Saturday, October 31, 2020, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Florida, 7:30 p.m. ET
Tigers at Gators Betting Preview: Tigers (+15), Gators (-15)
The Tigers (2-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) continue the gauntlet of ranked opponents with their trip to Gainesville to take on No. 10 Florida. They split earlier meetings with then-No. 21 Tennessee (a 35-13 Mizzou loss) and then-No. 17 LSU (a 45-41 Tigers’ win) and have a game against current No. 5 Georgia on Nov.14.
The Tigers were originally scheduled to visit The Swamp last week before a COVID-19 outbreak hit the Gators and instead played and beat Kentucky 20-10.
Quarterback Connor Bazelak and running back Larry Rountree III led the win over the Wildcats. Rountree rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Bazelak was 21 of 30 passing for 201 yards, and his ability to convert on third down (10 of 20) was key.
“I think he did an outstanding job on third downs,” first-year coach Eliah Drinkwitz said. “He was incredibly efficient on third downs, finding the right decisions and taking off running when he needed to.”
Still, the coach cited three plays on which Bazelak made poor choices.
“The issue is, when you’re a quarterback, those three plays could be the difference in the game,” Drinkwitz said. “It’s not like you can make a 90 on the test and still win the game.”
Bazelak has completed 70.7 percent of his passes for 893 yards with only one interception in 99 attempts. Rountree has rushed for 396 yards and three scores.
The 10th-ranked Gators (2-1, 2-1 SEC) will be playing for the first time since a 41-38 loss at Texas A&M on October 10 after COVID-19 issues brought about juggling to the schedule. Among those caught up in that was coach Dan Mullen himself.
“It’s been two weeks since we’ve practiced. It’ll be three weeks between games. That’s not kind of a normal deal,” Mullen said. “Usually when you have that break, you’re playing a bowl game, and you have a very different set schedule.”
Mullen won’t be sure which players will be available until the morning of the game. ESPN has reported that at least 26 Florida players tested positive.
“The league says if you have 53 you got to play,” Mullen said. “I’m sure we’ll have 53 guys be able to play.”
Two key players would make a huge difference if they aren’t available. Redshirt senior quarterback Kyle Trask (74 of 103 passing, 996 yards, one interception) has thrown for 14 touchdowns and has averaged 332 yards through three games, sixth best in the country.
Junior tight end Kyle Pitts (17 catches, 274 yards) creates a difficult matchup for defenses. Pitts’ seven touchdowns are third most in the country, leading all tight ends in major college football.
“They split him out. They use him like in the NFL,” Missouri’s Drinkwitz said. “They line him up, single receiver to the weak side and make you isolate him with no underneath coverage.”
Tigers at Gators Betting Pick for October 31 , 2020
The Tigers hold a 5-4 lead in the series, but the Gators won last year’s matchup 23-6. The series is tied 4-4 since the Tigers joined the SEC and were placed in the East Division along with the Gators. The Gators will have to find some defense after losing 41-38 at Texas A&M in their last outing on Oct. 10.
Tigers at Gators Betting Pick:
Gators 35, Tigers 20
Tigers at Gators Best Bet for October 31, 2020
The Tigers have shown they can win a shootout (45-41 vs. LSU) as well as win on defense (20-10 vs. Kentucky). Defense let the Gators down at Texas A&M, and Bazelak is 50 of 64 passing for 607 yards Mizzou’s last two outings.
Tigers at Gators Best Bet: UNDER 67.5