Matchups - UF/LSU

The Gators are about to kick off a daunting three game stretch against LSU, Arkansas and Georiga, the numbers 6-8 teams in the country. For a young team, that makes for a potentially difficult series of games. This week its the LSU Tigers. Inside I break down the matchups and offer my prediction on the game.



LSU run game vs Gator run defense:
The Tiger offense is very balanced and it starts with the run game to the tune of 154 yards per game.  LSU has 49 of it's 115 first downs due to the running game.  The Tigers have not been great running the football just consistent.  They will stay with the running game to set up the passing game even without success.  LSU only averages 3.5 yards per rush.  They will run inside a lot especially to the right side behind guard Stephen Peterman and center Ben Wilkerson.  The tandem of Joseph Addai (286 yards) and the injured Shyrone Carey (307 yards) lead the way.  They will run inside the redzone mostly on first down.  The longest run from scrimmage is 38 yards.  If Kenny Parker can play he is Florida's most disciplined run defender.  Mo Mitchell needs to do a better job of not jumping gaps and staying in his to avoid the big run.
Gator passing game vs LSU pass defense:
The Tigers are a pressure defense that likes to bring heat and mix thing up in the secondary.  Their pressure is so good that the secondary does not have to cover for very long.  The defense already has ten interceptions on the season led by Corey Webster with three.  Because they gamble so much they will give up the big play as well.  They have given up 15 pass plays of over 20+ yards and three over 40 yards including the big screen play of 90+ yards against Georgia.  Screens, bubble screens and quick slants and fades will make up most of UF ‘s passing attack this week.  The key will be whether UF can get the match-up it wants personnel wise and also have Chris Leak recognize and find it quickly.  The long range pass routes will not be there from a protection standpoint.
Gator offensive line vs LSU defensive line:
The Tigers have 15 sacks and 39 tackles for loss already on the young season.  Marcus Spears has 4 tackles for loss while Chad Lavalais has 3 sacks for the front four.  Lavalais at right tackle has 34 career starts and leads the team with eight quarterback hurries while defensive end Marquise Hill also has eight hurries.  There are no weaknesses on the front four and unlike most college team with speed rush ends the Tigers are different.  Spears and Hill are 297 and 295 pounders respectively and are the biggest tandem in the country.  Randy Hand will have a tough day and it is imperative that Max Starks play much better than he did last week.  Shannon Snell vs Lavalais is one of the best matchups on the interior you will see in college football.  Tight end David Kenner could play a much bigger role this week with the two tight end set.
LSU passing game vs Gator secondary:
Matt Mauck is a much improved quarterback from a year ago evidenced by his league leading pass efficiency rating.  Mauck has thrown a touchdown in nine straight games and his favorite target is All-American candidate Michael Clayton. The junior receiver is sixth all-time at LSU with 15 touchdowns and needs only 20 yards to reach 2,000 for his career.  Devery Henderson is a senior who is having a big season (watch him on any Hail Mary's!)  And Skyler Green is in double digits with 13 catches.  Most of the plays these guys get are off play action and rollout.  Teams have double Clayton to take him out of the game including Georgia, I think Ratliff will get his shot at him one on one.  With Gator safeties having to help on the run game it is important that Lamar and Ratliff hold up in single coverage.  It is not a high tech passing game and it not as polished as Miami's was in the Orange Bowl.
Gator run game vs LSU run defense:
The Gators did have a 100 yard rusher last week in Ran Carthon and have gone over 140 yards four times in six games.  The Gators have not been able to consistently sustain drives and to do that they must be able to have a running game.  The draw is not a good play against the Tiger defense and the outside zone is probably off the books as well.  The Gators can find success inside on the lead and trap and on the outside with the option or reverses.  If Leak can hold up the option could be a nice wrinkle for the Gator attack.  Florida will have limited success but will look to sustain drives and move the clock.  The big plays will come when traps and options come when called against the right blitz.  Big plays are more likely to come in the passing game.
Special Teams:
If Florida is going to pull the upset and win they must get points and or field position out of this phase in the football game.  The punting game is almost a wash with Eric Wilbur averaging 42.6 yards with seven inside the 20 while Donnie Jones of LSU is averaging 41.8 yards and eight inside the 20.  Field goals could decide this game with Matt Leach missing one last week and Ryan Gaudet of LSU is just 4-7.  The Tigers have had two field goals blocked including one against Georgia.  Last year's game changed on the fake field goal by UF that was unsuccessful.  Look for the Gators to have something in again this year especially with the fake punt.  The return game is pretty equal with Shryone Carey handling the punt returns and Devery Henderson handling the kick returns.  Henderson is really good and is averaging 30 yards per return.  Andre Caldwell struggled last week to get set up on returns and Kelvin Kight ended up back there for the Gators.  Ratliff will look to break one in Death Valley against a solid cover team for LSU.
Florida is behind the eight ball and has had a players only meeting to re-focus and re-dedicate.  The players and coaches are embarrassed by the first half results but feel a change of venue will help the cause for a win.  LSU is healthy, confident and winning with defense.  The one chance the Gators may have is a lack of focus because of the UF struggles this season.

Final Thought:
The answer to the Gator problem is very simple.  Leadership.  The Gators don't have a dominant leader or presence.  Leading can be done by actions and the Gators need someone to make some big plays.  The man who has the best chance to do that is freshman quarterback Chris Leak.  That is asking a lot of a young player but this is a desperate team made up of seniors who have won nothing in their career, and freshman who are just figuring out how to handle college.

This could be a low scoring game if UF can hang around.  Ron Zook had several trick plays last season and has yet to dip in his bag this year.  With a young quarterback it will be imperative that the Gators protect the football and play field position early.  The defensive line must stay in their gaps to give the linebackers a chance to shut down the Tiger running attack. I think Dallas Baker will re-emerge this week in the passing game as will Andre Caldwell. I also think Ben Troupe will have a huge game for a full game.  The chance for big plays will be there but the Gators must convert third downs and buy the defense added rest.  Some other areas must score points for the Gator to win.  The return game, defensively or blocking a kick the UF offense will need some help to get enough points to win. 30 points is the magic number. If the Gators score 30 points a game the rest of the way they can win every game.


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