Tebow's health isn't what will decide Florida-LSU

BY foxsports • October 8, 2009

Tebow, Schmebo. This one's going to come down to defense.

Sure, the story so far has been whether or not Florida quarterback Tim Tebow's scary concussion two weeks ago against Kentucky will sideline him at LSU in the first matchup between top-five teams all year.

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But that's not the real story.

As usually happens in top-ranked SEC showdowns, the outcome will be decided on the defensive side of the ball. On that front, Florida has a distinct advantage.

The Gators defense is ranked second in the country in points per game (7.3) and third in total yards (212.8). The Tigers don't fare as well. They're 88th in total yards allowed, 81st in rushing defense, and 101st in getting to the quarterback with only five sacks in five games, none in the last three. If those numbers don't improve, it won't matter if Florida has Tim Tebow or Tim Conway taking snaps.

LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis understands that. Florida has the top-ranked rushing offense in the nation averaging 307.5 yards a game, the second-best scoring offense with 45.5 points per outing, and they're No 3 in total offense with an average of 545.2 yards in four games. Sure, they played Charleston Southern and Troy, but if those numbers are all due to Tebow, the guy should be given the Heisman and have his number retired right now.

"Florida runs a really outstanding system," Chavis said. "We just have to be very prepared for whatever they try to do. Both quarterbacks can run it."

"You can see on film (Brantley) is a little more fluid on passing than Tim Tebow is," LSU star safety Chad Jones said. "They do run the same type of offense, so I don't think it's going to be much of a difference who plays. They have a great offense and a great coach. We've got to get more pressure on the quarterback. We need it to be difficult for him coming into this environment. It's going to be real hectic. It's going to be our job to have him real rattled for his first start coming at LSU."

Good luck with that.

Sure, Brantley might get rattled if the fate of the Gators offense rested on solely on him. But running backs Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, and Emmanuel Moody are averaging 9.8 yards per carry. And while the LSU defense showed signs of brilliance last week, they were still one poorly executed third-down play from losing to an unranked Mississippi State team and one ridiculous excessive celebration penalty away from losing to a not-great Georgia squad.

According to LSU coach Les Miles, "The last game we played against Georgia, I felt like our defense probably played as strong a half of defensive football as I've ever been around, flying to the football, making tackles, guys going down fast, covering the pass and sticking to the run. There is a culture of great defense here, and our players want it. They want to be a great defense."

They aren't there yet, and Miles probably knows it. "I would like to get more production in the sack area," Miles said. "I like, again, the position our defense puts our team in. Yes, we need more sacks, but not at the cost of overall production."

If any quarterback might be rattled this week, it's LSU's Jordan Jefferson. Yes, he led the Tigers on a 13-play, 88-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter against Georgia, but he has also been sacked 13 times in five games, 12th worst in the country for a starting QB.

"There were some times that there were some open guys that we needed to get (the ball) to," Miles said of his quarterback's tendency to hold onto the ball like a prom date. "There were some times there was pressure and he had to move his feet. We can get better there, certainly."