If college football had a postseason playoff in place, ya think Florida coach Urban Meyer would approach tomorrow night's game against LSU differently than he is now. For one thing, I guarantee you Florida quarterback Tim Tebow would not play -- at all, not even a down. Florida would be thinking "Look, we're going to get another shot at 'em after the season is over. Why risk everything now?"
It has been said many times before, but the beauty of the college football season is that every game matters. Both Florida and L.S.U. want to win this game because a loss severely hampers, if it doesn't cripple, the loser's national championships hopes (especially with an undefeated Alabama team waiting in the wings). If a playoff system were in effect, this game wouldn't be that important all -- the objective would be not to lose by too lopsided a score.
It's games like this that make me love college football. As hoped, my South Florida correspondent came through with an advance look at this matchup:
LSU has little offense, while Florida's offense is not anything close to its championship caliber of last year. This means that the game will be decided on the better defensive performance (a typical SEC scenario).
Tebow's injury is not going to be a major factor. If he doesn't play then Florida will insert Brantley at QB. He is a very solid junior who plays more like a decent Big 12 quarterback. Don't expect the running game to suffer because Florida has a couple of burners in the backfield who will replace Tebow's skills and a great offensive line. Even if Tebow plays he will not have practiced during the preceding two weeks. There will be a lot of rust and LSU will take advantage.
LSU is preparing for either quarterback. They are good enough to handle Tebow or Brantley. They are also going to key on the run since Florida does not have any quality wide receivers. However, this may be a mistake since the run emphasis will eventually open up the opportunity to go to a vertical passing game.
On the other side of the ball LSU has a mediocre offense. They have only faced one quality team all year -- Georgia -- and barely managed to put up 20 points. In fact, Georgia had them bottled up for most of the game and might of won if the referees hadn't blown a call late. It was their defense that kept them in the game. They have extraordinary speed and may be the fastest defense in all of college football. The line is also top notch.
Florida's defense is also quick and good. They return almost everyone from the unit that stifled Oklahoma in the BCS title game. The difference is that they are a bit banged up which creates a few soft spots. This doesn't get mentioned much since the media always focus on Tebow, but it is critical. However, Florida's special teams may be the best in country and could provide the edge for the Gators.
Don't overlook the home field advantage. It's almost impossible for a visitor to win in Baton Rouge on a Saturday night. This creates at least a touchdown advantage for the Tigers.
Here's the quick matchups:
Defensive Advantage: LSU (barely)
Offensive Advantage: Florida
Special Teams Advantage: Florida
Okay, it's prediction time: Florida 20, LSU 13. Florida's defense keeps them in the game and they get at least one score off a turnover. If Tebow doesn't start he may come off the bench to rally the team (is it a football game or a movie script?).
I'm also going with Florida, but I think it will be a lot closer game: The Gators by 2.
In other contests:
Alabama by 6 over Mississippi
Auburn by 2 over Arkansas
BYU by 15 over UNLV
Florida State by 2 over Georgia Tech
Iowa by 10 over Michigan
Kansas by 16 over Iowa State
Miami, Fla. by 32 over Florida A&M
Ohio State by 14 over Wisconsin
Oklahoma by 20 over Baylor
Oklahoma State by 2 over Texas A&M
Oregon by 7 over UCLA
Penn State by 30 over Eastern Illinois
South Carolina by 9 over Kentucky
TCU by 2 over Air Force
Texas by 21 over Colorado
Virginia Tech by 10 over Boston College