Florida-LSU week is officially now in full swing.
A game once thought to be an afterthought on the schedule has now become one of the marquee matchups in all of college football.
Close games, NFL-caliber talent, trash-talking, and even recruiting accusations towards Urban Meyer have given the Florida-LSU game a higher place in the importance scale on the road to both an SEC Championship and a National Championship.
Now add to that a primetime matchup on Saturday night on national television between the last two National Champions in one of the most dynamic arenas in all of college football.
When the Gators are on Offense
Protect the football
Florida fumbled the ball three times against Ole Miss and was still in a position to at least tie the game late in the fourth quarter. If they fumble three times against LSU, they'll be waving to the fans leaving early.
LSU has the O-line and the running game to control the clock and wear down the Gators. Much like last season, helping LSU out with turnovers would kill any and all chance of winning this game.
Let the offense do its thing
Maybe the offense isn't that bad after all. Many, if not all, Gator fans (including myself) have complained about the Gator offense this season—yet the offense is first in the SEC in scoring and 21st in the nation.
They just rolled up over 500 yards against Arkansas and only had one three and out all game. They spread the ball around to the majority of their playmakers, and two running backs went over 100 yards. They also showed some variety on offense, having Brandon James catch the shovel pass normally handled by Aaron Hernandez.
The O-line should get ready for a fight
Simply put, the Gator O-line should be ready to play. LSU has one of the best defensive lines in the country, even after losing NFL draft pick Glenn Dorsey.
Tyson Jackson, Rahim Alem, Kirston Pittman, Marlon Favorite, and Ricky Jean-Francois make up the best D-line the Gators will face all season. Add in the comments (in whatever context you would like) from Ricky Jean-Francois, and the battle in the trenches will be a fistfight on Saturday.
Maurkice Pouncey held his own against Dorsey last season and will be an anchor for the Gator O-line Saturday night.
When the Gators are on Defense
Stop Charles Scott and the rest of the running backs
Jacob Hester's replacement is a big back who can carry this team, much like his predecessor did. He is seventh in the country in rushing yards with 133.75 per game. He has paced the Tiger offense with six touchdowns and can grind out short yardage whenever called upon. The depth chart has speed to burn if Scott can't get going.
Florida did well against another big back this season (Arian Foster), but stopping the LSU running game will be key for Florida's defense.
Make the QBs beat you
Taking LSU's running game away will put the game in the hands of the Jarrett Lee/Andrew Hatch combination—not good for LSU. Both QBs have struggled this season and have relied on the running game to allow them both to settle down and get their feet under them.
The Tigers have solid receivers, but the QB play is not good enough to beat Florida's pass defense.
Shut down the second half scoring
57 total points have been given up by Florida through five games—not a whole lot of points.
10 were given up in the first half.
47 were given up in the second half.
16 of those 47 came when the game was out of reach.
Seven of those 47 brought Arkansas back to within 10 with 5:50 to play in the third quarter.
The remaining 24 points?
They came against Ole Miss in the second half and propelled the Rebels to an upset win.
The defense cannot have miscues and play sloppy with a second half lead. LSU is one of the two best teams Florida will face all season, and given Les Miles' knack for going for it on fourth down, the Gators cannot coast in the second half.
When the Gators play Special Teams
No penalties in the return game
I should say no penalties for the entire team, but some are unavoidable. No penalties in the return game, though, could be huge.
LSU has given up some big returns this season, and Florida should look to capitalize. Brandon James already has two punt returns for touchdowns and would have a kick return TD too if not for a penalty. Field position could be at a premium in this game, and flipping the field in the return game will be key.
Force Colt David into a mistake
Easier said than done. Colt David is a solid kicker and a threat on gadget plays. Forcing him into a mistake in the kicking game will be hard to do. Urban Meyer prides his team on special teams and blocking kicks. A big play Saturday night would go a long way towards beating LSU.
Final Score Prediction: Florida 31, LSU 24