Fives for LSU

The Florida Gators resume action again Saturday night to take on the LSU Tigers in a game that means a lot to both SEC schools. Coming off a bog road win against Tennessee, the Gators have had a ton of distractions this week. LSU had a huge setback against Auburn last week and have to face their own demons. Here are some things to look for during the big contest.


1. LUCKY LES: Folks think Les Miles is the luckiest coach on the planet but give the man credit for having the guts to run a gadget play or a fake or going for it multiple times on fourth down when conventional wisdom says punt or kick a field goal. He’s already run a fake punt in game one against Wisconsin when Kendell Beckwith picked up five yards and a critical first down to jump start the Tigers’ comeback win. And can any Gator forget the 2007 Florida-LSU game in Baton Rouge when Lucky Les went for it on fourth down four times in the fourth quarter and was successful every time?

2. FOUR FUTURE NFL RUNNING BACKS: You never know which back Les is going to feature in a game. Freshman Leonard Fournette is emerging as the best back on the team (372 rushing yards, 4 TDs; 5 catches for 86 yards), but the Tigers are just as comfortable handing the ball to dependable vets Kenny Hilliard (311 yards, 5 touchdowns) and Terrence Magee (172 yards 1 touchdown). Then there is freshman battering ram Darrel Williams (6-0, 240) who moves the pile (189 yards, 3 touchdowns). The Les Miles philosophy is stockpile running backs, keep them all fresh and beat opponents to death.

3. SPEED ON THE OUTSIDE: Because they are so successful pounding the ball between the tackles, the Tigers force the safeties to play closer to the line for run support. The only problem is that gives the quarterbacks the green light to throw it over the top to Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre. They might not be as accomplished route runners as last year’s dynamic duo of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, who now make their living playing on Sundays, but Dural (22-574, 5 touchdowns; 26.1 per catch) and Dupre (10-249, 4 touchdowns (24.9 per catch) probably have more pure speed than the Tigers have had in years. And Les Miles isn’t afraid to stretch the defense by sending them deep what seems at least once per series.

4. BEWARE GOING ACROSS THE MIDDLE: Only Ole Miss might have a better pair of safeties in the country than the LSU tandem of Ronald Martin and Jalen Mills. Martin is 6-2, 220 and a fearsome hitter whose crushing hits tend to separate ball and receiver. Mills is fast enough to play corner so defensive coordinator John Chavis isn’t afraid to let him go one-on-one with just about any slot receiver in the league. But just because he’s so fast doesn’t mean Mills won’t strike you. He may not be as ferocious a hitter as Martin, but he will loosen the teeth of receivers who venture across the middle.

5. SPECIAL SPECIAL TEAMS: The latest Australian import (the first was All-America punter Brad Wing) is punter Jamie Keehn who averages 45.7 per punt and has this habit of making it wet. In other words, he kicks it so high that the ball comes back into the atmosphere dripping with moisture. Of his 36 punts, 12 have been fair caught and 14 have been downed inside the 20. Meanwhile field goal specialist Colby Delahoussaye is 17-18 in his career, 4-4 from beyond 40 yards.


1. KEEP THE LSU QUARTERBACKS GUESSING ABOUT THE BLITZ: Unless they’ve taken and passed a crash course in figuring out where the blitz is coming from this week then both Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings are basic novices when it comes to the blitz. Last week the two of them looked dazed and confused by Auburn’s scheme, which showed blitz from every play creating a guessing game that Harris and Jennings lost far more than they won. Auburn only got one sack – a tribute to the athleticism of both Harris and Jennings – but the telling stat is 10 quarterback hurries, which contributed to an 8-24 night throwing the ball. With the speed the Tigers have on the outside and the strong arms of both Harris and Jennings, the Gators need to make them think the blitz is coming on every play so they get rid of the ball faster than they want.

2. POUND IT BETWEEN THE TACKLES: The Tigers are giving up an uncharacteristic 184.6 yards per game on the ground and in their last two SEC encounters, they gave up 302 yards to Mississippi State and 298 to Auburn. This is where LSU is most vulnerable. The Tigers have some kids with great athletic ability at the tackles but while they pass the eye test they lack the experience to play two gap defense. As both Mississippi State and Auburn did, the Gators need to mix in some read option. Nothing disrupts a front seven quite like the threat of a running quarterback.

3. FORCE LSU TO ABANDON THE RUN: By bolting out to early leads and then controlling the football, both Mississippi State and Auburn forced LSU to abandon the run which made the Tigers far more predictable. LSU is at its best when it can dictate what it does with the passing game by running the ball and forcing the safeties to commit to run support. Rather than go with a three yards and a cloud of dust attack that eats up clock, it would be good for the Gators use play action to get some big plays in the passing game for an early lead. The team that gets the early lead is going to have a huge advantage.

4. FIND ANOTHER RECEIVER BESIDES Demarcus Robinson: One of the problems with the passing game the last two outings is predictability. Everybody in the ball yard knows Jeff Driskel wants to throw the ball to Robinson, who is clearly Florida’s most talented receiver. The Gators can’t afford to abandon Robinson but they do need to find someone else who can make plays. Valdez Showers has the speed and the moves to be a real threat. Every time he gets the ball good things happen. Brandon Powell is healthy again and he’s another one who can be a difference maker on quick slants and bubble screens. But, someone has to step up and make the LSU secondary cover the side of the field opposite Robinson.

5. KEEP THE MISSED TACKLES TO A MINIMUM: The Gators had their best tackling game of the season last week against Tennessee. They need to follow it up with another outstanding effort against LSU, whose athletes are far superior to those the Gators put the clamps on last week. In particular, the Gators have to have a strong game by the inside linebackers. Antonio Morrison had his best game of the year against Tennessee as did defensive ends Dante Fowler Jr. and Bryan Cox. When the Gators get their hands on an LSU runner or receiver, they’ve got to finish the job and they can’t let Harris or Jennings break tackles to escape the pocket.

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