If there was ever a time to use the phrase “roller coaster” in describing a team over the course of a couple weeks, the 2015 Florida Gators fit to a tee. After crushing No. 3 Ole Miss in the swamp, and then cruising through another win at Missouri, the Gators suddenly found themselves without starting quarterback Will Grier who was suspended earlier this week after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. Interestingly, though, a lot of Florida fans and media members who were speaking highly of the Gators before the suspension haven’t really dwindled much, if at all, and there’s a pretty good reason for that.
Grier’s Suspension Isn’t As Important Because He’s Not A Defensive Player
Ok, technically yes, the Gators are worse off because they’re now playing backup quarterback Treon Harris instead of their starter, which means that by proxy, we must assume the Harris isn’t as good as Grier. While that’s almost certainly true, two things keep that from being a big deal: 1.) Harris is still a pretty good quarterback and 2.) more importantly, the Gators still have all of their defensive centerpieces. You can site any of the six games Florida played this season, and only two of them really come down to needing quite a few points from their offense to win, a 31-24 win over East Carolina, and a 28-27 win against Tennessee. In the other four, however, Florida only ever need a maximum of two touchdowns to win any of them. And that’s really the point here: the Gators’ defense is so good that it can afford having a smaller margin for error. This is especially true against LSU, a team that relies almost entirely on running the ball, in which they rank third in the country, whereas Florida’s rushing defense ranks 12th. However, LSU ranks 123rd in passing offense (five spots from last in the country) in passing offense, which means Florida, who already has a top 50 passing defense, can afford to load the box to stop LSU running back and Heisman candidate Leonard Fournette. Adding a couple of extra players to an already dominant defensive line is going to Saturday a long night for the LSU rushing attack.
Fournette Needs A Heisman-Worthy Performance For LSU To Stand A Chance
Earlier this week lead college football writer Taylor Venema and I discussed how LSU has really only needed to run the ball so far to win, and for the most part, that’s what they’ve done. And when you have a player like Fournette as your lead back, that’s really all you should be doing. But LSU has also shown that they’re capable of letting not so great teams hang around, even when Fournette has a solid game. Because of this reasoning, you can come to two conclusions: the first is that LSU’s passing offense, which I’ll remind you ranks almost dead last in the country, will have to step up and balance out the rushing attack, or Fournette will have to have a monster day against the best defense he’s played all year, and maybe will play, other than Alabama’s. Honestly, the latter seems more likely here, and has the added bonus of practically locking up the Heisman for Fournette, provided he doesn’t get completely shut down at any other point in the season (which, except for maybe Alabama, probably won’t happen).
The Gators Are Just As Equipped To Win As They Were A Week Ago
Yes, Will Grier is out. Yes, this is a night game in Baton Rouge, in which Les Miles is known for pulling something crazy out of nowhere. Yes, the Gator defense now has to operate under the assumption that it won’t be getting as much help from its offense. But with the way the defense has played, there’s absolutely no reason to count them out at this point, and winning this game would almost certainly lock them in as the favorites coming out of the SEC East.As for the Tigers, it would keep them as the top in the West, but there’s still that trip to Tuscaloosa in early November.