Florida is 19-8 in the 6th game of the year since 1980. In 1988, Florida fell to Memphis, in 1990 it was Tennessee, and in 1993 and 1994 it was those infamous Auburn games. In 1997, LSU took the Gators down, in 2001 it was Auburn, and in 2002 and 2003 it was those infamous Ole Miss games.
Urban Meyer Fanfare
Urban Meyer is 5-1 in the sixth game of the year. In 2001 he lost to Western Michigan 37-28 but in 2002 he beat Western Michigan 48-45. In 2003 he beat San Diego State 27-6 and in 2004 he beat North Carolina 46-16. In 2005, he beat Mississippi State 35-9 and in 2006 he beat LSU 23-10. Urban Meyer hasn’t lost two games in a row since 2002 when he lost to Northern Illinois and South Florida in consecutive games.
Orange and Blue
The Gators will be wearing their blue jerseys tomorrow, which is unusual for a road game. Typically, you wear your colors at home and white on the road. However, LSU figured out a while back that neither yellow nor purple jerseys look good, so they try to wear white every game.
Men of Florida
The secondary is going to need to step up and be the Men of Florida tomorrow. It helps that Tony Joiner is now making the trip, but Joe Haden, Kyle Jackson, Major Wright, and especially Wondy Pierre-Louis have to play better than they did against Auburn. The defensive coaches are also going to have to trust them to make plays at some point, and if they go bend-but-don’t-break again then LSU will hold the ball just as much as Auburn did or more to give the Gators increasingly less time to conduct their offense.
In recent history, Florida has done very well against LSU. Steve Spurrier was a tidy 11-1 in his 12 years against the Tigers, and there have been some notable UF wins since. The 2003 game immediately comes to mind, partially because I attended it with the band, and partially because a banged up Florida team with a freshman QB and Ron Zook at the helm went into Baton Rouge and gave Nick Saban his only loss on his way to the BCS championship. In 2006, we had JaMarcus Russell fumbling on the half-inch line and Tim Tebow’s jump pass. I don’t know what’s happening tomorrow, but it will probably be memorable.
Florida hasn’t done much marching out of the backfield, with Kestahn Moore getting just 3 carries last week and Tebow running up against the Law of Diminishing Returns. The Gators have passed the point where the QB draw is a changeup. Florida has to get some running going so that play action will actually be believable. I expect LSU to stay at home and not bite on any play action until UF gets a couple good runs. They are good enough to cover up a mistake or two, so there’s no reason to defend handoffs until Florida demonstrates a commitment to handing it off.
Gators Spell Out
G: Glenn Dorsey
Let’s face it – Glenn Dorsey is basically an NFL lineman playing in college. He could start for several pro teams right now, but he came back to college to win a championship. You think he’s going to be ready? Plus, defensive tackles can be shifted around easily, so I would expect him to be lined up in front of Maurkice Pouncey. A senior, NFL-level DT versus a banged up true freshman OT is not something I really want to think about.
A: Andre Caldwell
Bubba’s back finally, so look for Tebow to look for him early and often. He’s the only guy on the team that Tim trusts as much as he trusts Percy Harvin it seems, so he should get plenty of looks. Florida will need him to be the strong option 1-B to Percy’s option 1-A to get out of Louisiana with a win.
T: Tim Tebow
I try not to give the T to Tim every week, but he matters so much this week that it’s hard not to. Timmy will have to play his best game of the year tomorrow night to give the Gators their best chance to win. He will need to stay unpredictable, something he’s had issues with as of late, and try not to get beat up too much. Taking a beating against Ole Miss and even Auburn is very different from taking a beating against the large, strong, experienced LSU defense.
Theoretically there are plenty of options on offense. Tim Tebow can run or throw, Percy Harvin does it all, Bubba and Riley Cooper are home run threats, Cornelius Ingram is a big target with sure hands, and Kestahn Moore is averaging over 5 yards a carry. The last two weeks, thanks in part to injuries, it’s boiled down to Tebow and Harvin. Dan Mullen must use all the options available to do his best at confusing the defense.
R: Rush Defense
LSU’s passing game has been a little shaky, and Early Doucet is out for the Tigers. That means they are likely to try to run, run, run all day with their 5 or so good tailbacks. If they can establish that run, then they can control the game like Auburn did. Florida has been pretty good against the run, and linebacker A.J. Jones had his best game as a Gator last week which helps. Florida must stop the run if it wants to give its offense enough possessions and touches to fatally damage the Tigers.
S: Special Teams
I said this was a key last week, and it was three horrible special teams plays that really cost the Gators last weekend – roughing the punter, a blocked field goal, and a shanked punt in the fourth quarter. Florida cannot lose the special teams battle again, or else it could get real ugly real early.
LSU Defensive Coordinator Bo Pellini loves to blitz. First and 10? Blitz. Second and long? Blitz again. Third and short? Sounds like a blitzing down. First and 20 after a penalty? Why not blitz, since you’ve got extra space to work with. With LSU defensive players constantly running up against the UF offensive line like a river trying to overflow its banks, Dan Mullen will probably have call some plays with an extra blocker or two, which could limit Tebow’s options. How Florida handles the blitz will determine a lot in this game.
Anyone who says without a doubt that Florida will win is crazy. Anyone who completely dismisses Florida is also crazy. I have no idea where this game will end up, but here’s to a great game played by both teams. May the best man win.