Florida football: Gators scouting report vs Missouri

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 09: Kyle Trask #11 of the Florida Gators looks to pass during the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 09, 2019 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 09: Kyle Trask #11 of the Florida Gators looks to pass during the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 09, 2019 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) /

Florida football has lost its last two games to Missouri by a combined score of 83-33. What does Florida need to do to stop the trend?

On offense, Florida football needs to do a better job of getting its playmakers the ball. We’ve seen a good bit of Freddie Swain.

Coach Dan Mullen has also been creative in the ways that he lines up Kyle Pitts. But Kadarius Toney is arguably still the most explosive option and yet he’s hardly received any touches. Toney is somebody who can turn a short gain into a touchdown — we saw this in the season opener against Miami — so he deserves to play a larger role in the offense.

Florida’s rebuilding offensive line still struggles to help its run game — Florida ranks 125th in opportunity rate, which is a metric that measures how helpful an offensive line is for its ball-carriers. So one can only expect so much in between the tackles.

But Mullen is a brilliant play-caller and he should be able to scheme up at least one big run play for Lamical Perine.

Against Auburn, for example, he drew up a play where he had multiple wide receivers lined up on the opposite side of the field from Perine, who consequently had little to deal with in front of him for a big gain.

On defense, the Gators will have to contend with Kelly Bryant at quarterback. They can’t control how his hamstring feels — although the early start and cold weather could possibly make it a bit tighter.

They also can’t control, in turn, how Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard feel. Both are plagued by pesky ankle injuries. If they could recover their physical skill set, they could make a massive difference on Saturday against a potentially dangerously mobile Bryant.

Florida football has one of the nation’s best pass-rushing personnel while Missouri is vulnerable in pass protection. Because the Florida football defense is not the same without an effective pass rush, the health of Zuniga and Greenard is crucial.

My Bet

Florida football may look like an easy play considering that Mizzou lost its last three games by a combined score of 77-21. But consider that all three of those games came on the road where the Tigers are a different team. Phrased in betting terms, Missouri is 0-3 ATS on the road, but 4-1 ATS at home.

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Above all, I expect Florida to really struggle to score. The Gators are dependent on their passing game. But Missouri has an elite passing defense. The Tigers rank top-10 nationally in both opposing pass yards per game and in opposing passer rating.

They boast playmakers at safety who are all over the field and they’re deep at cornerback. Mizzou likes to play a lot of single-high safety, trusting its free safety to account for large areas of space and to otherwise provide help in coverage where needed while more defenders account for the run.

DeMarkus Acy doesn’t usually need much help. A second-team All-SEC selection last year, Acy combines significant length at 6-2 with the speed of a sprinter. Jarvis Ware and Christian Holmes constantly vie for second-best corner status and both are reliably out there on the field at the same time.

On the other side, Mizzou brings a more balanced offense. Larry Rountree averaged 5.1 YPC against Florida last year. He can do the same against a Florida run defense that tends to allow opposing running backs to exceed their average YPC.

Kelly Bryant was a game-time decision last week, which indicates that he was already close to playing. He should play this week, although his mobility may not be what it usually is when he has to change directions.

He’s still an experienced veteran and an efficient quarterback who has a wealth of pass-catching options. In particular, Albert Okwuegbunam will be a tough match-up for Florida’s pass defense.

If Bryant can’t go, I’d expect former four-star prospect Connor Bazelak to start. He looked sharp against Georgia, although he played when the game was already decided. Bazelak is an accurate passer. But my worry is his youth. Even without a healthy Greenard and Zuniga, Todd Grantham is a genius at dialing up creative pressure packages. I wouldn’t want to place much confidence in a freshman quarterback contending with Florida’s pressure also because Missouri’s pass protection can be weak.

So if Bryant can’t play, I’ll exclusively take the “under.”

My Bet: Missouri +7

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Betting Record: 8-2