“Make no bones about it; this is a fun game to play,” said LSU Head Coach Les Miles. “You play in the SEC, you play classic matchups and you better enjoy this one. I can promise you that there will be a lot more energy around our building this week.”
Going into the Swamp, otherwise known as Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, is a daunting task and facing one of the top players in the country in Tim Tebow will only compound matters for LSU's defense.
The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner averages 236 yards a game with his arm and feet combined, and has accounted for 10 touchdowns in the Gators’ first five games.
“Certainly, when you think of their offense, you think of Tim Tebow, a very gifted player and in my opinion, as a sophomore Heisman Trophy winner, I think he’s becoming more well-rounded, understands the game more,” Miles said.
One of the things that makes Tebow so dangerous is his ability to run the football but he also has one of the fastest group of receivers in the country at his disposal which could be a matchup problem for an LSU secondary that has struggled at times this season.
“I think we’ll take a little bit more of a conservative approach in the secondary than we have done in the past and maybe be a little bit more zone,” said Miles. “It will always be a mix in how we attack them. We feel like in the off week and the time that we’ve had to prepare, our guys are kind of looking forward to playing better.”
While Tebow and the rest of the Florida offensive firepower will force the coaches to work a little harder this week, Miles hopes that his offense will click on Saturday with redshirt freshman signal caller Jarrett Lee making his first start on the road.
“I think he’s continuing to come,” Miles said of Lee. “He’s had practices like he had games, and he’s had some really strong practices in the last week. We expect that to continue.”
Taking some of the load off of Lee will be the nation’s seventh ranked rusher Charles Scott, who leads the SEC with 133 yards a game and has rushed for 535 and six touchdowns on the year.
Scott is looking to become the first LSU back to rush for more than 100 yards in Gainesville since Dalton Hilliard accomplished that feat in 1982 and he will need the help of a veteran offensive line to do so.
“I just think they’re getting better. They’re veteran,” Miles said of his men in the trenches. “I think we’ve learned to count on them. I think they’re a dominant group in terms of rushing the football and really protecting our passer, so I give them high marks.”
LSU's nationally televised primetime showdown will be a good measuring stick of where the team is heading into the meat of the schedule. Some of the national pundits have already declared this as the game that will separate the pretender from the contender and it will be a good barometer for Miles as well.
“We’re starting an eight-week stretch here that will determine how well we are as a team,” Miles said. “I can only tell you that playing well at Florida will determine a lot in terms of how I would rank bits and pieces of our football team.”
Middle linebacker Darry Beckwith said that he finally feels 100 percent and says he will be ready to go on Saturday.
“I feel real good right now and I’m ready to go,” Beckwith said.
As for how much action Hatch will receive at Florida, Miles said that has not been determined but he did say that it will be in a backup role.
“It really kind of depends on the feel of the game, but yes, I think that (Jarrett) Lee will get a first look and bring in Andrew (Hatch) on the second and third series, maybe later. Who knows?” Miles said.
Ricky Jean-Francois said he is looking forward to making a trip back to the Sunshine state so that he can play in front of his friends and family.
Jean-Francois played his prep ball at Carol City in Miami, Fla., but he expects to see a lot of familiar faces in Gainesville.
“It will be good going back to the Sunshine State,” Jean-Francois said. “I’ll have a lot of family and friends there, and I’ll see plenty of familiar faces on the Florida sideline.”
Jean-Francois said that he will play on Saturday and he also expects Charles Alexander to be ready too.