GAME NOTES: After their statement victory a week ago, the 14th-ranked Missouri Tigers will try to prove they truly belong among the nation's elite on Saturday afternoon when they host the 22nd-ranked Florida Gators.
Florida had been winners of three straight before venturing to Baton Rouge last weekend where it fell to nationally-ranked LSU in a 17-6 final. The Gators' two losses this season matches their total from the entire 2012 campaign, but at 3-1 in conference, they are still in control of their own destiny in the SEC East with games against Georgia and South Carolina still to come.
Missouri has been without question one of the nation's biggest surprises this season, as it has yet to lose in six tries. The Tigers moved to 2-0 in the league last week with an outstanding 41-26 win over Georgia for their first win over a top-10 team on the road since 1981, resulting in a huge jump in the polls from No. 25 to No. 14.
"I just think we earned a little more respect," said Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel, whose teams have started 6-0 three times in his 13-year tenure. "The respect level just went up a couple notches."
"There is no question that one of the goals for this team is to get back to Missouri's winning way," he continued. "It is a big deal to them. They want to get back to competing for championships."
The all-time series between these two programs is tied at 1-1. An unranked Missouri squad fought hard at No. 8 Florida last November but lost, 14-7.
Florida's offense has performed poorly this season, ranking 13th out of 14 SEC teams in scoring (21.8 ppg) and yardage (367.8), and it reached new lows in last week's six-point output at LSU by netting just 240 total yards.
The Gators' already lackluster offensive attack suffered a huge blow when it lost tailback Matt Jones (339 yards, two TDs) for the season after suffering a knee injury against LSU. Jones is just the latest casualty for the injury- riddled Gators, who have also lost QB Jeff Driskel, WR Andre Debose, OT Chaz Green and DT Dominique Easley to season-ending injuries. Mack Brown (340 yards, three TDs) will shoulder the load in the backfield sans Jones.
Tyler Murphy has been strong this season taking over for Driskel, completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 645 yards with seven total touchdowns and just one pick, but he struggled against LSU to the tune of 115 passing yards while being sacked four times.
"(LSU) did a good job applying pressure on us," Murphy said. "I didn't do a good job of getting rid of the ball quickly enough. If you want to be successful on offense, that is something you are going to have to overcome."
"Tyler's going to be fine," Florida head coach Will Muschamp said of his signal caller. "He's a mature young man. He's handled everything beautifully. He will continue to. That's the type of person he is."
Florida employs an impressive trio of receivers, with Trey Burton (26 reception, 310 yards, TD), Solomon Patton (22 receptions, 380 yards, four TDs) and Quinton Dunbar (21 receptions, 303 yards) all keeping pace with one another.
Despite its poor offense, Florida have been able to remain relevant on a national scale thanks to its outstanding defense, which ranks fourth nationally in points allowed (13.0 ppg) and third in yards permitted (235.3 ypg).
Antonio Morrison has a team-high 35 tackles, while Dante Fowler, Jr. (7.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks, two FF) and Cody Riggs (6.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, three passes defended) have been game-changing playmakers. Vernon Hargreaves III has picked off three passes, and Loucheiz Purifoy (INT, FF, blocked kick) is one of the nation's best cover corners.