KICKOFF: Saturday, 12:21 p.m. ET
SITE: Faurot Field, Columbia, Mo.
TV: SEC TV/ESPN 3
SERIES: Florida and Missouri are tied 1-1(Last meeting, 2012, Florida 14-7)
AP RANKINGS: Florida No. 22, Missouri No. 14
KEYS TO THE GAME
Banged-up Florida is still holding out hope that it can turn its season around.
That challenge will begin Saturday at surging Missouri. Coming off a 17-6 loss to LSU, the Gators (4-2, 3-1 SEC) can still rally to win the SEC East division.
"We still would like to have that game (LSU), but we do have everything in front of us that we want to accomplish this season which is winning the SEC East and going to Atlanta," Florida senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins said. "We have to just refocus and get ready to go."
Missouri will present a second straight tough road test for Florida. The unbeaten Tigers (6-0, 2-0 SEC) are coming off a 41-26 upset win at Georgia.
But the win came at a price. Missouri starting quarterback James Franklin suffered a separated shoulder against the Bulldogs and will be out 3 to 5 weeks. Redshirt freshman Maty Mauk will start at quarterback against the Gators.
But Florida has its own injury issues. On Monday, Florida coach Will Muschamp announced starting running back Matt Jones will be out for the season after suffering a knee injury against LSU. Jones underwent surgery Monday to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
"I hate it for Matt," Muschamp said. "He's a great young man."
Jones is the seventh season-ending injury the Gators have endured this season -- a list that includes QB Jeff Driskel (broken leg), DT Dominique Easley (torn ACL), right tackle Chas Green (torn labrum), WR/KR Andre Debose (torn ACL), LB Matt Rolin (torn ACL) and DB Nick Washington (shoulder surgery).
"It's unfortunate," Muschamp said. "More than anything, I hate it for the young men. They put a lot of time and effort into playing this game and for that to happen, I'm disappointed for them first of all. That's what hurts the most, to see guys go through the struggle and having to make that phone call and tell them what's going on or having to walk them in the training room to tell them what's happening. That's very frustrating for a young man with as much time and effort as they put into it."
There is a reward coming for the Gators beyond the likely jump in the debut BCS standings this weekend.
"We have a bye week the week after, so this is a big week for us. Nothing would be worse than losing to Missouri going into a bye week. That's in the back of everyone's head. Everyone is ready to go and ready to get this game on the road," quarterback Tyler Murphy said.
It could have been worse for 14th-ranked Missouri (6-0, 2-0 SEC).
Reports surfaced on Saturday that the injury to Franklin's throwing shoulder would end his season. Coming hours after Missouri's biggest road win under Gary Pinkel, it served as a sobering reminder for how important Franklin is to Missouri.
However, the injury is a strain, not a separation. Franklin will miss three to five weeks, but the team is optimistic he could return on the shorter side of that scale.
"You hate seeing James go down," offensive lineman Evan Boehm said. "With the season he was having and the numbers he was putting up, that was something special. But you know, things like that happens and you can't really dwell upon that."
Missouri isn't dwelling and is rallying around new starter Maty Mauk as it prepares for a home game against 18th-ranked Florida (4-2, 3-1 SEC). Mauk, brother of former Wake Forest and Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk, set national career records in touchdowns and passing yards at Kenton High School in Ohio. His college staff isn't looking to baby him.
He won't be asked to manage the game. He's asked to win it.
"We're just gonna run our offense," Pinkel said. "He's been doing it for a long time. When he went in the game, we didn't cross things. We run what we run. That's what we're gonna do."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
--QB Tyler Murphy will try to bounce back from an up-and-down performance against LSU. Murphy was sacked four times and unable to make adjustments against LSU's consistent pass pressure. He finished the game completing 15 of 27 passes for 115 yards and no TDs. "I held on to the ball too long at times, which allowed them to get a few hits and sacks," Murphy said. "I thought I made a few nice throws, made a few good checks but you know you can't win with a few nice throws and a few good checks. You have to be consistent across the board."
--RB Kelvin Taylor will get his chance for more carries in the coming weeks due to the season-ending injury suffered by sophomore RB Matt Jones. A true freshman, Taylor showed promise against LSU, rushing for 52 yards on 10 carries. Florida coach Will Muschamp said that Taylor the son of former Gator and NFL running back Fred Taylor, has improved picking up the blitz and with ball security in practice. "When you're able to do those two things, you give us more confidence in situationally playing you in the game," Muschamp said. "I thought he did a good job of that. He deserved the opportunity.
--LB Antonio Morrison is starting to come back to his 2012 form. Morrison had a team-high 12 tackles against LSU. The sophomore is tied with LB Michael Taylor for the team lead in tackles (35) and is averaging 7 tackles per game.
--CB Vernon Hargeaves III continued to show off his outstanding cover skills. The true freshman held star LSU receiver Jarvis Landry to four catches for 58 yards and no TDS. Next up for Hargreaves, Missouri senior receiver L'Damian Washington, who has amassed 455 yards receiving and scored 7 TDs this season.
--QB Maty Mauk showed no fear at Georgia. With James Franklin sidelined for three to five weeks, the redshirt freshman from Kenton, Ohio, assumes the starting role. Mauk and Franklin are similar in that they can both run, but Mauk is much more of a scrambler than Franklin. The offense stays the same, but Mauk's biggest role is limiting mistakes in his first career start.
--WR L'Damian Washington, a redshirt senior from Shreveport, La., has been Missouri's most consistent receiver this season. He had the best game of his career against Georgia with seven receptions for 115 yards and two touchdowns, and now leads the team in all receiving categories.
--CB Aarion Penton, a true freshman from St. Louis, gets the start after EJ Gaines suffered a strained quadriceps, and the staff has raved about him all season. Penton will get his biggest workload of the year, but he played well after Gaines went down against Georgia.
--RB Henry Josey leads the teams in carries, so that figures to carry over to Saturday. His job is more important, though, as Josey will have to increase his dwindling yards-per-carry average and provide tough running to ease the burden on Mauk.