Florida and MIssouri have only played 11 times, but there’s a case to be made the series is already one of the strangest in the SEC, if not all of college football. There’s not much that hasn’t happened when the Gators and Tigers get together. The game — and what’s happened before and after it — has given us a little bit of everything.

A head coach in a Darth Vader costume.

A head coach as a Jedi Knight.

Speeches about thumb wrestling.

Sideline coaches brawls.

A coach being fired after losing the game (OK, maybe this is becoming normal in the cutthroat SEC).

An interim head coach.

A quarterback controversy.

And that’s just in the past 5 seasons!

Missouri leads the series 6-5, and the Tigers have won 3 of the past 5 meetings, including last season’s 24-23 overtime thriller, which resulted in the dismissal of Florida head coach Dan Mullen and, as noted above, Eli Drinkwitz adopting the role of Jedi Knight at his postgame press conference and saying, “May the Force be with you” to assembled media (but mainly, to Mullen.)

Drinkwitz went the full Luke Skywalker on account of Mullen’s wearing a Darth Vader mask following Florida’s win over Missouri in 2020. Mullen said he wore the mask for his kids because it was Halloween, a fair enough thing to suggest. Many in the Missouri camp, including Drinkwitz, took umbrage to the costume, however, especially because Mullen donned the mask following a game that included a bench-clearing sideline brawl at halftime, complete with several player ejections and enough yellow flags to drive a NASCAR fan insane.

And those are just the past two meetings!

Florida’s meeting with Missouri this season (noon ET, ESPNU) is also the annual Homecoming game for the Gators, which is fine, I suppose, since Vanderbilt doesn’t visit Gainesville this year, except that scheduling Missouri for Homecoming hasn’t gone well for the Gators. Florida has made Missouri their Homecoming opponent on 3 prior occasions, and the Gators are 1-2 in those games. Weird, right? Aren’t you supposed to win your Homecoming game? Certainly that was the case at Florida, which had not lost a Homecoming contest since 1979 when they fell to Missouri in 2014.

Even stranger?

Both of Florida’s Homecoming losses to Missouri were blowouts. The 2014 loss, which saw Missouri flattten Florida 42-13, was the strangest: the Tigers quarterback Maty Mauk, threw for just 20 yards and Missouri gained only 119 yards. None of that mattered, though, as the Tigers scored 42 points and won by 29 despite registering just 7 first downs. Explaining that really comes down to two words — Will Muschamp — but even by Muschampian proportions, that result mystifies the mind.

In 2018, Mullen’s Gators also lost a Homecoming affair to Mizzou. The game was not close, a comfortable 38-17 Missouri win where the Tigers ran over, around, and through the Gators and Drew Lock earned the bulk of the guaranteed 4-year, $7 million contract he signed with the Broncos the following spring.

After the game, Mullen threw shade on the Mizzou win, saying it was more about the Gators, who had lost a top-10 showdown in Jacksonville to Georgia the week prior, “letting the Bulldogs beat us twice.” This ruffled feathers in CoMo, because Mullen liked to ruffle feathers in CoMo (or anywhere). It also led to this epic rant by Mullen about wanting to kick people’s butt in thumb wrestling.

At the time, Florida fans (and yes, most of the media, including this writer) were still convinced that Mullen would restore Florida’s place in the upper echelon of college football. Of course, that was before it became quite so obvious Mullen didn’t care about recruiting as much as he cared about winning at thumb wrestling. But we digress …

Florida did beat Missouri 40-14 on Homecoming in 2016 under McElwain, but McElwain was fired before his third Missouri game a year later. Mizzou won that game 45-16 in Faurot Field and afterward, Florida defensive end Cece Jefferson protested that it was tough to prepare to play at Missouri because it was cold and the atmosphere was so quiet it reminded him of church. Yes, the Gators even find ways to delegitimize Missouri when they lose by 4 touchdowns. That’s … weird, but then again, so is this whole series.

Their first game was “weird” too. It came in the 1966 Sugar Bowl, when a Florida team quarterbacked by some guy named Steve Spurrier rallied from a huge deficit only to fall just short in their comeback attempt, losing 20-18. Spurrier’s furious comeback effort resulted in him being named Sugar Bowl MVP, still the last time a player from the losing team has won the game’s MVP award. The nationally televised performance also helped keep Spurrier on media minds entering the 1966 season, and Spurrier has frequently said he thinks that helped him win the Heisman Trophy the following autumn.

Until 2021, the 1966 Sugar Bowl was the lone meeting in the series decided by a field goal or less, though Florida did win the 2012 meeting in The Swamp by just 7, thanks to a late Matt Elam interception in the end zone. The other 8 Florida-Missouri meetings? They’ve all been decided by at least 17 points, making this matchup almost as reliable for a shellacking as it is for something strange.

Billy Napier couldn’t be any less like McElwain or Mullen from a personality standpoint. He’s calm, collected, and not prone to speaking without deliberation. That probably reduces the likelihood that anything weird happens from the Florida sideline Saturday afternoon. But this game has a tendency to bring the bizarre, and Drinkwitz, who is 0-4 against the Power 5 and just 1-5 against the FBS since beating the Gators last November, has a tendency to pop off on the rare occasions something good happens to his football team. If Missouri wins, you’ll probably want to drink in the Drinkwitz presser.

One of the beautiful things about college football is the color and curiousity of matchups like Florida-Missouri. Two schools with very little reason to hold each other in contempt, yet strangely, thanks to the passion of SEC football, have developed a mutual distaste for each other. Expect at least that odd contempt to continue Saturday, and maybe something stranger along the way.