JUST HOW GOOD IS FLORIDA’S DEFENSE?
We’re about to find out today. The Gators (4-1, 3-0 SEC East) haven’t faced a team with the kind of speed and talent that they’ll see today at LSU (5-1, 2-1 SEC). The Tigers have put at least four touchdowns on the scoreboard every single game with an offense that relies on power running between the tackles and a stretch the field, vertical passing game. The challenge for the Gators is to be able to stop the run without committing the safeties in the box. If Jaylen Watkins and Cody Riggs can play at least 15-18 yards off the line of scrimmage corners Loucheiz Purifoy, Vernon Hargreaves and Marcus Roberson are going to have help over the top. This means there will be a ton of pressure on the defensive line to stay gap sound and for the linebackers to drop the LSU running backs. If Jeremy Hill and the other LSU runners are finding holes and breaking tackles, the Gators will lose this game. If Antonio Morrison, Michael Taylor and Neiron Ball are wrapping people up, then the Gators can keep the safeties deeper to affect LSU’s passing game.
AIR CORYELL LIVES ON
If you wonder how it is that Zach Mettenberger has gone from an average quarterback to one who leads the nation with 35 completions of 20 yards or more, then look no further to first year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Cameron has jump started LSU’s offense, harnessing all that speed and talent into a cohesive unit that averages 197 rushing yards and 291 passing yards a game. Cameron is a disciple of Don Coryell, who was considered years ahead of his time when he was lighting up scoreboards first at San Diego State, then with the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Diego Chargers in the NFL. Coryell’s offense was known as “Air Coryell” but his teams always had a strong running game to supplement the vertical passing game. As an offensive coordinator in the NFL, Cameron’s teams were 100-57. As a head coach he was 1-15. Obviously, he is in his element as LSU’s offensive coordinator where the Tigers look like a collegiate version of Air Coryell.
DAY GAMES IN BATON ROUGE
A lot of Gators breathed a sigh of relief when they found out that Florida-LSU is a day game (3:30 p.m., CBS), but the numbers tell us that no matter when the game is played, road trips to Tiger Stadium usually end up badly. LSU is 40-2 on Saturday night since Les Miles arrived in 2005 with the only losses to then-ranked #1 Florida in 2009 and #1 and eventual national champ Alabama in 2012. The Tigers are 23-3 in the friendly confines of Tiger Stadium in day games under Miles. Miles is 3-1 vs. the Gators at Tiger Stadium with daytime wins in 2005 and 2011 and a 1-1 record at night. I think Lucky Les improves to 4-1 against the Gators at Tiger Stadium but this is a game that Florida can win. For the Gators to pull it off, however, a lot of things have to go right. LSU’s can compensate for mistakes by making big plays in the passing game and special teams which is why I think the Tigers take it 21-17.
FLORIDA-LSU FLASHBACK: 2009
There was plenty of drama in the week leading up to this game since Urban Meyer kept a tight lid on the condition of Tim Tebow, who was kayoed a couple of weeks before at Kentucky, but there wasn’t much drama or excitement once the game kicked off at Tiger Stadium. Tebow played and Florida played it as close to the vest offensively as any game in the Meyer era. The Gators took no chances, ran the ball 48 times and threw only 16, scoring a 13-3 win on a Tebow to Riley Cooper touchdown pass and a couple of field goals by Caleb Sturgis. The star of this game was over on the other side of the ball where Brandon Spikes was in on 11 tackles, sacked Jordan Jefferson three times and forced a fumble. Florida held LSU to 66 rushing yards and 96 passing to move to 5-0 on the season.
FLORIDA-LSU FLASHBACK: 2009, PART II
It has never been talked about but the concussion at Kentucky was Tebow’s second of the season. The first came against Tennessee on that epic collision with Eric Berry. Gator fans complained that Steve Addazio spent the year dumbing down the offense. There is a measure of truth to it, but there was a reason and it had everything to do with Tebow’s health. Nobody ever talked about the bad shoulder he picked up in the Tennessee game on that same collision with Berry. That affected Tebow’s throwing the rest of the year. The next time Tebow threw with a pain-free shoulder was against Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl. In that game Tebow was 31-35 for 482 yards and three touchdowns. Amazing how the offense opens up when your quarterback can lift his arm about his shoulder.
MACK BROWN’S LAST STAND
Maybe the only thing that could give Texas (3-2) coach Mack Brown a midnight stay from the governor’s office would be to upset Oklahoma (5-0) today. Given what’s happened the last two years – Oklahoma has won the Red River Shootout by a combined, 118-38 – and the first half of the season, odds are that Texas won’t put up a whole lot of resistance. The sad part about all this is that Mack Brown had Texas at the top of the heap for a long time and won a national championship (2005), but his sell-by date expired and now the program is in desperate need of change. A loss today and there is nothing old buddy DeLoss Dodds will be able to do except ask Mack to ride off into the sunset with him (Dodds retires in the summer of 2014).
BY THE NUMBERS
Since 1990, Florida is the winningest program in college football with a 232-66-1 record followed by Nebraska (225-73-1), Florida State (218-67-1), Ohio State (217-62-3) and Texas (209-81-2). Georgia is 10th (202-88-1) and Tennessee is 11th (201-90-2) … Will Muschamp goes into today’s game with a 22-9 career record, which is the third best start for any coach in Florida history. Through his first 31 games, Urban Meyer was 26-5 while Steve Spurrier was 25-6 … LSU coach Les Miles is 90-22 at LSU, which is the best coaching record in the SEC since 2005. Georgia’s Mark Richt is 80-31, while Steve Spurrier is 70-38. Alabama’s Nick Saban has only been on the job since 2007 but his career record is 68-13 … Alabama has spent 87 consecutive weeks in the AP Top 25 poll. LSU has been in the poll 71 consecutive weeks … Since 2005, LSU is 90-22, best in the SEC, followed by Florida at 87-24 and Georgia at 80-31.
THE FEARLESS FORECAST
Besides LSU over Florida, I like South Carolina over Bill and Hilary Clinton State U, Mississippi State over Bowling Green, Aubrin (have you ever heard them pronounce it) over Western Carolina, Little Nicky and the Bama Boys over My Old Kentucky Home by a bazillion, Texas A&M over Ole Miss, and the Georgia Poodles over Misery although it’s going to be very, very close.
Last week: 7-0; Season: 55-4
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I’ve been a huge fan of Jeffrey Osbourne for about 30 years now. I first heard him on a trip to Hong Kong. I was out at Stanley Village buying knockoff Calvin Klein jeans and bootleg cassettes when the proprietor of a music shop popped in Jeffrey’s “Stay with Me Tonight” album on the speaker system. I’ve been listening ever since. You’ve probably heard him sing the National Anthem at World Series, NBA Finals and Super Bowls. He’s currently on the “Men of Soul” tour along with Peabo Bryson and Freddie Jackson. It’s definitely worth the price of the ticket. This is “Room with a View” from his “Emotional” album.