It isn’t another “Game of the Century”. It isn’t another “Game of the Year”. In fact, it isn’t even this week’s “Game of the Week” in college football.
But Saturday afternoon’s Florida-LSU game in Baton Rouge is a huge game for the Gators. It will reveal a lot about the Gators. Are the Gators turning the corner and returning to elite status under third-year head coach Will Muschamp? Is quarterback Tyler Murphy’s fairy tale story just that, a fairy tale, or is he the real deal? Is this Gator defense truly special or just another really good defense?
LSU is a very good but not great team. The Tigers can score in bunches – 45.5 points a game – but they have trouble stopping people; the exact opposite of Florida.
Murphy was buried on the Gators’ depth chart for four years. He got his chance to play only because Jeff Driskel was injured and Muschamp (and his predecessor, Urban Meyer) has done a horrible job of recruiting quarterbacks.
To his credit, Murphy has put some life into the Gators’ mediocre offense. In comparable playing time and against comparable opposition, Murphy’s numbers are better than Driskel’s across the board (completion percentage, yards, touchdowns, interceptions). For whatever reason, offensive coordinator Brent Pease has “opened up” the Florida offense with Murphy – at least a little bit. The Gators are still basically a grind-it-out, slow-paced, field-position offense -- and that apparently is what Muschamp, a defensive-minded coach, wants.
Here’s something for Gator fans to watch for: If LSU takes a big early lead will the Gators truly open up their offense and give Murphy a chance to air it out? The result could reveal Gators have what it takes to win a shootout. The result also could reveal why Muschamp has remained so offensively conservative.
But based on what we’ve seen this season Saturday’s game is almost the perfect matchup: strength (UF’s defense) against strength (LSU’s offense). It should be fun to watch for true football fans.
A victory will elevate the Gators back in the national spotlight, albeit on page 2 behind a bunch of unbeaten teams, many high-profile programs such as Alabama, Oregon, FSU, Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State.
A loss will be proof the Gators still have a long way to go be considered elite.
Unfortunately for the Gators, I don’t think they’re ready to take a big step forward. I see LSU 24, Florida 14.
Return to: Lamm at Large Blog