Missouri-Florida Preview

The Associated Press

Because of a miserable performance in its first loss of the season, Florida now needs help to reach the SEC championship game.

The No. 8 Gators also have to take care of Missouri during their conference finale Saturday afternoon in Gainesville.

Before last weekend, Florida was in line to make its first SEC title game since its then-No. 1 ranked team, led by Tim Tebow, lost to No. 2 Alabama in 2009. All the Gators had to do to get back to Atlanta was defeat Georgia, but they committed six turnovers - two more than in their first seven games combined - during a 17-9 loss in Jacksonville.

Jeff Driskel fumbled twice and threw two interceptions after giving away the ball only twice in his team's 7-0 start. Tight end Jordan Reed also fumbled near the goal line late in the game.

"Hopefully I got it out of my system. You've got to learn from mistakes. Got the mistakes out of the way, learn from them and try not to make the same mistakes again," said Driskel, who was also sacked five times.

To win the SEC East crown, Florida (7-1, 6-1) needs to win Saturday and have either Mississippi or Auburn defeat Georgia over the next two weeks.

"I told the team in the locker room. You won together, now we'll find out how you handle adversity," coach Will Muschamp said. "We got a bunch of down guys in there and I totally understand it, but we've got to regroup here. ... We need to push through this. No question. There's a lot of football to play."

Although it got off to a strong start, Florida wasn't exactly at its best offensively over the last few weeks. Mike Gillislee has run for 181 yards over the past three games after gaining 548 over his first five.

Driskel hasn't topped 200 yards in any of his last four games. He had 185 in the loss to Georgia after failing to reach triple digits in his previous three contests. The Gators rank 102nd out of 124 FBS teams in total offense and 118th in passing.

"I think people have done a better job of adjusting to some of the things we're doing," Muschamp said. "You know in our league they catch up pretty quick with you as far as the things you're doing. ... We got whipped at the point of attack, quite frankly. We need to win some of those."

Florida will try to win those battles against Missouri (4-4, 1-4), which is seeking to build on its first SEC victory and earn its first on the road. Quarterback James Franklin will try to lead his team to that milestone win in what's expected to be his first start since injuring his knee in a loss to Vanderbilt on Oct. 6.

"He really made great strides all of last week and we expect him to get better and better and better, get more confidence," coach Gary Pinkel said. "I think he got some confidence playing in that game and then we will determine what we do with him and what we ask him to do. We are anticipating him being very close to being 100 percent.

Franklin replaced Corbin Berkstresser in a home game against Kentucky this past Saturday but the Tigers mostly ran the ball in a 33-10 victory. Kendial Lawrence had 108 of the team's 186 yards and two touchdowns.

Missouri had been outscored 133-55 over its previous four conference games, with three against ranked teams. The Tigers fell 31-10 in their first - and so far only - SEC road game against then-No. 7 South Carolina on Sept. 22.

Missouri is making its first visit to Gainesville and playing Florida for the first time since a 20-18 win in the 1966 Sugar Bowl.

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