Luke Del Rio returns as starter just in time for Florida's key SEC stretch

Florida's starting quarterback Luke Del Rio is officially back, and not a moment too soon for the Gators as they enter a crucial stretch of SEC play.

Coach Jim McElwain confirmed on Wednesday that Del Rio will start on Saturday against Missouri, just a couple of days after he said Del Rio was "prepared to play" against LSU in a now-postponed game.

Though Del Rio would have been ready just two games after sustaining a knee injury vs. North Texas, the news of his return comes at an opportune time for the Gators. In addition to playing Mizzou on Saturday, Florida gets SEC East opponents Georgia and South Carolina over the next month with a road game at Arkansas sandwiched in between.

Then, of course, there's the yet-to-be-announced make-up game with LSU.

Having an available starting quarterback has been key for McElwain in his two seasons at Florida. The Gators are undefeated with their starting quarterback, but 5-5 when forced to play with a backup. Granted, the competition in those losses -- Tennessee, LSU, Florida State, Alabama and Michigan -- outclasses the competition in many, but not all, of the wins (Kentucky, New Mexico State, UMass).

Put another way, McElwain has been terribly unlucky when it comes to having his starter available in big games.

Even though Georgia is unranked, the Bulldogs remain a huge East rival. And if Florida wants to win the East, it will need to take care of its business moving forward, including what should be an eventually rescheduled game vs. LSU.

CBS Sports Writer

Ben Kercheval joined CBS Sports in 2016 and has been covering college football since 2010. Before CBS, Ben worked at Bleacher Report, UPROXX Sports and NBC Sports. As a long-suffering North Texas graduate,... Full Bio

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