LSU-Florida: the numbers don't lie

Who in the world is this B.J. Symons guy? <br><br> I sit here in my office this Sunday morning reading in the paper that the Texas Tech quarterback threw eight touchdown passes (a conference record) and notched his third straight 500-yard plus passing game and didn't play the last 11:00 of the game – Holy Cow!

Did I mention, last week he threw for 661 yards and has collected 2,467 passing yards and 24 touchdowns – in five games!! Sorry about that, it's just amazing.


By the way, the Red Raiders pounded Texas A&M 59-28.


At any rate, it was nice to have a week off from college football as the LSU Tigers enjoyed an open date. When I say an off day from college football, it's LSU football I mean - there was plenty of football going on Saturday.


I don't know which number boggles my mind more – (besides Symons 661 passing yards against Ole Miss two weeks ago) the number four or maybe… two?


The number four represents total yards gained on the ground by Tennessee in a 28-21 loss to Auburn on Saturday. The Tigers rose like a Phoenix out of the flames handling No. 7 Tennessee in Neyland Stadium.


Auburn, which entered the game at an under-whelming 2-2 after "big" wins against Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky, looked like the preseason No. 6 team in the nation jumping out to a 14-0, then 21-7 lead over the previously unbeaten Volunteers.


How about the number two?


Two wins in two years by the Ole Miss Rebels as David Cutcliffe's team beat the Gators in consecutive seasons for the first time since Florida dropped three in a row to the Rebels in 1946, 47 and 48.


Both losses came by three points - Ole Miss dispatched the Gators 17-14 a year ago in a goalpost tumbling event in Oxford. This season, Zook let the locals in Gainesville experience what losing to Ole Miss is all about doing it in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium by the score of 20-17. Before last year, Florida hadn't lost to the Rebels since a 24-19 defeat in the 1989 season opener.


Speaking of the No. 6-ranked team in the land, LSU enters this weekend's battle with those same Florida Gators as the 6th-ranked team in college football. The Tigers could have moved into the top five for the first time since No. 4 ranking in 1987, but Brock Berlin led Miami on a last gasp drive upending West Virginia 24-22 to remain in the No. 2 spot.


Think back for a moment, can you remember the last time LSU went into a game with the Florida Gators as the outright favorite. It has been a while - probably not since the Tigers laid an egg in Gainesville in 1988 losing to a 7-5 Florida team 19-6. LSU went on to win the SEC title that season.

Then came Steve Spurrier.


The Spurrier era pertaining to LSU was an unpleasant time for most Tiger fans. Sure the 28-21 win over the top-ranked Gators in 1997 was fun, but it was sandwiched between 58-3 (1993), 42-18 (1994), 56-13 (1996), 41-9 (2000) and 44-15 (2001) losses.


Good bye Steve, welcome Ron Zook.


Single-handedly, Zook has dismantled the Florida machine piece by piece. Gator fans would chuckle at the notion of losing to Ole Miss during Spurrier's regime - LSU as well. Zook has made it a regularity.


Florida was a slight favorite over LSU when the Tigers ventured into The Swamp a year ago. The Gators still had key components like Rex Grossman and Taylor Jacobs, but LSU picked off Grossman four times and celebrated a 36-7 trashing of Florida much to the disgust of a few thousand Gator fans that stuck around to see the outcome.


As winds of change are blowing in the SEC, the western division grows stronger each week as the once dominant east is floundering with only Georgia keeping the juggernaut afloat.


Georgia was setback a bit with a loss to LSU, but Tennessee's loss to Auburn and Florida's continuing problems with Ole Miss have converted the eastern division from a fortress to a romper room.


While the Gators are flailing in the doldrums with a 3-3 overall record, there are still several factors in Saturday's game, which can prove costly to LSU.


For one, the obvious reason is the Tigers are coming off an open date. Sure LSU has won its last three games after a bye week, but the Tigers were executing with such precision through the first half of the schedule, head coach Nick Saban can only hope the absence of a game does not affect

focus and consistency.


Two, Ron Zook will be fighting for his job.


The Florida players called a players-only meeting Sunday - it might have been to name a player-coach! At any rate, whether the Gators believe in their coach or his system, Florida's back is against the proverbial wall as UF tries to avoid its worst record after seven games since a 3-4 start in 1986.

Zook has the dubious distinction of leading the Gators out of the top 25 for the first time in something like 275 weeks – yikes, that is not something he will want on his resume' next year.


The odds are stacked against the Gators, but the intangibles are in Florida's favor. LSU has beaten Florida in Baton Rouge just twice since 1980; the Tigers are 2-7-1 in the last 10 meetings in Tiger Stadium.


Enough with the stats and enough with the past, let's talk about why LSU will not just beat Florida, but why they will help dot the i's on Zook's unemployment check.




The Tigers have been impressive at times this season on offense. Offense wins games, but defense wins championships and LSU's defense is of championship caliber. Giving up just 8.5 points per game this season, the Tigers are ranked among the nation's elite defensive squads.


Rated No. 4 in Division I, LSU is giving up just 256 yards per game, a paltry 58 on the ground, which also ranks fourth. The Tigers are third in the nation with 10 interceptions and list at second in the SEC with 14 sacks.


Speaking of sacks, someone needs to tell Florida true freshman quarterback Chris Leak to watch all the Muhammed Ali film he can this week – because he will be doing his fair share of bobbing and weaving on Saturday. The LSU front seven – particularly the defensive front four – can get to a quarterback fairly quick. Leak can find David Greene's cell number in the Georgia student directory.


Against the Bulldogs, the Tigers covered all their b's. Not only did they "blitz" Greene, but "batted balls" and also "busted" the all-SEC quarterback in the mouth on several occasions. In the end, LSU had hit Greene 15 times, swatted away 11 balls and sacked the potential Heisman candidate four times.


Greene is a seasoned junior quarterback with three years SEC experience under his belt; Leak will be starting his third game Saturday and is only six games removed from high school football at Independence High School in Charlotte, N.C. - not a good combination.

Look for next week's numbers to pertain to sacks by the LSU defense or days it will take for Florida A.D. Jeremy Foley to draft Zook's walking papers - that is if B.J. Symons and Texas Tech have an open date.

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