SEC Week 6 Game of the Week: LSU Tigers at Florida Gators
While one could argue that Alabama at South Carolina is the game of the week in the SEC, Alabama has been in the game of the week in week four and week five, so it is time for a non-Alabama game. The Tigers of LSU enter the Swamp at 5-0, 3-0 in the SEC, and the Gators come in at 4-1 overall and 2-1 in SEC play. Both teams have struggled on the offensive side of the football, and both are among the top defensive teams in the country. The storyline of the game could be Florida's punter, Chas Henry versus LSU's all everything, Patrick Patterson.
When LSU Has the Ball
Although the Tigers are 5-0, they just do not have the feel of a championship team on offense. The Tigers have been as one-dimensional as a 5-0 team can be with a team passer rating of only 97.92. Coach Les Miles has flirted with back-up quarterback, RS junior Jarrett Lee, who is the more effective passer. On the season, Lee has completed 72 percent (18-25) of his passes, but he threw a crucial interception in the endzone against Tennessee. Also, with Lee, LSU loses the ability to run from the quarterback spot. Coach Miles seems to favor junior Jordan Jefferson, who has struggled mightily this season. On the season, Jefferson has only completed 51.7 percent (46-89) of his passes, and he as thrown only 2 TDs against 6 interceptions. Jefferson does offer LSU a second dimension, as he can run with the football. Last week against Tennessee, Jefferson ripped off TD run of 80 yards on the first play from scrimmage. On the season, JJ has 189 yards and two scores on the ground.
In my opinion, the best option for LSU is to move sophomore reveiver Russell Sheppard back to QB, and run the option all game. At least this will take some of the pressure off of junior RB Stevan Ridley, who has carried the Tiger offense all season long. Ridley has 97 carries through 5 games and 557 yards (111.4/game) to go with 4 TDs, including the game winner with no time remaining on the clock.
The offensive line is lead by senior tackle Joseph Barksdale and also includes junior guards Josh Dworaczyk and Will Blackwell. The center is PJ Lonergan who seems to platoon with junior T-Bob Herbert. The other tackle is sophomore Alex Hurst. The line has only surrendered seven sacks through five games, and LSU is averaging 196 yards per game on the ground, #33 in the country.
One thing is for sure: LSU has a lot of playmakers on the outside. If the quarterback, whomever that may be, can get the ball to their receivers, big plays are possible. 6' - 4" 207 lb sophomore Ruben Randle leads LSU with 18 receptions and 242 yards. Tight end Deangelo Peterson caught five balls against Tennessee last week and has six on the season. The multi-talented slot receiver Russell Sheppard is third with 10 catches for 78 yards, but I would like to focus on senior Terrance Toliver, who is far too talented to only have 14 catches through five games. Last season, the 6' - 4" 203 lb Toliver teamed with current NFLer Brandon LaFell to form one of the best WR combos in college football. This should have been Toliver's breakout season with LaFell moving on to the NFL. Coach Miles needs to get Toliver involved in the offense early and often. LSU ranks #83 in scoring at 24.4 points per game. The ground game averages 195.6 per game (#33), and the passing attack ranks #112 at 131 yards per game.
Despite getting pasted 31-6 last week in Tuscaloosa, the Gator defense did not play horribly, holding Alabama to just 273 total yards and 5.3 yards per play. With one of the best secondaries in the nation, Florida leads the nation with 12 interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns. Jeremy Brown, Ahmad Black and Jonathan Bostic all have three picks on the season.
Senior SS Ahmad Black also leads the Gators with 37 tackles, including 2.5 for loss. Freshman LB Jelani Jenkins is second with 29 (two for loss, one sack).
The Gators rank #26 in scoring defense allowing 17.6 points per game. Florida is #25 (109.2 yards/game) in run defense, #39 (181.8 per game) in pass defense, and #19 in total defense, surrendering just 291 yards of total offense per game.
When Florida Has the Ball
The transition from legend Tim Tebow to RS junior John Brantley has been anything but smooth. While Brantley's numbers are respectable, OC Steve Addazio has not adjusted to life sans Tebow. The spread option, which was the bread and butter of the Gator offense is not a play Brantley can effectively run. Teams are taking away the inside dive and forcing the inneffective Brantley to keep the ball, and Brantley is clearly no threat to make a play with his feet. On the season, Brantley has 20 carries (including sacks) for -11 yards. Also, the bubble screens, which were so effective with Percy Harvin, have not been effective either. Addazio and Meyer need to let John Brantley throw the ball vertically down the field, where he has found some success. On the year, Brantley is 89-145 (61.4%), for 902 yards, with 6 TDs and 3 ints.
Junior RB Jeffery Demps has been a bright spot on the Gators troubled offense. Demps, despite fighting an injury, is averaging 6.5 yards per carry and has 414 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore Mike Gillislee has chipped in with 3 TDs and 5.0 yards per carry. The biggest disappointment has been senior Emmanuel Moody, who is averaging only 3.2 yards per carry and has yet to score for the Gators. They need the senior to pick it up against this LSU defense.
