Florida football: Missouri has the Gators’ number, and now it gets Kelly Bryant back

By Adam Silverstein
November 14, 2019
Florida football: Missouri has the Gators’ number, and now it gets Kelly Bryant back

Image Credit: Allison Curry / UAA Communications

Just because the No. 11 Florida Gators do not have a top 25 team left on their regular-season schedule does not mean the final two games of the year will be a cake walk. In fact, Saturday’s contest will be anything but as Florida rolls into Missouri for an SEC East showdown against an opponent that’s had its number over the years.

Since the Tigers joined the SEC ahead of the 2012 season, the Gators are actually 3-4 against their new SEC East rivals — and all four losses have been relative blowouts. Missouri has defeated Florida by a combined 121-63 in its four series victories, 36-17 in 2013, 42-13 in 2014, 45-16 in 2017 and 38-17 in 2018. That spans two coaches (Gary Pinkel, Barry Odom) and two quarterbacks (Maty Mauk, Drew Lock) in games at both locations.

However, Florida was only “good” in one of those seasons (2018), and it seems the team has largely chalked up last year’s Missouri loss to a hangover coming off a tough defeat against Georgia that ended the Gators’ chances at the SEC Championship game.

This season, Florida enters Saturday’s game with a slightly better record (8-2 vs. 6-2) and attitude than last season, but it will now face Missouri on the road at its earliest start of the season (11 a.m. CT local time).

The Gators will also see the Tigers’ transfer star quarterback return after an absence due to a hamstring injury. Kelly Bryant, who led Clemson to a 12-2 record and College Football Playoff appearance in 2017, is back after missing the Georgia game and seeing Missouri get shut out 27-0.

“It’s feeling good, feeling better than last week,” Bryant said early this week. “Feeling really great about where I’m with it right now.”

The Tigers are 5-3 with Bryant in the backfield this season; they have a perfect 5-0 record at home and are outscoring opponents 222-58 at Farout Field, though only three of those games were against Power Five opponents that now have a combined record of 11-18. Bryant has scored 11 total touchdowns in those five games and remains a threat with his legs as well as his arm for Mizzou.

Florida is also getting healthier. Senior defensive end Jabari Zuniga, who is still dealing with a lingering ankle sprain, is questionable for the game and expected to see the field. Junior defensive back Brad Stewart, who looked seriously injured last week, is probable and trending towards active.

The Gators are on the outside looking in at the College Football Playoff as the highest-ranked two-loss team. As such, they need a significant amount of help to get in the four-team field, but the only things they can control are the games remaining on their schedule.

Florida will have to win out at Mizzou and vs. Florida State while hoping Georgia falls to Auburn on Saturday and doubles down with a loss to Texas A&M. If that happens, the Gators can slide into the SEC Championship Game and pick up a quality, ranked win against either LSU or Alabama, which would surely put them in the field.

Again, that starts Saturday against a team that has largely been a thorn in Florida’s side over the last seven seasons. Still, the Gators are a touchdown favorite on the road, and after a 56-0 demolition of Vanderbilt last week, the expectation is that Florida takes care of business. If not, it may not be as close to being a contender as its coaches, players or fans may think.

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