Geaux247 stops to talk LSU-Florida with Florida writer Thomas Goldkamp, from the GatorBait.net site on the 247Sports network. Below, Thomas answers some questions about this weekend's showdown between No. 4 LSU and No. 10 Florida - from the Gators' perspective. Enjoy!
The Swamp is sure to be rocking on Saturday
1) We heard Muschamp say Jelani Jenkins has been cleared to play this weekend. How extended might his role be, and who else is injured and out for this weekend?
Thomas: Muschamp said today that Jenkins will not be limited at all in how much he can play. Expect him to be a full go after missing the last two games with a broken right thumb. He will play with a cast on his right hand that may hinder his catching ability somewhat.
Other players who will miss the game are Cody Riggs, the safety in Florida's nickel package who has been out since the Texas A&M game with a broken foot, and offensive tackle Matt Patchan, who has yet to play this year with a strained pectoral muscle. Several other players bear watching in the pregame. All are supposed to be back, but Muschamp isn't exactly known for his honesty on the injury report. Those guys are H-back Trey Burton (back spasms), starting tight end Jordan Reed (head injury), starting right tackle Chaz Green (left ankle), starting defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (shoulder) and starting defensive lineman Dominique Easley (knee). Green has missed the past two games and Easley and Burton missed the last one. All the other players just mentioned were nicked up at some point in the Kentucky game.
2) What are the major differences between this year's Florida team and last year's Florida team, which LSU had no problems with for the first time after some close calls in recent years?
Thomas: The biggest thing so far is Florida's ability to run the ball between the tackles. That has helped the team build confidence, along with having a playmaker at quarterback as opposed to a starter thrown into the fire for the first time as a true freshman. Jeff Driskel has shown tremendous week-to-week improvement and actually appears capable of winning games in the second half for the Gators, something the team has really lacked the past two years.
3) LSU is having trouble protecting on the offensive line, and many analysts hold Florida's defensive line in high regard. Is the hype deserved, or can LSU's front five bounce back this week and have the game the Tigers need up front?
Thomas: The hype is probably a bit misleading. For as many big names Florida has landed on the recruiting trail in recent years, very few have actually panned out and developed into legitimate playmakers. What has helped the Gators the most this year has been increased depth in the front seven. At times in the first half, Florida has played all second-teamers, which has kept the starting unit fresh in the second half, where Florida has really put the clamps down.
Expect Florida to get some pressure in this game, but it probably won't be very consistent. There will be at least a handful of players where it seems Zach Mettenberger has an eternity to find a receiver. Those are the plays LSU has to capitalize on to neutralize a hostile crowd.
4) What makes Jeff Driskel dangerous against an LSU defense that can defend both the run and pass as consistently as anyone in the conference?
Thomas: Driskel has been very effective reading the blitz. He's very adept at getting the ball to the right spot when he can properly pick up the blitz, and he has burned a couple teams for touchdowns doing so. His mobility is an asset that could end up hurting Florida against a team with a front as quick as LSU's. Driskel has a tendency to scramble deep into the backfield and to his right, which LSU will certainly see on film.
Keep good contain on Driskel and make sure he can't roll to his right, and chances are much better the Tigers can fluster him at some point. Lose contain, and he can really do some damage with his feet.
5) What is the one thing Florida could do that would give the Gators the best shot of winning?
Thomas: Picking up one to two first downs on offense on every drive. Even if the Gators aren't scoring on every possession, they have to keep the defense fresh to have a chance against that tough LSU run game. Last year, the defense was on the field for about 24 minutes in the second half, which simply won't cut it. If the offense can extend a few drives, it'll cut down on LSU's chances offensively and turn it into a close, grind-it-out game. Florida feels pretty comfortable with its chances in those games after notching two come-from-behind road wins already.
6) What has been the mood around the Florida team regarding LSU, which has been slipping in the polls thanks to some not-so-impressive performances in recent weeks?
Thomas: For whatever reason, there always seems to be a good bit of mutual respect between these two programs. It's a bit unusual for players not to engage in at least some trash talk or be vocal about their desire to win because it's a certain team. Aside from right guard Jon Halapio calling this "Round 2" against LSU, the players and coaches seem to be treating this as just any other game. There's certainly a bit of a chip on the shoulder for Florida after being embarrassed last year, but there's also a quiet confidence that playing assignment football will give Florida a good chance to win.
7) Can you give us any sort of prediction on the game, even if it's not an exact score?
Thomas: It's tough not to buy into Florida's fast start, not so much because of the 4-0 record, but because of the way the Gators have gotten here. Everything about the 4-0 start seems the opposite of last year's equivalent start. The team has played tough rather than won with finesse running, and Florida has been the one wearing teams down late in games rather than the other way around. Driskel adds a dimension Florida didn't have last year on offense, which has also helped.
Muschamp made a point of installing his philosophy in this Florida team, and it finally seems to be paying off. The Gators are bought in and are starting to show some of the qualities he wants to see.
In the end, this game comes down to the run. Whichever team runs the ball successfully enough and doesn't force its quarterback to win the game should take home the win. I actually think that battle will be fairly even, but I think I like Driskel's playmaking ability a bit better than Mettenberger's right now along with the reliability of kicker Caleb Sturgis. In a close game, those are the differences.
Florida 23, LSU 17.
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