So, LSU has won 21 straight night games and 32 straight Saturday night games at Tiger Stadium.
So, Florida may go into their toughest game of the season without their field general and inspirational leader, and if he does take the field, he won’t be anywhere near 100%.
And if he doesn’t take the field, the Gators will have to turn to someone who doesn’t have a collegiate start to his name or experience in pressure situations like the one he’ll be facing.
So, Florida has given up fourth-quarter leads to lose in their last two trips to Tiger Stadium?
Throw out the home-field advantage, the Tim Tebow factor, and Florida's recent history in Death Valley, because the Gators are going to leave Baton Rouge as they came in: as the nation’s No. 1 team.
Why? Here are the three keys that will drive Florida to the victory tonight, and as promised in this week’s college football picks, a score prediction for the week’s marquee matchup.
1. Florida's offense will be fine with or without Tebow.
Will he play? Will he sit?
Frankly, I think he should sit. Even if he’s ‘okay’, it’s going to be hard for Tebow to not play like Tim Tebow when you know he’ll be under strict instructions not to, well, play like Tim Tebow.
And with that in mind, it’s just a little too early to stick him out there, even if he says he’s ready, because his present and future health >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> beating LSU.
Now, will I be surprised if he starts and plays the entire game? Not in the least. Like I told The Chump, if he could’ve come back in against Kentucky after the hit he took, he would’ve. But should he start and play significant time? No.
If he doesn’t start, redshirt sophomore John Brantley will make his first career start, and though it’s a daunting prospect to make your first start in an environment like Tiger Stadium, there’s no doubt that he’ll be ready.
If the shoe was on the other foot, and LSU had to turn to Jarrett Lee with Jefferson sidelined, then there might be reason to panic, but there’s no reason to.
Speaking of Jarrett Lee, Florida have does to be wary of turnovers against the Tigers, who have a +5 turnover margin coming into the game and have intercepted eight passes.
However, they have almost as many sacks as 40+ yard pass plays allowed (5), so if Florida's offensive line gives Brantley (or Tebow, if he plays at all) time, the Gators can burn LSU for some big plays through the air.
If Tebow doesn’t start, it’ll put the onus on the Gators’ stable of running backs to perform, and they will.
There’s no doubting the dimension that having Tebow in the mix adds to the offense and the ground game in particular, but Jeff Demps (10.9 yards per carry), Chris Rainey (8.4 yards per carry), and Emmanuel Moody (10.4 yards per carry) can all make big plays on the ground.
LSU held Georgia to only 45 yards rushing last Saturday, but they can be run upon. Mississippi State’s Anthony Dixon ran for 106 yards (on 27 carries), Washington’s Chris Polk ran for 90 (on 21 carries), and Vanderbilt’s Zac Stacy ran for 89 (on 20 carries), so the opportunity is there to be able to run a balanced offensive attack with success.
If that can be done, the Gators are well on their way.
2. Florida's defense will make things difficult for Jordan Jefferson: For all of the ‘will he, won’t he?’ with Tebow, the quarterback facing more pressure is LSU's sophomore quarterback.
LSU's offensive line has surrendered 13 sacks and 29 tackles for loss in five games, and they’ll be under a lot of heat from a fierce Florida front line.
If Florida can keep Charles Scott and Keiland Williams from having too much success on the ground, it’ll put Jefferson in a position of having to do more, and that’s not exactly a position that the Tigers (or Jefferson, judging by his comments post-Georgia comeback) want to be in.
And if Jefferson does make mistakes, Florida's secondary can, and will, make him pay dearly.
3. No mental meltdowns for the Gators: Tiger Stadium is an intimidating place to play, and it can bring out the best in the Tigers and the worst in their opponents.
That’s something Urban Meyer and all of the Gators who were a part of that fourth-quarter heartbreak at LSU in 2007 know very well.
Florida led 24-14 going into the fourth quarter, and a Tebow interception deep in Florida territory following an LSU missed field goal turned the tide and set up a touchdown that made it 24-21 with 10:50 to go.
Then, following a quick three-and-out by Florida, LSU drained the clock (and the energy of Florida's defense) with an eight-minute, 15-play drive that culminated in Jacob Hester’s touchdown run with 1:05 left, and the Tigers went on to win 28-24.
However, don’t expect that to happen this time around. Besides being an extremely talented team overall, the last thing that this team will be is intimidated.
Those who were youngsters on that 2007 team are now much more experienced and have dealt with more tough games like this, and they’ll be prepared mentally.
Prediction: Florida (-8) 24, LSU 14 - It might be more slugfest than shootout, but Florida will get the job done and win this battle of unbeatens.
This article was originally published on http://theredzonereport.com/