ESPN’s GatorNation brings you the 30 things you need to know about Florida’s upcoming 2012 season. For 30 weekdays we’ll preview games, talk about trends, spotlight players and positions, and give you pretty much everything you need to know to be ready for the season before the Sept. 1 opener against Bowling Green.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- GatorNation is previewing each of Florida’s 2012 opponents. Today is Missouri (Nov. 3 in Gainesville).
2011 record: 8-5 (5-4 Big 12), beat North Carolina 41-24 in AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl.
Coach: Gary Pinkel, 12th season (85-54); 22nd season overall (158-91-3).
Series record: Missouri leads 1-0.
Top returners: QB James Franklin (238-376-11, 2,865 yards, 21 TDs; 981 yards, 15 TDs rushing); WR T.J. Moe (54 catches, 649 yards, 4 TDs); DT Sheldon Richardson (37 tackles, 2 sacks); LB Andrew Wilson (98 tackles).
Did you know? Franklin’s 3,846 yards of total offense is more than any other returning player in the SEC this season.
Scouting the offense: Franklin is one of the top dual-threat QBs in the country, and he leads an offense that regularly uses four- and five-receiver formations. The Tigers won’t have RB Henry Josey (1,168 yards, 9 TDs) because of a knee injury and that’s a big loss, but there are play-makers at receiver in Moe and heralded freshman Dorial Green-Beckham.
Scouting the defense: The Tigers are eagerly anticipating matching up against some of the pro-style attacks in the SEC instead of the spread offenses they faced nearly every week. But can they get the job done up front? The linebackers -- led by Will Ebner -- are very good and the ends are solid, but there’s little depth along the line.
Three things to watch
There’s no doubt the Tigers’ offense was explosive last season, but the spread offense has not exactly flourished in the SEC over the past few seasons. It works if you have the dual-threat QB like Franklin, but he had his success against Big 12 defenses. Mizzou’s opener against Georgia, with one of the league’s better defenses, will be a good test.
CB E.J. Gaines was a first-team All-Big 12 selection as a sophomore last season, knocking down 16 passes and picking off two more. He’s not shy about coming up in run support, either. He should have little trouble transitioning to the SEC.
One of the better matchups in this game will be UF’s defensive line vs. Missouri’s offensive line. The biggest difference between the SEC and other leagues is the speed, athleticism and size of the defensive linemen. Teams outside of the SEC have one or two of those guys. SEC teams seem to have four or five of those guys, and that’s probably the biggest adjustment Missouri will have to make.