Who Would’ve Thought The Missouri Vs. Florida Game Could Have Such Big Implications, But Here We Are

If you’ve paid any sort of attention to the situation in Gainesville over the past two months, you probably understand why Dan Mullen has taken a lot of heat lately. We all know this Florida program should be playing for SEC East titles and contending for a Playoff spot, but the Gators are nowhere near those goals this year. And that’s the problem.

Now, the Gators will play Missouri on Saturday afternoon, and the game will have very different implications for each team.

It’s hard to forget the halftime skirmish between these two teams last year in Gainesville, though both coaches tried to play it off this week. But the intensity of this game will no doubt rise above what we witnessed last year since this matchup could determine how bright the future looks for both squads.

We all know what this game will come down to for the Missouri offense. Just like last weekend and for most of the season, the Tigers will look to get running back Tyler Badie going, hoping he can gash up the Gator defensive line that has struggled against the run this season. Florida head coach Dan Mullen knows exactly how good Badie is and could hit a home run on every carry.

“They give him the ball a lot,” Mullen said. “You look at their team, I don’t know that anyone else even gets the ball much in the running game. They’re going to feed the ball to him a bunch. He has a lot of power and a lot of speed as well. You can’t let him get to the second level because he has the ability to hit a home run.”

Simply put, if the Gators don’t have an answer for Tyler Badie on Saturday, then this game will go south in a hurry and Mullen could be speaking with Realtors on his way back to Gainesville. This game should mean a lot to the Gators’ head coach, especially after how the past year has turned out. There’s no denying that the implications of this game are very big for Mullen, whose team struggled to beat FCS opponent Samford last weekend.

It’s wild that we are talking about Dan Mullen having two games left to prove he can lead this Florida program into the future, considering that this team hasn’t played up to the “Gator Standard” for a while now. But it’s not surprising that AD Scott Stricklin would hesitate to fire Mullen, given their history. What the Gators administration cannot do is keep sitting around and hoping the program will just magically fix itself.

Stricklin must ask himself whether he sees Florida competing for a Playoff spot in the next three years. If he does not know the answer to that question, then the decision to move on should be made. But if he thinks something within this program can change, then I can promise you other SEC programs will be more than happy to keep a mediocre Florida team around for a long time.

This is what Saturday means for the Gators. This football program needs a win in a very bad way. If not, then Stricklin needs to make a change and stick to his guns. It’s fine to have friends in this industry, but at the end of the day, this is a business. So, if the Gators can go to Columbia and take care of business, then this charade will carry over for another week, when Mullen likely finishes the regular season on a three-game winning streak.

As for the Tigers, Eli Drinkwitz will lead his team into Saturday’s game looking to become bowl eligible behind running back Tyler Badie, who rushed for over 200 yards last weekend. You can probably expect two different quarterbacks to play, as Connor Bazelak and Brady Cook bring different styles to the field. It will be interesting to see how Drinkwitz uses the passing game against Florida, knowing how successful they could be in the running game.

This is a very big game for Missouri. They have the opportunity to become bowl eligible and erase some of the early season problems that plagued them. They gave a gritty performance last week when they had to hold off South Carolina late in the fourth quarter to come away with a victory, and this is the type of game that could put an exclamation point on a potential seven-win season.

But we all know what the main storyline for this football game is, and it all revolves around the status of Dan Mullen at Florida. Simply put, Mullen cannot lose this game to Missouri if he wants any chance of returning next season. He also needs to keep in mind that the Gators could win this game in Columbia, but then face the same questions as they prepare for Florida State.

Either way, the Gators better come out firing on all cylinders against Missouri, or Dan Mullen could be cashing buyout checks come January.

Written by Trey Wallace

Wallace started covering the SEC in 2012, as the conference landscape was beginning to change. Prior to his time in Knoxville, Wallace worked in Nashville for The Read Optional, where he first produced content that garnered national attention. His passion for sports is evident in his work and has led him to break some of college football’s biggest stories. His social media reach and natural podcast proficiency continue to make Wallace one of SEC’s most trusted sources.

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