Game preview: Florida vs. Missouri

Missouri (4-4, 1-4 SEC) at No. 7 Florida (7-1, 6-1 SEC)

Saturday, noon ET

Florida Field, Gainesville, Fla.


Gators to watch

QB Jeff Driskel: How does Driskel respond after committing four of the Gators’ six turnovers in their 17-9 loss to Georgia last week? He admitted he held the ball too long and didn’t make quick decisions, and those are issues that are certainly correctable in one week. Driskel probably put too much pressure on himself to make plays against Georgia. He needs to just run the offense and not force things.

LB Neiron Ball: Buck LB Lerentee McCray is battling an ankle injury and my not be able to play against Missouri. If he can’t go, the Gators will turn to Ball, who had his first career interception last week. Ball has played well in his return from the bleeding in his brain that cost him the entire 2011 season (nine tackles, two fumble recoveries) and he will get a chance to play a lot against the Tigers because the Gators will be in nickel defense for most of the game.

RB Omarius Hines: Somebody has to take over for the injured Solomon Patton (broken left arm) and run the jet sweep, and Hines is one of two candidates. The other is WR Andre Debose, but the coaching staff has more trust in Hines than Debose. Hines isn’t as fast as Patton, but he’s bigger, more physical and pretty good with the ball in his hands.

Tigers to watch

QB James Franklin: Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said that Franklin would start against the Gators. Franklin has been hampered by shoulder and knee injuries all season and that has kept him from being the dynamic player he was last season (3,847 all-purpose yards). But he’s still dangerous, especially if he’s healthy. He came on in the second half of last week’s game against Kentucky and looked pretty good in turning a close game into a rout.

DT Sheldon Richardson: Richardson leads the Tigers in tackles (57) and sacks (4.0), which is highly unusual for an interior defensive lineman. What it says is that Richardson is talented enough to make tackles down the field and anywhere along the line of scrimmage, plus quick and strong enough to get to the quarterback.

RB/KR/PR Marcus Murphy: Murphy leads the nation with four return touchdowns (three punt, one kickoff). His kickoff return for a TD was a 98-yarder against Alabama. However, he’s coming off a game in which he muffed two punt returns (losing one). Murphy is second in the SEC in punt returns (15.35 per return). His kickoff return average (33.17 per return) would also rank second in the SEC (and sixth nationally) but he does not have enough returns to qualify for the rankings.

Key matchup

Florida OTs Xavier Nixon and Chaz Green vs. Missouri DEs Kony Ealy and Michael Sam

Nixon and Green got abused last week by Georgia’s Jarvis Jones (three sacks). Ealy and Sam aren’t in Jones’ class, but they’re not bad pass rushers. Each has 3.5 sacks, as does another end, Brad Madison. Nixon and Green need to rebound with solid performances and give Driskel more time in the pocket to make better decisions.

By the numbers

1 -- The teams have met just once before, in the 1966 Sugar Bowl. Missouri won 20-18. The Gators scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter but failed on every two-point conversion attempt.

14 -- UF’s opponents have converted just 14 of 58 third downs in the second half this season. That’s 24.1 percent.

26 -- Missouri has forced at least one turnover in 26 consecutive games dating back to a loss against Nebraska on Oct. 30, 2010. The Tigers lead the nation with 17 forced fumbles.