday’s game, Florida ranks fourth in the conference, averaging 232 yards per game. Missouri ranks seventh in the conference in rush defense, allowing 3.49 YPC, and 120.2 YPG. While not amazing, this is a massive improvement from last season and is good enough to win you ball games. If Missouri can hold Florida to around 125-150 yards on the ground, I’d feel very confident in a Missouri win.
In conclusion, this is a winnable game. We know Missouri’s defense is good enough to keep them in games, so this game will fall on offensive production and penalty yardage. Play a clean enough game, and Missouri might get a win. Play a sloppy, undisciplined game with constant struggles on offense, and the chances are slim.
Like last week, I’m going to be an optimist and say Missouri squeaks it out, 20-17.