Ack: UF defense is dominating

Top-ranked Florida had a dominating defensive performance in its 13-3 victory over Louisiana State Saturday night in Baton Rouge.

The Gators’ defense erased the memories of 2007 by stopping LSU’s only serious threat of the night at the 2-yard line and forcing a field goal in the second quarter. This defense was different than two year ago and even Les Miles knew it.

The growth process of Charlie Strong’s unit continues to impress me. Against LSU the Gators were a mature, suffocating unit that dictated the style of the game. Florida took away the run and dominated the line of scrimmage.

Once Tim Tebow hit Riley Cooper for a touchdown in the second quarter, the defense pinned its ears back and got after Tiger quarterback Jordan Jefferson. There is not a better unit in the country at rushing the passer than Florida when its knows you can’t run.

There will be tougher tests for this group to come and maybe its toughest will be this week against Arkansas.

But give a lot of credit to the boys on “D” – they brought their “A” game Saturday night to Death Valley.

Meanwhile, I think Florida is coaching to compliment its strengths and handle the huge expectations. When you have everybody back and you’re at the top, there is nowhere to go but down. Unless, of course, you are able to maintain and stay at the top all the way to the end.

Urban Meyer is not looking for “style” points right now. He knows if the Gators win them all in the SEC and win the SEC Championship at the end, they will be in the Citi Bowl Championship Series National Championship Jan. 7 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

Meyer will not allow his team to throw one away or risk a sure victory. Meyer is treating his team like it is a heavyweight boxing champion. You are going to have to take it away from the Gators – they won’t give it to you.

College football is a beauty pageant for the most part, but the Gators have won 15 in a row and play in the nation’s toughest conference. They have won away from home against No. 1 Alabama (in the SEC Championship), No. 1 Oklahoma (in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game) and No. 4 Louisiana State in their last seven games.

The Gators also have the best football player maybe of all-time in Tim Tebow and they are the team everyone wants to beat. The Gators are right where they want to be five weeks into the college football season.

Tebow’s return was remarkable, to say the least. His competitiveness was evident as was his rust. Tim was not able to really practice full go for two weeks and that lack of preparation was evident in some of his execution.

However when the chips were down Tim Tebow made plays to help his team win. This biggest stat of the game may have been the Gators holding the football for 19-plus minutes in the second half.

I do think the passing game is still hanging out there like an “un-ironed” shirt.  LSU has a great secondary and when Tim wanted to throw not many guys were open.

I wonder when a team will force Florida to throw the ball to win. Right now you can load eight in the box, but the Gator offensive line is still creating space for the backs. Somewhere down the line, however, Tebow is going to have to drive the team through the air.

The one play I would like to see reappear in the Gator attack is the shallow cross. This is an easy and safe throw that if called at the right time can produce big results.

This and That: Arkansas has the best offense the Gators have faced all season. Keep an eye on running back Michael Smith. The Hogs hurt Florida a season ago with draw plays and shallow crosses to the backs and receivers. … Arkansas has the best passing offense in the SEC at 318 yards per game. … Florida is now 39-1 when scoring first under Urban Meyer. … Arkansas is last on third-down conversions in the SEC at 28 percent while the Gator defense only allows 26 percent, third best in the conference. … Teams are averaging 4.5 yards per carry on first down against the Arkansas defense. The Gators average 7.5 yards per rush on first down this season. … The run/pass ratio for UF this season on first down is 67 percent run/33 percent pass. However of the 10 pass plays over 25 yards for Florida, six of them came on first down.

I think the Gators need to work on finishing drives with touchdowns and come away with more points in the red zone. Florida has already missed three scoring trips to the red zone this year after only missing six the entire season in 2008. … The Gator offense is averaging as many drives into the red zone as last year – about 5 a game – however the field goals are at a greater percentage right now. … Last season Florida converted a field goal on 16 percent of its drives in the red zone. … This year they are almost at 30 percent, which means fewer touchdowns and more 3-pointers. … Florida leads the country in scoring defense, total defense and pass defense. … Florida has scored on its opening drive in four of its five games. Only against Troy did the Gators not score on their opening drive.

Key Gators this week

1. Deonte Thompson: The Razorbacks’ secondary has been scorched all season; after missing most of the first half of this season, Thompson needs a breakout game.

2. Brandon Spikes: The Gators’ defensive captain had his worst game of the season against Arkansas last season. This year, he and the Gators must contain Smith.

3. Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap: They must get pressure on quarterback Ryan Mallet but also squeeze the draw play.

4. Brandon James: He needs to break a punt return this week.

5. Tim Tebow: He has only one 200-yard game and one game with more than 20 attempts. Both of those came against Troy when he had four touchdown passes.