Early Analysis: Florida at Missouri

No. 22 Florida Gators (4-2, 3-1) at No. 14 Missouri Tigers (6-0, 2-0)

Saturday, 12:21 PM EST, SEC TV/ESPN 3

Line: Florida by 3

There is a logjam at the top of the SEC East and these are the only two teams that control their own destiny. Missouri is coming off of a big win over SEC East favorite Georgia in Athens. The Tigers took advantage of a banged up opponent but didn't get out of town unscathed as they lost their starting QB, James Franklin, for an undisclosed amount of time. That means it will be red-shirt freshman Maty Mauk's time to lead the Tigers as they try to sustain their hold on the SEC East.

The Florida Gators come into this game on a one-game losing streak after falling in Baton Rouge to LSU by 11. Like Georgia, the Gators have also been bit by the injury bug losing their starting QB Jeff Driskel early this season as well their best defensive player, Dominique Easley. This week the Gators found out RB Matt Jones was also lost for the year bringing the Gators total to seven players they've lost for the season due to injury.

For Florida to win: With Maty Mauk getting his first career start for Missouri, it's the Florida defense's job to make his life uncomfortable. Put pressure on Mauk and force him to make quick decisions in the pocket while limiting his ability to run. On offense, despite losing Jones, the Gators need to run the ball and then run the ball some more. Last week, Georgia ran for 164 yards on Missouri and averaged 5.3 ypc with two true freshmen. Stopping the run isn't the strength of this Missouri team but because of their opponents, and getting out to a lead on Georgia, we haven't really seen them exposed yet.

For Missouri to win: Missouri needs to be balanced on offense and their RB corps needs to be a big part of the game. Last week Marcus Murphy and Henry Josey both scored big TDs against Georgia despite not being that consistent. If they can be more consistent this week, it will take a lot of pressure off of Mauk. On defense, the Tigers need to pressure Tyler Murphy when he's in passing situations and force him into mistakes. Last week, Missouri won the turnover battle 4 to 0 against Georgia and it's the reason they won the game. 

Key Players, Florida: RBs Mack Brown and Kelvin Taylor. With Matt Jones (79 carries for 339 yds, 4.2 ypc) out for the year it's up to the other two running backs to step up their game. Mack Brown (91 carries for 340 yards, 3.74 ypc) is still looking for his break-out game and he's struggled over the last three weeks gaining an average of 37 ypg and just 3.5 ypc. Freshman Kelvin Taylor saw his most action of the year last week against LSU and finished with 52 yards on 10 carries. Florida must be able to run the ball to win this game and these two players will have a big spotlight on them.

Key Player, Missouri: DE Michael Sam. In 2012, Jarvis Jones took over the Georgia/Missouri game in the second half and led the Bulldogs to victory over the Tigers. This year, it was Sam that played defensive hero as he scooped up a fumble and rumbled 21 yards to give Missouri an 18 point lead at half-time that Georgia could not come back from. Sam is tied for the lead in the SEC in sacks and leads the conference in tackles for loss. The Tigers beat Georgia by forcing turnovers and Florida has proven susceptible to turning the ball over. Sam's presence on the field will be key for the Tigers. He needs to do a better job this week against the run and needs to put the pressure on Tyler Murphy when Florida is forced to pass.

Key Stat: Florida is the worst team in the SEC, and 116th Nationally, at converting red zone opportunities. This year they've scored on just 68% of their red zone trips and are only scoring TDs on 44% of these trips. In their wins, the Gators have converted 82.35% of their opportunities. In losses, they've converted just 37.5% (with only 1 TD). The red zone performance for the Gators is especially important because of their lack of offensive play-makers.

About Kevin Causey

Dry humorist, craft beer enthusiast, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, contributor for The Comeback.