Season's On The Line For Gators and Tigers In Key SEC Action

Chase TitlemanContributor IOctober 8, 2010

Key Questions To Be Answered In SEC.
Key Questions To Be Answered In SEC.

For Florida and LSU, it's back to the drawing board. Although, for a different and equally challenging set of circumstances.

The Gators must get up off the mat quickly, after being run over by a Crimson Tide defensive train, that left the station early and often last weekend. 

The Tigers, perhaps the only team in the country feeling uneasy after a 5-0 start to the 2010 campaign, must get out of their own way. They need to end the misery for fans that have grown weary of watching a train wreck of an offense attempt the two-minute drill in the waning moments.

But when SEC powers Florida and LSU hook up in the Swamp on Saturday, one thing is for certain...defense will reign supreme and the team that manages the clock, puts the turnover margin in their favor, and takes advantage of field position, will likely come out on top.

Don't be surprised if we witness another low scoring contest, similar to the 13-10 Alabama victory over Vanderbilt in 2006, the 9-7 affair between Arkansas and Auburn in 2007, the 14-7 game between Georgia and South Carolina in 2008, or even the surreal 3-2 victory by Auburn over Mississippi State, also in 2008.

Every year, we seem to have some barn-storming defensive efforts in the SEC.  This weekend will be no exception, as both enter the game with the strength of each team residing on the defensive side of the ball, and major questions lingering on the offensive side.

If history is any indication, LSU should be set to go, especially considering last weekends improbable victory over Tennessee, when the Volunteers coaching staff one-upped the Tiger coaching staff in end-of-the-game ineptitude.

The Tigers have made an example of winning ugly in 2010, but the bottom line is they still lead the race in the SEC West at 3-0 in conference play.

However, with Tiger QB Jordan Jefferson's miserable QB Rating (88...Denard Robinsons' is 100 points higher at 180), look for the early hook, if LSU struggles to open the game. This would create greater pressure on an already over-taxed defense, that may have to pull another rabbit out of the hat.

Since 2004, when LSU won the first of two (2008) national championships, the series is tied at 3 games apiece.  Florida has managed to win their own set of dual championships as well. Therefore, in the last 6 years, this game has featured two programs that have won four of the six previous BCS Championships.

Here is the tale of the tape between the two programs, in what has become an epic battle in the race for the BCS national championship:







LSU appears to have the better defense on paper, but don't forget that the Gators have played a far superior schedule to date, that includes a well played victory over Kentucky 48-14, just prior to the debacle versus Alabama.

Don't fall victim to placing a lot of stock in last weekend's dismantling of Florida by Alabama, as the Tide will most likely do that to a bunch of teams in what is becoming a very average conference, other than the top 3.

Given the struggles that North Carolina (ACC) and West Virginia are facing (the dubious performance of the Big East), we can't really place a lot of stock in LSU's performance thus far, as there are more questions than answers at this point for the Tigers.

Les Miles should send Mark Richt a thank you letter, as the Georgia season has stolen the negative energy spotlight within the SEC.

The Tigers have yet to play the meat of their schedule, with a key series of games coming up versus Florida, Alabama, and Auburn, within the next four weeks. So those questions we all have surrounding the potential fall of the program, will be answered in a hurry. 

For many of the Tiger faithful, the fall has already begun.

Keep in mind both Florida (31-17) and Oregon (48-13) soundly defeated the same Tennessee squad that LSU needed a timely and miraculous penalty to beat.  How many other rabbits can Les Miles pull out of his hat in one season, remains to be seen.

The Tigers must come up with an answer at quarterback, with Junior Jarrett Lee battling incumbent starter Jordan Jefferson, for more playing time.  Jefferson has been an enigma this year, considering his QB Rating as both a freshman (112) and sophomore (137), vastly out-perform his junior statistics so far (88, which is 118th in the nation for quarterbacks out of 120 teams).

In last Saturdays game he was 3-of-10 passing for 30 yards and was benched most of the game as Lee shined, going 16-of-23 for 185-yards, but team penalties and turnovers have plagued the LSU offensive team for much of the year.

If the Tigers are expected to compete for the national championship, Jefferson must return to form, or the coaching staff needs to pass the reigns quickly to Lee.

But with last weekends performance and the lingering questions regarding the offensive leadership on the coaching staff, that may in fact be the problem...a quick intelligent decision involving not only the play-calling, but who pulls the trigger as well.


Prediction:  Florida by 10 in a low scoring affair,  20-10.