Florida Gators vs. Missouri Tigers Preview: Looking for the Lead in the SEC East

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This is suddenly a very big game in the race for the SEC East. So which team with injury issues will emerge with its division hopes still standing?

Florida Gators vs. Missouri Tigers, 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC-TV

This game is for the lead in the SEC East. Just to make sure that you don't think that's a typo: This game is for the lead in the SEC East. Tell me you saw that coming when you looked at the SEC schedules in August, and I'll call you a liar to your face. In fact, tell me that you saw that coming just a few short weeks ago, and I'll call you a liar to your face.

Remember, after all, that Sept. 7 brought us a lackluster Florida loss to Miami (FL) in a game that set back offense by a century or two. And remember that the Tigers had defeated Toledo by just 15 points in a contest that didn't indicate Missouri was bad, but also didn't exactly scream "SEC contender." But a Missouri upset of Georgia and Florida's relatively easy path through the first part of the SEC schedule leaves us here.

Where "here" is -- that's still a little unclear. The Missouri offense has carved its way through the first half of the season, churning out 515.7 yard a game and scoring fewer than 41 points just once. (That Toledo game, if you were wondering.) The defense hasn't been stellar, particularly through the air, but the offense has outscored every opponent so far. That was with James Franklin, though; the Tigers will now be quarterbacked by Maty Mauk, and we'll have to wait and see just how good he can be.

Of course, Florida has its own injury issues with the starting quarterback. This is still Tyler Murphy's team after the season-ending injury to Jeff Driskel, and last week's initial start in a road game against a team not named "Kentucky" did not go well for Murphy. Running back Matt Jones is also out for the Gators, which would be more concerning if Florida relied on its offense for anything other than milking the clock. Which, for the most part, they don't.

This one is a toss-up to me. Young quarterbacks, the emotional side of things for both of these teams, and the injuries. I give Missouri the slightest of edges in this one, setting up another big SEC fight next week when South Carolina comes to town.

Missouri 21, Florida 16

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