AP NEWS

Mullen returns when No. 23 Mississippi St hosts Florida

September 27, 2018

Florida (3-1, 1-1 SEC) at No. 23 Mississippi State (3-1, 0-1), 6 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Line: Mississippi State by 8.

Series record: Florida leads 33-19-2.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

It’s an important conference game for Florida and Mississippi State as they jockey for position in the SEC standings — but this one is also about pride. Coach Dan Mullen returns to Starkville for the first time since leaving Mississippi State’s program for Florida in November. Mullen had nine mostly successful seasons in Starkville — and locals certainly remember the good times — but there are still some hard feelings since he left for another team in the SEC.

KEY MATCHUP

Florida’s defense against Mississippi State’s offense. Florida leads the nation with 14 takeaways, including 10 fumbles recovered. The Gators will try to disrupt a Mississippi State offense that was very good until last week’s struggles in a loss to Kentucky.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Florida: QB Feleipe Franks. The Gators’ quarterback has had a good start to the season with 12 touchdowns passes. Now he’ll try to have similar success while dodging two of the best defensive linemen in the SEC — Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat.

Mississippi St: WR Osirus Mitchell. Mississippi State has lacked consistency throwing the ball this season and it’s likely Florida coach Dan Mullen will try to make the Bulldogs beat them downfield. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Mitchell is one of Mississippi State’s biggest targets and he caught six passes for 65 yards last week against Kentucky.

FACTS & FIGURES

Mississippi State has a 7-4 record against Florida in games played in Starkville. ... Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald is one of only three players in SEC history with 35 career touchdowns passing and running. The other two — former Florida QB Tim Tebow and former Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott — were also on teams that Mullen coached. ... Mississippi State is averaging 247.8 yards rushing, which ranks third in the SEC and 18th nationally. ... Florida has already scored 43 points off of turnovers this season after scoring just 44 points off turnovers during the entire 2017 season. ... Florida’s 47-21 win over Tennessee last weekend was the first time the Gators had scored more than 35 points in an SEC road game since 2011.

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