Television/Radio: CBS, GRN, Yahoo, Sirius 91, XM 91
Records: Florida: 4-1 (2-1), LSU: 5-0 (2-0)
Point Spread: LSU -13
Betting Score That Would Calculate To: LSU 28-15
Scoring Offenses: Florida: 34.2, LSU: 38.0
Scoring Defenses: Florida: 14.8; LSU: 12.8
Our Gators’ Win Factor (See Here): TBG: 15, OEW: 20
5 Things About LSU From Wikipedia
ONLY FIVE?!? Yes.
1. The full name: Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College.
2. We’ve had some very unoriginal mascot names so far this season. Mike may not be creative, but at least it’s not Tigger the Tiger or something along those lines. Side note: a live tiger mascot is one the cooler things in college football.
3. John Lombardi is the president of the Louisiana State University System. The same Lombardi that was Florida’s president from 1990 to 1999.
4. Swine Palace was the first building on the current campus. Its name fit the bill as it was originally a livestock barn. It is now Reilly Theater.
5. Yet another win for LSU…the yearbook is called Gumbo.
When The Gators Have The Ball
UPDATE: There are several whispers of Brissett possible getting the start Saturday. Driskel may have an issue with his ankle that could slow him, forcing the other true freshman to get the ball. If that’s the case, much of the same below applies with Brissett’s name inserted.
Earlier this week, I called it The Jeff Driskel Show. Since then, it has become more than that. With Will Muschamp and Charlie Weis announcing an open competition at quarterback for Florida, it became The Jeff Driskel Band featuring Tyler Murphy and Jacoby Brissett with special guest Trey Burton. It appears to have come full circle and all sign points to Driskel getting the starting nod on Saturday against LSU (except for those ever increasing signs pointing to what I stated in the update above). However, others could and probably will take snaps. Due to that, I’ll go with The Jeff Driskel Experience until it’s no longer something any of us wish to witness; or at the very least, until Burton runs the wildcat.
The last true freshman to start at quarterback for the Gators was Chris Leak in 2003. Leak would beat no. 4 Georgia that season and LSU in Baton Rouge. The Tigers had a defensive coordinator back then that looked remarkably like Muschamp (PSST! It was Muschamp.). That LSU team wasn’t the no. 1 team in the nation like this one is, but it did manage to win all of the rest of its games and the national championship. That’s not an exact light at the end of the tunnel, but may give some of you historians out there a brief moment of hope.
Driskel will struggle on Saturday; that much is inevitable. Death Valley is as hostile as it gets in terms of game day environments. It’s never easy to win on the road in the SEC, but some places are harder than others and LSU is one of them. When you’re a true freshman forced to play due to injury, it’s not any easier. Driskel has talent and over time can develop into a true Gator great. That progression may start against the Tigers, but their all-world defense will have something to say about it. In the second half against Alabama, we saw Driskel in “let’s not try anything too crazy and instead just get out of here without losing anyone else” mode. He was given a very limited number of plays to run and rightfully so. The Crimson Tide defense wasn’t going to give him an inch (even if they did give him 31 yards on one play that made Gator fans everywhere grin just a little). Against LSU, things will open up. They have to. While establishing the run game is of the utmost importance, Florida will need to pass at some points to move the ball down the field. The run can be effective, but this isn’t an offense designed to run the ball 50 times and pass it only five. Driskel may not be asked to do much, but he will be asked to do something.
And now for that run game. I just said the run game can be effective. Let’s take that one step further: the run game HAS TO be effective. This was the Gators’ strength. Against Alabama, it quickly became a weakness. The offensive line crumbled under the pressure put forth by the Tide’s defensive line. Runs to the middle never developed and runs to the outside where quickly sniffed out. It was ugly. There’s really no better way to say that. Chris Rainey couldn’t get going and Jeff Demps was hurt early and rendered ineffective. With John Brantley watching this one and Driskel (or Brissett) taking charge for the first time, the run game needs to be the freshman’s crutch. Driskel needs to be able to rely on six, seven, and eight yards from the running backs consistently. There is, however, a problem: LSU’s defense.
Florida gets no break a week after facing one of the nation’s best. The Gators couldn’t move the ball on the ground against the Tide and with Driskel at the helm, Florida couldn’t pass either. The Tigers will be just as tenacious, just as fast, and just as rough on the quarterback. The line could be the most vital part of the Gators’ offense. They must open up lanes for the backs, but also keep Driskel from becoming too acquainted with the Death Valley turf.
When The Tigers Have The Ball
Gators’ fans have wanted to see Florida throw the ball more this season. Tigers’ fans could probably want the same thing. A top ranking and 5-0 record makes it less of an issue though. However, LSU does have a similar pass-to-rush ratio. The Tigers are led be Jarrett Lee who has attempted 108 passes through five games. Lee is not extremely accurate, doesn’t go deep a lot, and is really just an all-around average quarterback. But in seeing his most time since his 2008, his weakness seems to no longer be one. In 2008, Lee attempted 269 passes and threw 16 interceptions. He only threw two interceptions over 2009 and 2010 combined, but never attempted more than 89 passes in either season. To start 2011, Lee has thrown the ball 108 times and only done so to the other team once. In his first 269 attempts, 16 interceptions; in his next 237, three. Throw in the seven touchdowns Lee has thrown this season and you have an average, but reliable quarterback.
Lee will need to be rattled. Somewhere inside of him is an erratic quarterback. It may be deep inside of him, but it’s there somewhere. This is where the entire defense comes into play. The defensive line must find its pressure again. LSU has talent across the offensive line, but Florida has talent of its own. The pressure from the line needs to be accompanied by great linebacker and secondary play. The defense did its best to keep A.J. McCarron himself last week. They didn’t let an average quarterback look like a great one. The same needs to happen against Lee. If the LSU QB is the hero, the game will turn quickly.
Where improvement needs to be made though is in stopping the run. Alabama was able to let McCarron be his usual self because they dominated Florida in every aspect of the run game. LSU has a solid run attack too. It’s not as good as the Tide’s, but instead works in a pound-away-at-the-line sort of mode. Tackling at the line will be the key for the Gators to stop the Tigers from sustaining long drives and eating up too much of the clock.
There’s one thing to keep in mind: the fake field goal. Les Miles brought it out last season and he’s just crazy enough to do it again. Florida must be alert in all special teams’ situations.
A tough environment coupled with going up against one of the nation’s best defenses will make things difficult on the Gators. Whether it’s Driskel or Brissett taking snaps, the Florida quarterbacks will be facing serious pressure all day. If one can keep his head in the game and not get too rattled – and, of course, the defense can return to form – the Gators could stay in this one. It will be a battle to even do that though. Expect LSU’s defense to give Florida everything it has. If you want a specific unit to look at in this one that could have a big impact on the outcome, it’s the Gators’ offensive line. Not to add to the pressure of an already big game, but this one is your game boys. Time to come together.