UF–LSU: Does LSU Spell More of the Same for the Gator's Defense?

Jay HendryCorrespondent IOctober 9, 2009

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 19:  Brandon Spikes #51 of the Florida Gators pounds his fist during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

We all know that the story heading into Saturday is whether or not Tim Tebow will play. 

Losing a player of his caliber will affect the game Saturday, even if Brantley plays lights out.  Many analysts have picked this game as the letdown for Florida, going as far to say that the Gators will remain in the title hunt despite their tough loss at LSU.  However, hasn't something been lost amongst the Tebow speculation?

UF goes into Baton Rogue with the No. 1 defense in college football.  The individual rankings are as follows: first in total yards allowed, second in scoring defense (points allowed), first in pass defense, and seventeenth in rushing defense.  To put it simply, it's hard to move the ball on the Gators, and it's hard to score on the Gators.

LSU hasn't exactly been lighting up the scoreboard either.  They rank 99th in total offense, giving them the worst offensive ranking of any FBS team the Gators have played so far.  A critic may say that their schedule has been tougher, which is probably true, but the defenses the Tigers have faced are not necessarily that much tougher. 

Vanderbilt holds the title of the toughest defense the Tigers have seen so far, with the 25th best total defense.  When accounting for scoring defense, this holds up as well with Vandy holding the 23rd best ranking in that category. 

Mississippi State is the only other defense LSU's 99th-ranked offense has faced that resides in the top 50 for total defense at 45th, and they also hold the Tigers second-best opponent's scoring defense at 76th.

Tennessee, UF's only quality opponent so far, has the 19th best total defense and the 37th best scoring defense (Jonathan Crompton factor).  Really, the schedules haven't been that different for the two offenses.  The difference?  The Gators are the third best offense in college football.

The special teams tell the same story with LSU having punted the ball over twice the number of times that the Gators have, 22 times to 10.  While they've played an extra game, the averages still work out to 4.4 punts per game to 2.5 punts per game. 

In fact, in that "too close" slugfest against Tennessee, the Gators only punted once, midway through the fourth quarter.  Furthermore, Tim Tebow's second quarter interception was the only other possession that lasted fewer than four plays.  For an offense that doesn't exactly grind it out, the Gators showed they can do just that when necessary.

So Tebow may not play, and that is a little scary, but his absence is not going to make LSU's offense any more difficult to handle for the No. 1 defense in the nation.