Ranked No. 6 in the latest CFP rankings, the Florida Gators know that their hopes for a national championship just may ride on some team near the top of those rankings slipping up over the final two weeks of the season.
Florida coach Dan Mullen knows that unless his Gators (8-1) play up to their capabilities, the team slipping up just could be his own — especially this weekend when the defending national champion LSU Tigers (3-5) come to Gainesville.
Never mind LSU’s record this season, Mullen warned during his weekend press conference on Monday. The Tigers are loaded with young talent and can explode against any team that overlooks them.
“They’ve got a lot of talent,” Mullen said. “They put up a lot of points. They’ve lost a lot of guys, so they’re a young team.”
“(LSU has) some playmakers and mismatches on offense from the running backs,” Mullen said. “Different wideouts that can cause you issues. Defensively, they got DBs that can cover on the back end and a big physical group up front.”
A week ago against No. 1 Alabama, 33 of the 55 players that LSU put on the field were underclassmen. Nineteen true freshmen have seen playing time for the Tigers.
Even though the Tigers lost big — 55-17 — to Alabama, LSU coach Ed Orgeron said, “I was pleased the offense scored 17 points. We missed that fourth-and-short going in to tie the game 7-7. Could have been a difference in the ballgame very early. We didn’t get that done. We have to improve on that stuff. I thought overall offensively we made some improvements in some areas.”
LSU has used a number of quarterbacks this year. Its current depth chart contains the word “or” a lot: as in it will be either TJ Finley “or” Max Johnson to start on Saturday.
More “or” words appear up and down the two-deep.
A wave of players opting out — including top receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. and, possibly, tight end Arik Gilbert — have introduced “nor” into the conversation.
But Mullen knows that his own team has been far from perfect. He pointed to last weekend’s game when unranked Tennessee threw a bit of a scare at the Gators during their 31-19 victory.
“We’ve just got to execute better,” he said. “It’s not to say we weren’t very good. I think we missed a lot of opportunities last week. I think we had three possessions start on the plus side of the field with zero points. We should be 100 percent on that. I think we left 21 points on the field.”
Executing well this season has been Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Kyle Trask, who has passed for 3,243 yards for 38 TDs with just three interceptions.
“The guy is tough. He’s tough, a competitor,” Orgeron said. “He (Mullen) found him. He’s a diamond in the rough. I think you look at 38 touchdowns to three interceptions. The way he operates, the way he finds the guys. Dan is a great gameday caller. He knows exactly what to do with his quarterback. I think it’s a combination of a great quarterback and a great caller.”
There will be no repeat championship for LSU. But a win or two in the next couple of games could land the Tigers a bowl bid, and Orgeron would take that.
“Another chance to compete, another chance for young players to get better, more practice time,” he said.
–Field Level Media