Florida Gators vs. Missouri Tigers: 5 Reasons Why Mizzou Will Win
Florida Gators vs. Missouri Tigers: 5 Reasons Mizzou Will Win
The SEC East-leading Missouri Tigers (not a typo) are arguably the biggest surprise in college football at the season’s midway point. The consensus at the beginning of the year was that Mizzou would finish toward the bottom of the conference. Most people are singing a different tune after very impressive road victories against the Vanderbilt Commodores and Georgia Bulldogs, but there are still some doubters out there.
The suspicions are understandable, considering it’s been 32 years since the last time Mizzou beat a top-10 team on the road, but the win over the Bulldogs was not a fluke. Several reports try to downplay it because of the injuries to the Georgia offense, but the Tigers had some setbacks of their own with the injuries of James Franklin and E.J. Gaines. Up 28-26 with their QB and best defender out, Missouri responded by putting the Bulldogs down for good with 14 unanswered points and two interceptions in the fourth quarter.
They earned the win and the pummeling of Vanderbilt the week before should have been a warning that Missouri is a force to be reckoned with. But the naysayers who think the Tigers will fall to the Florida Gators this weekend have a couple of reasons to believe what they do.
Under Gary Pinkel, Mizzou is 0-3 after beating a top 10 team; the last occurrence happened after a big victory against the Oklahoma Sooners in 2010. After the win, Pinkel’s mentor and former Kent State coach Don James warned him by saying, ‘the toughest game you’re going to coach is next week.’ Getting the team off their high and refocused will be a big point of emphasis this time around.
The loss of Franklin, who was third in the SEC in total offense, is another reason doubters believe the Gators will come out on top. Redshirt freshman Maty Mauk will be making his first start, and many believe being thrown into the fire against one of the stingiest defenses in college football will be too much for the inexperienced QB.
This is going to be one of the most interesting, hard-fought games of the week with huge implications in the SEC East race. Here are five reasons why Mizzou will win and keep themselves in the driver’s seat of the division.
5. The Zou
Last season, the Tigers lost a heartbreaker 14-7 in Gainesville, and they'll get a chance for revenge on Saturday in the comfort of Faurot Field. Excitement in Mizzou Nation is as high as it’s been since the Border War victory over the Kansas Jayhawks in 2007, which put them at No. 1 in the BCS rankings. It’s been a couple of years since a game of this magnitude was played in Columbia and the Zou will be going crazy.
4. An Underrated Defense
The Tigers’ defense has allowed a mediocre 23 points per game thus far, but their big-play ability has been outstanding. They lead the SEC with 13 INTs, are second in the conference with 17 sacks, and have scored three defensive TDs. Florida has the second-lowest scoring offense in the conference, and they will have their hands full on Saturday.
3. They Still Have Something to Prove
After a disappointing and injury-plagued inaugural season in the SEC, many had branded Mizzou as ill-equipped to compete in the conference. Even before it was said, the Tigers could hear the ‘yeah, but they had so many injuries’ about their big win over Georgia. They know they aren’t done proving themselves, and they take the doubters’ disrespect personally. The idea that Missouri doesn’t belong with the big boys has created a fire in the team that will be a huge asset.
2. Maty Mauk is Better Than You Think
When a freshman can challenge an experienced senior quarterback as good as Franklin for the starting job, he has to be something special. Mauk was a big-time recruit for Mizzou after leaving Kenton High School as the nation’s all-time leading passer.
His inexperience may cause a few bumps in the road, but the way he came in and helped put Georgia down for the count was a great way to get his feet wet in the SEC. With a two-point lead in the fourth quarter, facing a crucial third-and-six, Mauk made a tough run to get to the sticks in his first play of the game. If that incredibly high-pressure situation didn’t shake him, he should be able to survive Florida without his nerves rattling him too much.
1. Tremendous Offensive Weapons
You can’t shut down one guy and stall Mizzou’s offense with their arsenal of playmakers. The Tigers have three running backs with at least 350 rushing yards, and three receivers with at least 300 yards on the season. The three-headed monster of Russel Hansbrough, Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy, has combined for 15 TDs while averaging seven yards per carry.
L’Damian Washington, Marcus Lucas, and Dorial Green-Beckham create a big (6-foot-4, 6-foot-5, and 6-foot-6 respectively), fast matchup nightmare. The biggest enemy to their numbers has been the success of the Missouri rushing attack. The ridiculously talented weapons around him will be Mauk’s best friend this weekend. The most intriguing battle in the game will be the Gators' defense, which has allowed 13 points per game, against the Tigers' offense that puts up 45.7 per game.