When Missouri takes on No. 8 Florida at 11 a.m. Saturday, the Tigers will not only be trying to win, they will also be trying to do something three Southeastern Conference opponents haven’t done at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium this season: score a touchdown.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
“The Swamp” has bogged down opposing offenses as the 7-1 Gators are 4-0 at home, where they have outscored opponents by a combined 123-31.
The Gators are also second in the SEC in scoring defense, third in total defense and second in opponent’s third-down conversion percentage (25.9 percent), the latter of which has been a huge issue for MU this season.
That said, Missouri’s best chance for putting up points against one of the SEC’s stingiest defenses will rest on the health of junior quarterback James Franklin. He gave MU’s sluggish offense a spark after replacing Corbin Berkstresser during the second half of the Tigers’ 33-10 win over Kentucky last Saturday.
Franklin, who is still making his way back from a MCL sprain he suffered against Vanderbilt on Oct. 6, operated in a limited game plan against Kentucky, one designed to keep him from putting unnecessary stress on the knee.
“The next day, it was more sore than before,” Franklin said. “But that’s just because I was working the soreness out, getting used to the flexibility, things like that.”
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Wednesday that he expects Franklin to be back to his normal self, which means he’ll be a running and passing threat.
“James Franklin at quarterback and what they do offensively presents issues and creates a lot of one-on-one matchups,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said of the Tigers. “We’re going to have to tackle very well in space against a team like this that’s got some skill good guys. They spread the ball out, and we need to be really focused on what we’re supposed to be doing.”
But it appears Muschamp won’t have a full deck on defense, as sophomore tackle Leon Orr is out and senior linebacker Lerentee McCray is questionable. If McCray can’t play, Muschamp said he will lean on sophomore Neiron Ball and freshman Dante Fowler.
Muschamp also hinted the Gators will use a lot of nickel defense, a look that has frustrated the Tigers some this season.
“This will be a nickel game,” he said.
Franklin, who has also had an assortment of shoulder issues, is confident he will be ready, which became obvious when he was asked if he thinks opposing teams will come after him because of his injuries.
“Probably, yes sir,” Franklin said. “I’ll try to prepare for that. If it happens, it happens.”
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