GAMEDAY: Ack's Insights on LSU vs. Gators

This week's matchup with LSU has as much significance as any in the Ron Zook era. If the Gators win, it should set up a showdown with Georgia at the end of the month in Jacksonville for the SEC East lead. If the Gators lose, then the East race is likely over and the Gators will have suffered another home loss in a big game under Ron Zook.

UF has lost to at least one SEC West opponent nine of the last twelve years. The loss to Tennessee last month has given the Gators the slimmest margin of error and they will face the best team on their schedule to date in LSU.

The Tigers are not as bad as they looked a week ago against Georgia. The Dogs had a great offensive game plan using protection with their backs against the blitz and David Greene finding covered receivers with throws like Danny Wuerffel. LSU has had bad quarterback play and look for them to establish the running game early to take some pressure off Jemarcus Russell. Justin Vincent may re-emerge in the Tiger offense and in the passing game Dwayne Bowe seems to be the biggest weapon against Gator defensive backs.

Florida's offense has shown flashes of brilliance this season but they must stay more consistent this week against LSU. Last week UF opened the game with three consecutive three and outs and then exploded in the second quarter. The second stretch of three-three and outs occurred in the middle of the second half and led to three straight Arkansas touchdown. Starting slow is acceptable from time to time but in the second half the offense could have helped the defense by obtaining some first downs. This is a big week for the receivers. If this unit wants to be compared to the mid 90's crew of Reidel, Ike, Quezzy, and Doering they must attack LSU ‘s secondary. The Tigers may be without Corey Webster and right now they look like they may be losing some confidence. Great receiving corps in college shine best when faced with man coverage and Baker, Caldwell, Jackson, Small, and Cornelius have a chance to do that this week.

One other key will be offensive line play. Mike Degory will quarterback the front and he must help recognize all the stunts, twists, and games the Tigers use with their front four. The Tigers like to jam their nose tackle off set on the center and it will make it especially tough for Degory. Communication will be the key for the offensive front. Georgia was able to run the ball with Ware be moving outside the LSU defense so Colon and Hand will have some opportunities in the run game.

Defensively, UF must stop the run first against LSU. If you don't stop the run it makes it tough to blitz or attack when you need to later in the game. Look for UF to blitz third and long early and if they have success possibly stay with it. Steven Harris should see more time at defensive end this week and Jeremy Mincey is due for a coming out party with sacks. Todd McCollough could see more time at SAM linebacker behind Travis Harris and Brandon Siler will continue to spell Earl Everett 40% of the time. The key this week once again is the front four with Thomas and McDonald being challenged by a good interior offensive line with LSU.

Snippetts and Tidbits….
If Ron Zook and the Gators win he will be 15-5 in the SEC since he took over. UF leads the SEC in scoring percentage as it relates to possessions. UF has scored on 22 of 53 possesions -- tops in the SEC. LSU likes to blitz in the redzone so the screen package could be key inside the Tiger 20 yard line. The Gators would like to get Michael Hill into the rotation and he has big time potential. The Gators lead the SEC in starting field position because of the defense's ability to get turnovers and good special teams coverage. Florida leads the SEC in two key categories through four games; Offensively the are the best in third down conversions and they also lead in turnover margin. LSU will mix it up offensively formation wise so you could see a lot of nickel on defense once again. If the Tigers get into regular personnel expect UF to have three linebackers on the field. UF's new secondary is still improving but they are fourth in the SEC in pass defense. LSU, who has one of the best overall secondary units in the league, is fifth. Last week UF's offense had the ball 14 times and scored on seven possessions. One key for the matchup is that Leak will be in the shotgun in blitzing situation so that he can recognize where the defenders are coming from.

Final Thought..
The following of a legend and a pair of 8-5 seasons have put a lot of pressure on Ron Zook and his staff. A win Saturday would be a step in turning the corner on restoring the program to the top of the SEC. IT is the biggest home game of the season vs the defending national champions and a game Florida has to have. Zook has been wrestling the gorilla of expectations and success with Gator football since he got the job and this would be a step in getting the gorilla off his back. Zook knows that when wrestling the gorilla you don't quit when you are tired but when the gorilla is tired. A win Saturday and the gorilla may take a knee. At least until the Georgia game in Jacksonville.

Key players:
Chris Leak, Jarvis Herring, Marcus Thomas, and Chad Jackson.

Pick:
UF wins a close game with a touchdown late 30-20.

Stat of the Week: 3-0. Ron Zook's record against the two coaches whose teams (Georgia and Auburn) that lead the SEC Race.


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