#17 Florida Gators (4-1, 2-1 SEC) vs #1 LSU Tigers (5-0, 2-0 SEC)
With the recent news of Gators QB John Brantley’s injury – he will be out for at least the LSU game, and maybe longer – some of the shine has been rubbed off this apple of the SEC regular season schedule. But, it is still a huge game that the entire conference and country will be tuned in for.
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Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge LA
Saturday, Oct. 8, 3:30 pm EST
NCAA Odds from Sportsbook.com:
MoneyLine: Florida +383, LSU -526
Spread: Florida +13.5, LSU -13.5
The Gators were looking invincible until last week, when they came back to earth somewhat with a humbling 38-10 loss at home to Alabama. Brantley went down with a knee injury in the game and the match-up showed how good Alabama is as much as how overrated Florida was, but the Gators still must rally in a hurry if they are to have a strong showing against the top-ranked team in the nation.
LSU and Alabama – the team that crushed Florida last week – have easily looked like the two best teams in the FBS. This does not bode well for a shorthanded Gators team. Tigers pivot Jarrett Lee has played efficiently and effectively (if not prolifically) and LSU has a great RB duo of Spencer Ware and Michael Ford (both are pushing 400 rushing yards) and a dynamic pass-catcher in WR Reuben Randle.
We haven’t yet touched on the LSU defense. The Tigers rank 11th in the nation in points against (18.2 per game average) despite already playing three teams ranked in the Top 25. LSU’s defensive backfield – led by Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Reid, Brandon Taylor and Morris Claiborne – is essentially invincible. The defensive line features beefy guys that can plug the run and rangy athletes that can get around the edge and nail the opposing QB. In short, the Florida attack has a profound task ahead of it on Saturday afternoon.
Replacing Brantley under center for Florida will be freshman Jeff Driskel. He has played rather sub-par in limited action so far in 2011, so Florida offensive co-ordinator Charlie Weis’s frantic efforts to gear the offense toward Driskel’s strengths (and Driskel’s ability to execute) will be paramount. It is never easy for a freshman QB to step in midseason and play well, especially against an SEC conference foe and especially in a locale like Death Valley. Without Driskel moving the chains, however, the Gators are sunk.
Granted, Florida has electric speed weapons like RB Jeff Demps and do-everything Chris Rainey, but Driskel still must get the ball to these players in space – your traditional “ground and pound” won’t work with LSU – and it isn’t Florida’s style anyway. Driskel was a very highly-touted prospect, like most of the players at Florida, but he must realize that potential in a hurry if the Gators are to have success scoring points in Baton Rouge.
The fact is, Florida looked good through the first four weeks of the season against fairly weak competition. The SEC West royalty of LSU and Alabama have been beating tough teams from the get-go. Last week’s embarrassing loss versus ’Bama was a sobering appraisal of the Florida Gators this season. Ultimately, Florida does not seem to be in quite the same echelon as LSU and Alabama. What makes it worse is: that would be true if Brantley were healthy. Florida has some weapons and is a talented team, but this week it runs into the #1 team in the country that’s playing like the best team in the country.
It would truly be an upset if Florida found a way to come into LSU’s house and steal away a crucial conference victory. Don’t bank on it.
Score Prediction: LSU 24, Florida 7
Over/Under Prediction: 31
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