Gators give Mizzou a chance to earn their way back into rankings
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- No. 11 Florida has a chance to go to 6-0. Missouri has a chance to edge back into the national picture.
Gators coach Jim McElwain said his players showed him a sense of urgency this week as they prepared for a trip to the two-time defending SEC East champion.
"I think there's one thing that really shows is just getting out of the locker room and getting to meetings," McElwain said. "What it tells me is they're looking forward to the opportunity."
Then again, he'll find out for sure on Saturday.
"That's what's fun about every opportunity, because you really don't know," McElwain said. "But I do know this: When there's a sense of urgency and a sense of focus from the meeting room to the practice field, at least you know comfortably that your guys are going to go compete."
Florida (5-0, 3-0 SEC) is coming off a 38-3 rout of previously third-ranked Ole Miss at home. Quarterback Will Grier completed 24 of 29 passes for 271 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first half.
In victories against Tennessee and Ole Miss, Grier became the first Florida quarterback to pass for 250 yards in consecutive games since Tim Tebow in 2007.
"He makes good decisions, and he takes care of the ball," Missouri linebacker Michael Scherer said. "It's going to be important to get pressure on him, and make sure he's not comfortable."
Florida will bring plenty of pressure, too, as the Gators try to go 4-0 in SEC play for the first time since 2012.
The Gators lead the SEC with 18 sacks, tied for fourth best in the nation. Defensive end Alex McCalister has four sacks and four quarterback hurries, and attributes his success to the game planning of first-year defensive coordinator Geoff Collins.
"The scheme is a big help in getting to the quarterback," McCalister said. "Comparing last year to this year, it is a little more freeing. That sets up a lot of my moves."
Missouri (4-1, 1-1) needs to make up ground for a loss at Kentucky in the conference opener.
Freshman quarterback Drew Lock makes his second straight start in place of Maty Mauk, indefinitely suspended for violating team rules. Lock was 21 for 28 for 136 yards and two touchdowns last week in a 24-10 victory over South Carolina.
"It'll definitely be a test this week," Lock said. "I'm definitely excited. Competition brings out the best in anybody. Hopefully, it brings out the best in me."
McElwain said he won't underestimate the freshman.
"You see the confidence that they have in him," McElwain said. "They're doing the things that he's successful at. Offensively, they get the ball out quick. They don't allow a bunch of sacks because of how they get it out and how they play quickly."
Here are some things to watch Saturday:
SWARMING SECONDARIES: Missouri is allowing 154.2 passing yards per game, best in the SEC. The Tigers also lead the conference with seven interceptions and have allowed five touchdown passes. Florida has allowed only six touchdown passes, and is tied for third in the conference with five interceptions. Vernon Hargreaves III has three interceptions and 13 pass break-ups, both tied for best in the conference.
IN GOOD COMPANY: McElwain is the fourth Florida coach to start 5-0, joining Charles Bachman, Galen Hall and Steve Spurrier.
BEHIND THE LINE: Missouri ranks second in the nation with 48 tackles for loss and Florida has 46, tied for third with Penn State. Florida's Jonathan Bullard and Missouri's Charles Harris are tied for most tackles for loss in the SEC with 9 1/2 apiece. Florida's McCalister, Jarrad Davis and Antonio Morrison each have 6 1/2 tackles for loss. Scherer has five tackles for loss and Brothers has 4 1/2 for Missouri.
WATCH FOR WALTER: Freshman defensive end Walter Brady has emerged as one of Missouri's best pass rushers with a team-best five sacks coming in the last three games. He had two third-down sacks and his first career interception against South Carolina.