PROBLEMS WITH THE LSU OFFENSE
Many fans, and some of us pundit types felt LSU won the national title despite the play of quarterback Matt Mauck. We (and a few of you) were out of our minds. The absence of Mauck and stud receiver Michael Clayton has taken away LSU's focus, efficiency and productivity. Nick Saban is still unable or unwilling to choose between Marcus Randall and JeMarcus Russell. Randall is a far more accurate passer, but Russell is the better athlete and has the big-play ability Randall does not.
Their stats are almost useless for the purpose of analysis because they scored 104 points against Arkansas State and Mississippi State, and just 47 in their other three games. They have to run the ball Saturday to have any chance, and they need to do it straight ahead. Arkansas and Kentucky proved conclusively what Tennessee seemed to indicate. You attack Florida with straight-ahead power and use that to set up misdirection and play action.
LSU DEFENSE, HIGH RISK, HIGH REWARD
One thing the LSU Tigers love to do is blitz. From every angle, under any set of circumstances. There is no player on the field who can be eliminated as a potential blitzer. Georgia effectively punished LSU's blitz with a good running attack and deep throws. What impressed me most was the way Georgia's previously underachieving receivers, Fred Gibson and Reggie Brown (combined 8 receptions for 166 yards and 5 TD) had their way with the SEC's best corner tandem (Corey Webster and Travis Daniels). That either speaks very well for the Gators Saturday night or spells doom for October 30th… we shall see. Georgia had 13 plays of 20-yards or more and that's how you beat LSU.. with big plays.
For that to happen, Florida must protect Chris Leak. LSU has 12 sacks this season and with their variety of blitzes they will get to the Gators' super sophomore. The offensive line, backs and tight ends have to have a great night of recognition and make the right adjustments. If they do, Florida should be able to score plenty. But that cannot happen with Leak on his back regularly.
GATORS MUST ROOT FOR BULLDOGS
For many Gator fans that thought is repulsive, I know. Most would prefer cheering for al Qaeda than the silver and black, but the simple undeniable fact is Florida regains control of its destiny Saturday if Georgia wins. It is crucial that happens this week, because after Saturday, Tennessee has five conference games left and four of them are against the four worst teams in the league.
Georgia looks like the better team, mostly because they are. They are also the home team in this one. Tennessee chances really revolve around a fairly likely Georgia letdown after the devastation of LSU, and getting back to their running attack. The Vols have kinda sorta forgotten who they are and if they figure it out in a day or two they have a shot. Eric Ainge cannot be the full-time guy, at least not yet. They need what Brent Schaeffer offers. Ainge needs time to learn and grow both on the field and from the sidelines. And Cedric Houston is their best offensive player.
GATOR VOLLEYBALL MAKING STRIDES
I hope you saw Mary Wise's volleyball team on Sunshine Wednesday night. Florida battled to beat Georgia in four games, but for much of games three and four, the Gators had three or four freshman on the floor. Kisya Killingsworth is just beginning to tap into a vast reservoir of athletic talent. Kari Klinkenborg had her best night off the Florida bench and Marcie Hampton from right here in Gainesville was the best player on the floor. Add to that ultra-talented setter Angie McGinnis who has the potential to be the best setter in school history and you have a marvelous rookie class which seems destined to add more chapters to Mary's amazing legacy.
FROM THE E-MAIL BAG
Lance wrote in responding to my comments regarding the alarming number of no shows at The Swamp this season, " Why so many no shows? It's called THE SUN. As long as we have an athletic department willing to sell its soul for TV money the noon human barbecues will continue."
Well Lance, I don't think it is fair to single out Florida for selling its soul to the TV programmers. All of college athletics is responsible and Florida has an obligation to fulfill contractual agreements between the SEC and the Networks. There can be no doubt Saturday was the most uncomfortably hot day in a long time and that's unfortunate for (and unfair to) those fans who struggle with the heat. Florida took a solid step years ago to move the early-season games to six o'clock when possible, but short of moving the start of the season back a month I really don't see what else can be done.
I don't think heat is the only factor. The hurricanes had a major impact because of the dates and times of games being changed. Add to that, some fans had damage at home that was far more pressing than a trip to Gainesville.
On the bright side, the LSU game will be at 7:45 and should be pleasantly cool for the game with the Tigers. The Middle Tennessee State game will be a "nooner", but hopefully nothing like the heat last weekend. In the interim, remember proper hydration and sun block.
FYI: beer is NOT proper hydration. But it's worth a try.
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Have a great week.