Marc Daniels: Florida's Biggest Game Of The Season...Is Tomorrow

Capital One Orange Bowl - Virginia v Florida

The annual showdown with the Georgia Bulldogs looms. At stake might be the eastern division of the SEC and a trip to the conference title game and a chance to make the college football playoffs. It's Florida-Georgia, one of the remaining rival games that is played at a neutral site. But that game can wait. It's not until next Saturday. For now, Florida's biggest challenge of the challenging season of college football is tomorrow at the Swamp.

Wait, it's Missouri. Isn't that supposed to be a cakewalk? Isn't that the game where the Gators are supposed to roll to a win? As the great Lee Corso says "not so fast my friend."

After shutting down its program because of the spread of Covid-19, the Gators returned to practice this past Monday. But all we know is that Florida has at least 53 players who can play. That's the minimum number of players a team must have available to play a game per SEC rules. We know Kyle Trask is playing since he has been made available to the media this week.

But we still do not know who and how many people are still out for Florida. And even if most are back, the challenge for the Gators is ramping back up to play a game. It doesn't take long for a big lineman to gain weight and a speedy wide receiver to lose a step when you don't practice for almost two weeks. In addition, we cannot assume that everyone simply returned to practice and was back at full speed. Timing and depth may be an issue. 

Missouri is 2-2. After opening the season with losses to Alabama and Tennessee, the Tigers beat LSU in a shootout 45-41. Their game with Vanderbilt was postponed and rescheduled because the Commodores had Corona-19 issues. The Tigers then stuffed Kentucky 20-10 and come into this contest with the Gators with confidence and more of a routine of playing week-after-week.

Florida should still win this game because they are the better team but we assume it's been a routine week in Gainesville and nothing is routine about 2020 in college football. A sluggish start by Dan Mullen's team is to be expected and that's where this gets interesting. Mullen has already talked about losing a game-week Tuesday next week when he will be preparing for Georgia. The last thing he wants is to look up and see the scoreboard show a battle in the fourth quarter. That's why this is the biggest game of the season. A win and it's on to Georgia and hopefully virus issues in the past and a run towards the goals his team has. But a close game late and the pressure of what is at stake, could make a game that ruins the season for the Gators...

Notes: Everyone has become an epidemiologist in trying to explain how Trevor Lawrence got the virus and when he can return. If you thought Saban-watch was something before the Georgia game, just wait until next week. If Lawrence can be healthy enough to play, can he, or will he, be cleared in time for the Notre Dame game? When was he tested? When did the clock start on his timeline to return? Can we just pause for a second and hope Lawrence does not have issues over the course of the next several days? But expect "Trevor Watch" all next week. By the way, Clemson faces an improved Boston College team tomorrow. The Eagles are 4-2 and the Tigers will turn to talented freshman DJ Uiagalelei. He's 6-4 and 250 pounds. The early enrollee threw for over 4,000 yards and 48 touchdowns in his senior season playing in California his final high school campaign...North Carolina was the over-ranked team in the early weeks of the season. The Tar Heels are good but they were not the fifth best team in the country when FSU beat them. The latest team to fit into the category of "are they really worthy of this ranking" is Oklahoma State. The Cowboys got the benefit of pollsters who were not ranking Big Ten and Pac-12 schools and find themselves sixth in the country. The Pokes' struggled to beat a good Tulsa team 16-7. They have wins over West Virginia, Kansas and Iowa State. Texas visits Stillwater tomorrow for the Big 12's biggest game of the weekend. For Oklahoma State, it's a chance to make a statement with a comfortable win before road challenges at ranked Kansas State and Oklahoma. For Tom Herman, it's a big game because the seat gets hotter with a third loss...Alabama is going to hand Mississippi State its fourth consecutive loss. Mike Leach was a hero for the Air Raid attack that beat LSU to start the season. Now, his offense can't score, players are transferring or quitting and fans are wondering if this was such a good idea...Arkansas and Texas A&M might be the best game of the weekend in the SEC. The Razorbacks, under first-year Coach Sam Pittman, are 2-2 and face the 3-1 Aggies. Jimbo's team believes they are in the hunt for a playoff spot(no, they are not). This series typically delivers a one-score game and that trend should continue...Quick update, hearing Nebraska has reached out to Edgewater High about playing tomorrow. Edgewater lost a game against local rival Bishop Moore. Nebraska tried to get Chattanooga to come to Lincoln. The Mocs agreed. One problem. Nebraska failed to ask the Big Ten, who denied the non-conference game. If you are wondering why Nebraska doesn't just leave a conference they appear to not want to be in. There are 50-80 million reasons. That would be the current amount each Big Ten member makes on media money to what they are projected to make every year within the next decade...

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