We go to Gainesville a decided underdog; it's a game the bookmakers say the Tigers are supposed to lose. The Tigers have had less success vs. Florida than any other team over a long period of time. Of the SEC teams Saban has faced, Florida's the only one he hasn't beaten, and neither of Saban's 2 losses to UF were close. That said, are there reasons for optimism this week? LSU is running the football better than Florida, playing as good a defense as any team in the SEC (including Florida), and is playing better on special teams than Florida. LSU's head coach is better than Florida's. The LSU offensive line which pummeled Tennessee in the SECCG is intact and playing as well as it did during that game. The secondary is dramatically improved from the unit which suffered a Grossman/Gaffney blitzkrieg last year. Reasons for optimism, yes. But can the Tigers leave the Swamp with a win? Florida field is not a place where Florida loses games, especially not to LSU. Some have said the last time LSU brought a defense this good to Florida, it was 1986. In 1997, when LSU won at home vs UF, LSU featured a defense where half the starters went on to play pro ball (including one of the best LSU defensive fronts ever in McFarland, Mixon, and Wiley). But who's to say Grossman won't pick apart LSU yet again? The secondary in general hasn't played a team this year that can throw like Florida can, although the Miami-Ohio QB was a respectable test. And on offense, it can't be assumed LSU will be able to throw the football at all. The Gator defense will be very aggressive, and is LSU prepared to handle that kind of pressure? Other thoughts: It was assumed that Florida football would undergo a change following Spurrier. Before the Kentucky and Ole Miss games, you'll see the average prediction by Florida fans on the message boards to be about a 25-30 point win over both schools. Florida won one game by 7 points, and lost the second by 3 points. Florida is now # 16 in both polls. Usually Florida has been top 10 ranked coming into this game with LSU. Does this game come down to QB, where there will be a lot of pressure on Matt Mauch to perform, and a lot of pressure on LSU's defense to get pressure on Grossman? Kentucky and Ole Miss were successful with short passing vs Florida, but Mauch hasn't shown he can consistently pass either short, medium, or long, even when he's facing single coverage. Mauch made terrific throws against UL-L when he was given protection, and it offers hope that maybe he can do the same against the Gators. Yet the Ragin Cajuns aren't the Gators. As for Grossman, he's been hit a lot this year, indicating the Gators are having problems on the OL. Yet there's still very few QB's in football who can get the football downfield as well as Grossman can. For LSU, lose this game, and it's an expected loss. Then perhaps the Tigers can regroup and win it's next 2 games against very game opposition (USC and Auburn). The Auburn game becomes LSU's game of the year. For Florida, lose this game, and does the Nation give up on Ron Zook? 2 early SEC losses against teams Florida has been accustomed to beating regularly, and with ease? Florida has a lot more riding on this game than LSU does IMO, for this reason. Lose Saturday, and Florida falls out of the top 20. And if LSU gets a win now, does it officially put a stamp on a shift in the SEC's balance of power away from Florida and Tennessee? If Saban was on course to accomplish this by his 5th year in B.R., does he force a shift sooner? He's half way there with 2 victories over Tennessee in the past 2 years, including a championship win. But do the LSU players believe they can win in the Swamp? One of the best home field advantages in football, or any sport for that matter? Will the Tigers come out with the intensity necessary to pull off an upset, intensity Florida's players can be counted on demonstrating? We'll find out in 5 days.... LSU 2001 SEC CHAMPIONS 2002 SUGAR BOWL CHAMPIONS GEAUX TIGERS!