As the Gators head into their usual meat-grinder October schedule, I would like to offer these thoughts with LSU looming large on Saturday in The Swamp:
* After watching hours of college football Saturday, I’ve come to the conclusion that Florida’s rugged October schedule is much more doable for the Gators than it appeared just a few weeks ago. I know it’s going to be tough, but the Gators can play with, and can beat, every team remaining on their schedule. Sweeping October may seem unthinkable, but like the former head ball coach used to say, the Gators have a chance. They really do. LSU has not played well the past two games, especially on offense, and quarterback Zach Mettenberger has not been the elite player many were predicting he’d be. He’s turned the ball over and looked very shaky when defenses pressure him. South Carolina showed some flaws in its win at Kentucky, and UF matches up well against USC. The Gators had a good chance to win in Columbia last season, and this Florida team is much better than that one. Georgia is scoring all kinds of points, but the Bulldogs have been surprisingly vulnerable on defense. The other October game is at Vanderbilt, and, well, Vanderbilt appears back to being Vanderbilt. There’s no question Florida is going to have a chance in all four of those October games. I don’t think anyone would have said that earlier in the season.
* Based on what we’re hearing from the coaches, true freshman D.J. Humphries is going to play a lot — maybe even start — at left offensive tackle against LSU. Humphries is still somewhat light at 275 pounds, but he’s got great feet, is very quick and athletic, and may be the best option at left tackle to handle the Tigers’ speed rushers. Humphries is by no means a road grader (at least not at this early stage of his career), but he’s an athletic big body who can matchup with LSU’s defensive ends.
* I have a feeling offensive coordinator Brent Pease has drawn up an excellent game plan for Saturday’s game — maybe similar to the one Boise State executed so well in its win over a fast, physical Georgia in a win in Atlanta early last season. In that game, Pease kept the Bulldogs on their heels much of the night with a balanced offense that featured a lot of passes (many of them short, on first down) and some reverses and end arounds that burned the over aggressive ‘Dogs. The LSU game could be a signature game for Pease and his improving UF offense.
* Getting Jelani Jenkins back this week is going to be a huge lift for the UF defense. The Gators played well without their starting weakside linebacker the past two games, but he’s one of UF’s best defensive players and a team leader, and his great speed will be vital against a very fast and athletic LSU offense. His return also brings some depth at linebacker, where the Gators were paper-thin during the win over Kentucky. UF coach Will Muschamp said he does not expect Jenkins to be limited Saturday in any way. He will play with a cast on his right hand.