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Colleges

New rival Missouri to test Gators' resolve

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 11:43 PM
GAINESVILLE -

Realistically, Florida won't win the SEC East this season.

Georgia can wrap up that title with wins today against Ole Miss and next week at Auburn.

So what's left for the Gators?

Actually, a good test for a program that was down the past couple of seasons and can show it is on the way back.

A win in today's game against Missouri (4-4 overall, 1-4 SEC) will show the Gators (7-1, 6-1) of this season are different than the teams of recent seasons, which folded when things went bad.

"We've got to control what we can control and win our remaining games and play well the rest of the year and just do what we can do," sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel said. "We can't worry about what's going on with other teams."

It's also a chance to make adjustments and start working toward a stronger future in 2013. Head coach Will Muschamp's second Florida team already has matched last year's win total.

Now what?

"We've got to be more consistent, whether we're running it or throwing it, to create some continuity offensively," Muschamp said.

Florida will lose only a handful of players on offense and defense, unless several juniors bolt for the NFL, so developing consistency for next fall is one project to think about. The last two times the Gators won national titles — in 2006 and 2008 — the framework was laid in the second half of the previous season.

Today also is a chance to get rid of a little bit of the pain Florida suffered, realizing it had the East title in the palm of its hand and literally fumbled it away with six turnovers in last week's 17-9 loss to Georgia.

"That's the tough thing about football is you've got to wait seven days," Muschamp said.

Florida also is still in transition on offense, determining what it wants to be when it grows up. Driskel is still developing, there's no game-breaking target at receiver and the line didn't protect very well against Georgia.

"I think people have done a better job of adjusting to some of the things we're doing, some of the extra linemen and the things we're doing. The misdirection runs haven't been hitting as well," Muschamp said.

"That's what's really been good for us throughout the year. We're continuing to look at that and find different ways to run it. In our league they catch up pretty quick with you as far as the things you're doing. You've got to continue to stay advanced in what you're doing."

Offensive coordinator Brent Pease can help by coming up with more productive starts in games. Florida has been outscored 30-24 in the first quarter in conference games this season.

"I've got to develop a better rhythm for them and get the kids where we've got the ball moving a lot better," Pease said. "And I've got to do a better job."

Florida and Missouri have only met once — the Tigers won 20-18 in the 1966 Sugar Bowl.

It means nothing.

But the Tigers have a streak of at least one takeaway in 26 straight games, which could have a bearing on today's game.

Muschamp said Thursday the Gators seemed to have regrouped after the huge loss to Georgia.

"Missouri," Muschamp added, "will catch your attention."

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