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College Football Preview: Big Game On The Bayou

by Paul Rockne

When two of the top 10 teams in the nation, both undefeated, go head to head, it’s always a big game and that’s the case this Saturday night in Gainesville, Fla. In what is the showcase game of the SEC this week and one of the top games nationally as well, No. 9 LSU invades The Swamp to take on Coach Urban Meyers’ No. 5 Florida Gators.

LSU will be trying to beat Florida three straight seasons for the first time since 1980 and it will be counting on a stingy defense to get the job done. The Bayou Tigers are ranked No 1 in total defense and No. 2 in scoring defense – in the nation as well as the SEC.

Those ranking should be challenged by the Gators. Florida ranks first in the SEC in total offense, led by quarterback Chris Leak, who is now executing Meyer’s spread option offense with high efficiency.

LSU’s game plan will be to do what it did last year – put a hurtin’ on Leak, thus crippling the Gator offense. The Tigers came close to completely shutting Leak down in last year’s 21-17 LSU victory, sacking him four times and harassing him into an 11-for-30 passing day for a career-low 106 yards.

LSU has also vowed to be a little more air-minded on offense. With its offense somewhat limited in early games by Coach Les Miles’ stubbornness about running the ball regardless of the situation, the 7-3 loss to Auburn changed some minds – including Miles.

Miles said earlier this week that while it was a painful and costly way to learn, LSU had learned its lesson and it was a learning experience that will pay dividends down the road – in other words, if you’ve got a quarterback like JaMarcus Russell (who hails from Mobile), use him.

Another big game this week in the SEC pits No. 13 Tennessee against No. 10 Georgia in Athens. This game will keep Tennessee in the East Division picture with a win or eliminate the Vols early with a loss. Some good news for Tennessee: the Vols lead the series 7-5 when both teams are ranked in the top 25.

Alabama should easily improve to 4-2 Saturday as the Tide hosts inept Duke. The Tide is such a big favorite that the game is not on TV except for pay-for-view. Bama is a 28 point favorite.
This week’s college football TV schedule kicks off tonight, Friday, with Louisville vs. Middle Tennessee at 7 p.m. on ESPN2). Saturday’s weekend TV lineup, other than pay-for-view is as follows:

Arkansas at Auburn, 11 a.m. (CBS)
Clemson at Wake Forest, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Purdue at Iowa, 11 a.m. (ESPNU)
Texas A&M at Kansas, 11:30 a.m. (FOXSS)
VMI at Army, 11:30 a.m. (ESPNCLASSIC)
Stanford at Notre Dame, 1:30 p.m. (NBC)
Washington at Southern Cal, 2:30 pp.m. (FOXSS)
Texas at Oklahoma, 2:30 p.m. (ABC)
LSU at Florida, 2:30 p.m. (CBS)
Bowling Green at Ohio State, 2:20 p.m. (CSS)
Maryland at Georgia Tech, 2:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Michigan State at Michigan, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Furman at Coastal Carolina, 6 p.m. (CSS)
South Carolina at Kentucky, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Central Michigan at Toledo, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Missouri at Texas Tech, 6 p.m. (TBS)
Tennessee at Georgia, 6:45 p.m. (ESPN)
Oregon at California, 7 p.m. (ABC)