Junior Deonte Thompson (21 - 308 14.7 0) and senior Carl Moore (13 - 166 12.8 1) lead a gang of Florida receivers, but freshman Andre Debose can have the biggest impact for the Gators. Though used sparingly in the first three games, Debose had four catches against Kentucky and two against Alabama. Debose can stretch the field, opening up holes over the middle for Thompson, Moore, and fellow freshman Trey Burton, who will play a little bit of everything for the Gators.
Florida's troubles on offense start up front with their offensive line. The senior heavy line is lead by center Mike Pouncey and fellow seniors tackle Marcus Gilbert and guard Carl Johnson. Junior James Wilson mans the other guard position and sophomore Xavier Nixon is the other starting tackle. Actually, the line has played relatively well, but the center to quarterback exchange is still not quite there five weeks into the season. The O-line will need to improve the 4.22 yards per carry if the Gators hope to earn a spot in the SEC Championship Game. The good news is Florida has only surrendered three sacks through five games, although Brantley was pressured often (9 pressures, one sack) against Alabama.
Who would have thought an Urban Meyer offense would rank #84? Unfortunately, that is where the Gators are currently ranked in total offense, averaging 340.8 yards per game. Florida averages 31.4 points per game, #46 in the nation. The Gators are #65 in rush offense, averaging 152 yards per game, and at 188.8 yards per game passing, they rank #83 in the country.
No unit is under more pressure each week than LSU's defense. In their last four games, the Tiger's defense has been nothing short of dominate, giving up less than 200 yards per game in total offense. With LSU's offensive struggles in the early going, the defense has played lights out, lead by senior defensive tackle, Drake Nevis (26 tackles, 6 for loss, 3.5 sacks, and 1 int), senior LB, Kelvin Sheppard (48 tackles, 4.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks), and in my humble opinion, the best defensive player in the country, junior cornerback, Patrick Peterson (15 tackles, 2 ints). Peterson's impact goes way beyond the defense, and I'll cover that later.
LSU is #6 in the nation, #1 in the SEC with 16 sacks on the season. DC John Chavis is able to devise complex blitz packages because Patrick Peterson takes away half of the field. LSU will often overload one side of the line (occasionally the middle too) and force the quarterback to get rid of the ball or take a sack. The Tigers are also #7 in the nation (#2 in the SEC, Auburn, 43) in tackles for loss with 40. At 12.4 points per game, LSU ranks #5 in the nation in scoring defense, #6 against the run (79.0 yards per game), #22 against the pass (167.6 yards per game), and #6 overall only giving up 246.6 yards per game.
In my opinion, this stat will be a major factor. Whichever defense can create a turnover and either convert it into a score, or set their offense up with good field position will win this game. Both teams force turnovers, Florida is #5 (tied) with 14 turnovers forced through five games and LSU is #24 (tied)with 11.
The offenses are a different story altogether. Florida has 10 turnovers on the season, including four versus Alabama, and LSU has 13 through five games.
Excellent special teams play has been a staple of Urban Meyer's Gator teams, and 2010 is no different. One of the keys to the game will be senior punter Chas Henry's punting and the Gator's punt and kick coverage. On the season, Henry is averaging 49.07 per punt, #2 in the nation. The key will be not to out-kick his coverage team. Although there has only been four punts returned against Florida this season, the average return has gone for 16.25 per return (#103 in the nation). The cover stats are also skewed by Julio Jones's 41 yard return last week. Florida's kickoff coverage ranks #49, allowing 20.79 per return. Freshman Brad Phillips took over the kickoff duties for the injured Caleb Sturgis last week, averaging 66 yards per kickoff (to the 4 yard line). With Chris Rainey banged up early in the season, Florida's return game has not been as explosive as in the past. Janoris Jenkins has been solid averaging 10.0 per punt return. Jeffery Demps has fared much better with kickoff returns, averaging 32.5 per return, and as a team, Florida is averaging 28.13 per kickoff return, #3 in the nation.
Senior Josh Jasper handles the punting and kicking for the Tigers, and he is excelling at both. Jasper is averaging 42.57 per punt and has converted 10-12 field goals on the season. The Tigers punt coverage has allowed 4 returns for 40 yards in five games. The 10.0 yard per punt return is good for #69 in the country. Jasper also handles the kickoffs, averaging 64.89 per kickoff or basically to the goalline. He also has one touchback, and the kickoff coverage ranks #19, allowing only 18.44 per return.
The idea in the return game is to put the ball in Patrick Peterson's hands. Peterson is averaging 28.22 per kickoff return and 23.58 per punt return, including two for touchdowns. LSU ranks #22 (kickoff returns) and #4 (punt returns) nationally.
For my final prediction, please visit www.secrivals.com.