Coming off 6-turnover performance vs. Georgia, No. 8 Florida looks to rebound against Missouri
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – This was supposed to be a celebratory week at Florida.
The Gators expected to beat rival Georgia, clinch a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game and then worry about staying undefeated against Missouri.
Six turnovers changed everything.
The mistake-prone Gators lost 17-9 to the Bulldogs, leaving them in an unenviable position of trying to regroup from a setback that likely will prevent them from playing for a title.
How will No. 8 Florida (7-1, 6-1 SEC) respond? Coach Will Muschamp and everyone else will find out Saturday when the Gators host conference newcomer Missouri (4-4, 1-4).
"The tough thing about football is you have to wait seven days," Muschamp said.
Florida probably could use the extra time to work on its offense. The Gators rank 100th in the nation in total offense, have the worst passing attack in the league and have been fairly predictable on first down.
And for the first time this season, the Gators acknowledged that they don't have a big-play receiver and that the offensive line has protection issues.
"Last game wasn't our best performance," center Jon Harrison said. "I just know we're going to bounce back this Saturday and make sure everyone is fundamentally sound. You guys won't see that anymore out of the offensive line."
If the Gators don't shore things up, they could be in for another long day.
The Tigers have a formidable front led by defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. They lead the nation in forced fumbles (17), using three of them to dominate Kentucky last week and get their first SEC victory.
"Confidence levels are up," Richardson said. "For the most part, we are just out here trying to get another win. We want more than one win in the SEC, so we are trying to get another one."
Quarterback James Franklin returns to the starting lineup for the Tigers after injuring his knee against Vanderbilt on Oct. 6, sitting out the following week's game against Alabama and then coming off the bench last week against the Wildcats.
Franklin, who also missed the Arizona State game in September because of a shoulder injury, has completed 62 percent of his passes for 821 yards. He has four touchdown passes and two interceptions, but can make plays with his feet.
He had limited mobility against Kentucky, but led the offense to scores on three of four possessions in the second half.
"We were very cautious with him," coach Gary Pinkel said. "We tried not to play him, but he was released to play. He did a good job. He really has come around a long ways. We'll see how this week goes and we'll adjust accordingly game-plan wise."
Florida, meanwhile, has dealt with a flu bug this week. Backup defensive tackle Leon Orr ended up in a hospital, and safety Matt Elam and several others missed practice because of illness.
Regardless, Muschamp expects his team to bounce back from the flu and last week's loss.
"We've got a mature bunch that's able to refocus and put it behind them," he said. "You don't forget the loss. I don't want them to forget the loss. I want them to learn from it and use it as motivation. ... The bottom line is you have to refocus and move forward.
"You can't let it linger."
The Gators can still win the Eastern Division, but they need help. They need either Mississippi (Saturday) or Auburn (next week) to upset Georgia.
If not, the Gators still could win out — they finish the season with Louisiana-Lafayette (4-3), Jacksonville State (5-3) and No. 9 Florida State (8-1) — and make the Sugar Bowl.
"We're just focusing on Florida right now, getting back to where we need to be," cornerback Marcus Roberson said.