As the media shock waves generated by Tim Tebow’s concussion begin to subside attention is slowly returning to what the Florida Gators must do to defeat the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge on Oct. 10.
Regardless of who starts for the Gators at quarterback, the blinding flash of the obvious for Florida head coach Urban Meyer is to create a game plan that simply puts more points on the scoreboard than LSU.
Should Florida find that Tebow is either unfit to play, or only fit to play in a limited fashion, the Gator Nation should take comfort in remembering the old adage that offense wins games but defense wins championships.
The new adage is that a championship defense should be able to shoulder its team in an hour of need.
The daily reports coming out of Gainesville regarding Tebow’s recovery are promising but Meyer is keeping the college football world, especially the LSU coaching staff, guessing as to what events must transpire prior to deciding on a starting quarterback.
Chances are that Meyer and his staff will not make an announcement regarding Tebow’s fitness until game day next week or at the earliest a day or two before.
As distressing as this appears this really should not be a cause of concern for the Gator Nation.
Far from the blinding glare of the media spotlight focusing on Tebow’s health and the health of the Gator offense you will find Florida’s Defensive Coordinator Charlie Strong and his unit quietly perfecting their trade.
No matter who is the signal caller for the Gators in Baton Rouge, the Florida offense will score points. How many is the big question. Enter a wounded Tebow or a first start for John Brantley and chances are the point total will resemble the output against Tennessee.
The safe bet is 24 points.
With at least two Florida turnovers—probably three.
This is where Strong and the Florida defensive unit come into play…
In games against Tennessee and Kentucky, Brandon Spikes and the rest of the Big Blue Wrecking Crew surrendered only 20 points, gave up five plays over 10 yards, and forced 12 punts.
The Gator defense has also picked off four passes, racked up three sacks, and held these two teams to 8-of-28 on third-down conversions.
So, when considering the issues with the Florida offense, Strong and his unit will have five goals for the LSU game.
First, the Gator defense should make getting the ball back into the hands of the offense priority number one.
If Tebow is not 100 percent, or if Brantley is fighting off the jitters, then mistakes or lost opportunities will require more offensive series than in earlier games for point production.
The Gator defense can steal the show if they are successful in racking up as many three-and-outs as possible. The best scenario would be to force the LSU passing game by creating third-and-long situations.
Second, Spikes and his peers must continue to limit big plays.
Nothing changes the momentum of a team or the crowd like a 30-yard pass or a 20-yard rush. Strong has done a tremendous job of frustrating offenses by bending with the short game but coming up solid against long gains.
Yes, LSU’s offense will be the most complete seen so far but the Tiger talent and predicted game plan match up nicely with what the Gators will put on the field.
Third, the Big Blue Wrecking Crew must be responsible for winning the war of turnovers.
Florida will turn the ball over against LSU but the Gator D must do everything possible to negate those turnovers by creating a few of their own.
Since forcing fumbles does not seem to bode well for the Gators this season they should continue to take advantage of the strengths found in their secondary. Perhaps this will be the real debut of the Joker scheme or something even more sinister.
Fourth, the Gator defense must have their best Red-Zone day ever.
It’s impractical to think that LSU won’t have some success moving the ball but what happens in the Red Zone will define this game.
Since a low scoring game is expected, every touchdown opportunity needs to be thwarted and trumped down to a field goal try.
Strong’s unit has performed brilliantly this season in the Red Zone so they should be perfectly primed for the touch line game of LSU.
Fifth, it’s up to the defense to make sure the Gators never play catch-up.
This is how the defense can really take the pressure off of the offense. Keeping the Tigers out of the end zone, at least early in the game, will do wonders to settle the offense down and make any new faces feel more confident.
Besides, the last thing any team wants to do is play from behind in a night game in Tiger Stadium.
So, while the nation follows the recovery of Tebow and the Gator offense prepares to potentially have to play without its’ Heisman candidate, the staff of this team, the Gator defense, will continue to quietly prepare to shoulder the load in Baton Rouge.