Florida showed again that it can dominate in glorified scrimmages, putting away Vanderbilt 42-0 despite playing an uneven game on offense and defense. It was a happy Homecoming against an outmanned opponent that allowed the staff to clear the bench in the second half with the outcome never in doubt.
The offense used this game to work on the deep passing game. However……while Emory Jones had some success, I am not buying into that fool’s gold until it’s proven against SEC competition that has a pulse. The O-line has some players banged up, but it’s stil concerning to see some of the stupid penalties from the Kentucky game still happening – that has to get cleaned up now. The running game has become ragged, as opponents will simply dare Florida to throw the ball the rest of the season. You could see the lack of intensity from the start of this game, but, again, that just shows how bad the Commodores are – on the field, not in the recording studio.
The Gator defense gave fans some bad flashbacks to 2020 in the first half. They allowed Vandy to dominate time of possession while racking up 50(!) plays. Fortunately, they self-destructed, missing 2 easy FGs and losing a TD on a reversed replay review that easily could have stood. Why Todd Grantham can’t simply play aggressively from the start of a game remains a mystery. The defense tightened up in the second half, and fortunately didn’t seem to suffer any injuries of note. There were some good individual performances from Zach Carter and Gervon Dexter on the D-line, Ty’ron Hopper at LB, and Trey Dean at safety. But some of last year’s issues are starting to crop up again – poor tackling, soft coverage, and some bad run fits by the LBs. Hopefully most of that was due to the (lack of) ability of the opponent.
It’s on to LSU, for what I had hoped earlier would be THE BIG PAYBACK. But, with the weirdness that is a Dan Mullen game plan (see Kentucky), I’m just hoping to get out of Baton Rouge with any kind of win.
The Tigers have been gutted by key injuries the past 2 weeks. Star WR Kayshon Boutte, all-SEC DB Derek Stingley, all-SEC candidate CB Eli Ricks, and starting DE Ali Gaye are all out, leaving some big holes at those positions. They are coming off of getting beaten down 42-21 at Kentucky, and it’s gonna be interesting to see if Mullen shows the guts to go for the kill for 60 minutes, or coaches not to lose……again. Tiger Nation is screaming for Ed Orgeron’s head, as he is 8-8 after selling his soul for the 2019 National Championship season. The SEC is an unrelenting grind, and LSU has certainly underperformed since then.
Florida is still a running team first, so I still expect Jones and the RB rotation to get their chances early and often to control the game. The Tigers were gashed for 330 yards by the Wildcats, and the Gators have some serious issues if they can’t run the ball. It looks like the Gator O-line should be in decent shape after shuffling some guys in and out due to injury. We’ll see if the vertical passing game actually gets it’s chances, as the Gator WRs should be able to make some plays……if given some opportunities. LSU has depth and experience issues in the secondary that have to be exposed.
Florida’s defense made Max Johnson look like Joe Burrow last season, in the most embarrassing home loss at the Swamp in decades. The D-line is much improved, and needs to make a statement this week and deliver some punishment. It’s been another week of empty statements from Mullen on the health of Kaiir Elam, again saying he should play this week. I’ll believe it when I see it – he’s been missed. LSU features only one RB, Tyrion Davis-Price, and I expect him to get a lot of work as long as the game is close. Johnson does not have good arm strength or running speed, and is missing his primary receiving weapon, so the Florida front seven needs to apply pressure and get some hits on him early.
There’s not much left to play for this season. Avenging the embarrassment of the 2020 loss to LSU is at least something, but so is showing some real intensity and grit on the road in the SEC and playing a complete game. Mullen is starting to feel some real heat from Gator Nation, and deservedly so. Again, we’ll see if last week was just some lip service on the field and to the media, or if he’s realized you need to coach every game hard.
I picked LSU to win this game in my preseason preview, but I’m going to go with Florida in a do-or-die, save the season situation. It’s telling that this game gets a noon kickoff, as there is no buzz around this matchup, with both teams in a fight to simply get their respective seasons back on track. It will actually be an 11:00 am local kickoff, which is the best scenario for the Gators, as LSU’s fan base will not be liquored up (at least as much as usual), and has been muted with the mediocre performance of the Tigers so far. I just hope they have more to complain about and are even quieter after the game is over. Amazingly, Florida is a 10.5 point favorite – I’d love to see the Gators rush out to an early lead and curb-stomp the Tigers, but that doesn’t seem to be Mullen’s make-up right now. I can only hope that changes for the better.
Prediction: Florida 27 LSU 24