The Florida Gators will cap off SEC play against the No. 11 Missouri Tigers in Columbia, Missouri, Saturday.
The Gators (5-5, 3-4 SEC) will look to take down Mizzou (8-2, 4-2 SEC) and snap a three-game losing streak and clinch bowl eligibility. Florida will also look to avoid its third consecutive losing conference record.
The last time UF failed to record a winning record in the conference for this many straight seasons was from 1939-1951.
The Gators will face a tall task, however, matching up with a Mizzou team that is ranked top 15 in the Associated Press Top 25 and in the top 10 of the College Football Playoff rankings.
The Tigers are coming off a 36-7 win against then-No. 14 Tennessee. The margin of victory was the largest in Mizzou history against an AP top 15 opponent.
Missouri’s success this season has been fueled by a revamped offense that is in the top half of the conference in yards and points per game under first-year offensive coordinator Kirby Moore.
Two names who’ve led the resurgence are running back Cody Schrader and wide receiver Luther Burden III.
Schrader, a former Division II player, has had a breakout season. He leads the SEC in rushing yards with 1,124 and is the only player in the conference to surpass 1,000 yards on the ground so far.
The St. Louis, Missouri, native is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and 112.4 yards per game. He’s rushed for 11 touchdowns also.
Though Schrader has been consistent all season, he had a breakout performance against the Volunteers.
He became the first running back in SEC history to rush for 200 yards and also have 100 receiving yards in a single game. He’s also just the 10th player in FBS history to accomplish the feat.
Burden has been one of the most dynamic players in the country with the football in his hands. The sophomore wideout has 68 receptions for 984 yards — which ranks third-best in the conference. He also has a knack for getting in the endzone with eight touchdown catches.
Napier acknowledged the challenge Burden and the rest of Mizzou’s receiving corps poses but his team can compete if they get in good positions and have good fundamentals and techniques, he said.
“When you do get put in those matchups, you've got to win them,” Napier said. “If you can start the play the right way and communicate well and be in the right things, you've got a chance.”
The duo could be tough to stop for a Florida defense that just gave up a program-record 701 yards of offense against Louisiana State last Saturday.
On the defensive side of the ball, Mizzou will be without one of its top players, veteran linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper, as reported by Pete Thamel. The former Gator leads the team in tackles with 55. He’s accounted for six tackles for loss and three sacks.
UF redshirt junior Jaydon Hill said he Hopper’s one of his best friends and the pair have shared plenty of trash talk now that they’re on different teams.
“All the time, that's all we do,” Hill said.
Another key piece on defense is cornerback Kris Abrams-Draine. He’s been stellar this season with four interceptions and 11 pass breakups in coverage. Abrams-Draine has also compiled 40 tackles this season.
The Gators will look to battle through the adversity of the three-game losing streak and get back on track, Napier said.
“I think toughness, endurance, faith, your ability to overcome, resiliency, those things are developed,” Napier said. “You're not born with them. So you've got to go through tough things to develop some of those things.”
UF’s offense, which scored more than 30 points in four of its last five games, will look to keep that momentum going against Mizzou.
Florida senior wide receiver Ricky Pearsall will look to continue his career year as he closes in on 1,000 receiving yards on the season as he sits with 876 yards.
If he can reach the milestone, he would be the first Florida player to reach 1,000 receiving yards since Taylor Jacobs in 2002 when he had 1,088 yards.
“It's a goal I set in the very beginning of the season,” Peasall said. “So I'm still working towards it. Still got to go get it.”
Sophomore running back Trevor Etienne could also play a key role in getting the ground game going for the Gators. The sophomore running back ran for three scores in UF’s last game against LSU Nov. 11.
The Gators will need a strong game against a top-15 opponent and will have their work cut out for them as they close out a two-game road stint.
Florida will take on Mizzou at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Jackson Reyes is a UF journalism senior and The Alligator's Fall 2023 Sports Editor. He previously served as Digital Managing Editor and was a reporter and assistant editor on the sports desk. In his free time, he enjoys collecting records, long walks on the beach and watching Bo Nix.