Florida head coach Urban Meyer may just have upped the ante in a high stakes game of pre-kickoff poker with his announcement Tuesday that Tim Tebow dressed and participated in practice drills.
As welcome as this news is for the Florida faithful, it still seems unlikely that a decision on who will start at quarterback for the Gators will be made anytime soon.
But the Gator Nation can find some comfort in knowing that regardless of who takes the snaps on Saturday, there are at least nine numbers that, when totaled, point to a rare Florida victory in Baton Rouge.
The number of new cases of the flu announced by the Florida Gators since the Kentucky game.
Remember the flu? It was the really big Florida story before Tebow’s concussion.
It’s ironic that the disease seems to have vanished along with the story.
With little or no mention of the flu by Florida officials over the past week, it appears that healthy recoveries were made by all—and efforts to contain the illness were successful.
LSU’s margin of victory over SEC opponents.
Compared to Florida’s 22-point margin, this may be the Tigers' biggest worry. Regardless of who is going to lead the Gators offensively, there is too much horsepower to prevent them from finding the end zone.
Mistakes will be made, drives will be stalled, and turnovers will occur, but in the end Florida’s rushing game will have more success turning opportunities into points.
The number of Gators who have reached the end zone.
Tebow and running back Jeffrey Demps account for nine TDs, but the remaining 13 scores are spread amongst nine other members of the offense and special team squads.
LSU has been less successful spreading the wealth. Take away the one interception return for a score, and only six Tigers have visited the end zone.
Tiger wide out Brandon LaFell accounts for five TD receptions, clearly marking him as the key LSU playmaker—and easy Gator defensive target.
The number of sacks allowed by LSU this season.
Six in the Georgia game alone.
The Gators have allowed Tebow to be buried seven times (in one fewer game), but the difference is still significant.
LSU appears especially vulnerable in third and long situations and when attempting to play catch-up. Charlie Strong and his defense can start to make life miserable for the Tigers if they can hold them to three or fewer yards on first down.
The number of days John Brantley has worn the cap of starter for the Gators.
Should Meyer continue to cautiously guide his Heisman hopeful back into the offensive fold, Brantley will continue to act, prepare, and practice as the starting Gator quarterback.
If there ever was a scenario where a backup was given the very best circumstances to prepare prior to his first start, then this is it.
The percentage of red zone appearances that resulted in touchdowns for the Tigers.
Urban Meyer's offense slaps the opposition for TDs 67 percent of the time.
With a potentially questionable Tebow or rookie starter Brantley taking snaps, the impact on creating scoring opportunities may be limited due to a more conservative game plan. Against the Tigers, Meyer and his Gators will need to take advantage of every scoring opportunity they can.
Tebow or Brantley may not be expected to bull the ball over the center for short yardage scores, but Emmanuel Moody will see this as an opportunity to shine. His 10-yard-per-carry average may take a hit, but his muscle runs between the tackles will be key to keeping the Tiger defense grounded.
The difference in weight between the Gator offensive line (325 lbs. average) and the Tiger defensive line (281 lbs. average).
Conversely, the Gator defensive line (285 lbs. average) is only 14 lbs. lighter than the LSU offensive line (299 lbs. average).
The Gators pride themselves on having one of the largest and quickest offensive lines in the nation. So far, the rushing totals for Florida back this claim up significantly.
On the other side of the ball, the Gator defensive line has done a very credible job of tying up the holes between the tackles and allowing the linebacker corps to be more aggressive with play anticipation and coverage assignments.
The other Florida players on the field regardless of who starts as quarterback.
Make no mistake about it—if Brantley gets the nod for Saturday’s game with the Tigers, every player on the Florida squad will know that a personal best will be needed to ensure a victory.
Every back, every receiver, and every lineman will be aware that each play needs at least a yard-and-a-half extra to make up for the 67 yards a healthy Tebow averages per game.
Same goes if Tebow joins the huddle at less than 100 percent.
This will be the Gator game where the team carries the QB instead of the other way around.
Tebow on the sideline.
Love him or hate him, there is no better motivator in college football than Tebow.
His cheerleading antics have been adored, ignored, and ridiculed, but ask any Gator player, and he will tell you that emotionally, as Tebow goes, so does the team.
Tebow’s force of personality results in his teammates playing up to their potential—and often beyond.
If he can’t be in the game, he certainly will make his presence felt on the sideline.