GAME DAY: Florida at LSU

Focused Tigers aren't about to take Gators lightly. Florida comes to town with some uncertainty at QB, but LSU knows what kind of challenge it faces.

Somewhere down the road, as long as the LSU football team continues to take care of business, there will be bigger games yet to come this fall.


The natural progression of a season full or a promise – a season with eyes on the kind of prize the Tigers are focused on – make every next game the biggest one.


That’s hard to detect at times. Last week, for example, LSU chugged past Kentucky 35-7 in going-through-the-motions style.


That was then, though.


It’s a pretty safe bet the Tigers will bring a little bit different level of intensity to this latest next game.


After all, this is Florida week. Along with Alabama and Auburn, that just mean a little extra every season when you wear an LSU uniform.


The top-ranked Tigers (5-0, 2-0 SEC) and 17th-ranked Gators (4-1, 2-1) mix it up at 2:30 p.m. today at Tiger Stadium.

"There are no other games of any significance that we’re looking to,” LSU coach Les Miles said emphatically this week. "Right now it’s Florida and everybody knows what’s at stake. They’re a very, very talented team. It’s going to be physical and we understand that.”


There’s a lot more than that to understand.


Florida means an opponent with equal and sometimes more talent than the Tigers.


Florida means LSU gets a shot at one of the few programs in the country that can justifiably claim the kind of dominance the Tigers have tasted since college football adopted the Bowl Championship Series.


Florida means, well, Florida means LSU’s players don’t need to have a whole lot described to them.


“We’re playing a great team,” Tigers receiver Russell Shepard said. “They’re Florida. They have the talented youth and talented veterans.”


Added cornerback Morris Claiborne, “This is a big-time game. They’ve got playmakers and they’re very similar to us.”


Until last week, the Gators were matching SEC frontrunners LSU and Alabama step for step.


Under first-year coach and former Tigers defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, Florida’s defense has been suffocating this season – or was anyway until facing the Crimson Tide last week.


Despite allowing 226 rushing yards against Bama last week, the Gators rank third in the SEC in rushing defense, surrendering only 90.4 yards a game on the ground.


With a unit fortified by top-notch recruits, Florida’s defense has LSU’s undivided attention.


"They’re so athletic and so smart,” Tigers quarterback Jarrett Lee said. “They’re not out of position very often That’s something we have to understand as an offense.”


What the LSU offense will also have to do is strike balance and be versatile enough to adjust to whatever Muschamp schemes.


Like his mentor, Nick Saban, Muschamp’s defense are based on being aggressive and blitzing from any angle at any time.


That could mean the Tigers go back to the future a bit, with former starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson emerging as a bigger facet of the offense in just his second week back.


Miles deflected questions about how much Jefferson’s dual-threat skills might be utilized, but Muschamp made it clear the mere threat of a more mobile QB is on his mind.

“When (Jefferson) comes in the game, it’s a different dimension as far as the quarterback,” Muschamp said. “It’s a one-back set, but there are two runners.

“There is a different preparation as far as when (Jefferson) is in the game as far as different personnel groupings. We do have to account for that position depending on who is in the game.”

Of course, that whole guessing-game approach to the quarterback won’t be limited to the Gators’ sideline.


Florida comes to town with its quarterback position in complete flux, and there was even some intrigue added Friday when new reports surfaced about who will guide the offense.


Jeff Driskel: With John Brantley already likely out of action, will Driskel play of not?

Starter John Brantley suffered a high ankle sprain against Alabama and in all likelihood will be out of action Saturday. True freshman Jeff Driskel took over for Brantley last week, but the Gators’ offense scuffled and managed only 56 second-half yards with Driskel running the show.


Driskel also banged up an ankle vs. the Tide, though, and there are rumblings that he may be on the shelf or at least limited.


That thrusts a true freshman Jacoby Brissett and redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy into the spotlight. Brissett hasn’t taken a snap and Murphy, the least heralded of the Florida QBs coming out of high school, has only played in mop-up duty.


We’ve got to move on and understand that (Brantley) is not going to play this week and our guys need to accept the challenge, not just at that position but as a team as a whole,” Muschamp said. “Jeff is ahead because of his playing experience, but we’re repping all three guys for the game and preparing all three of those guys.”


And maybe some other wrinkles as well.


Jeff Driskel: Will he play of not?

Running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps and tight end/H-back Trey Burton have all lined up as a wildcat quarterback the last two seasons. In fact, Burton sparked Florida against LSU last season with nine carries for 35 yards and a touchdown.


“We have a feeling they’re going to do a lot of wildcat because they hurt us with that last year,” Claiborne said. “They’ve got guys who are comfortable with it and can run it really well. We have to lock down and try to not give up the kind of plays we gave them last season.”


Added linebacker Ryan Baker, “They have a lot of guys that can come in and play the quarterback position, so we’ve got to prepared for all the different variables.


“We feel like we had them under control for most of that game last season, but once we got up, we kind of let off and they back in the game. The coaches have put a big emphasis on that this week, telling us we can’t relax if we get a lead.”


Relax? This week? Doesn’t seem likely.


“We want to be a championship team, and in order to be a championship team we can’t get satisfied,” Shepard said. “We’re going to come out focused and give our best effort.”

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