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Tigers take care of Gators with bigger challenges ahead

by | CBSSports.com
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU did what it had to do. Florida did what everyone thought it would do.

The Tigers obliterated the Gators so badly and so early that the disinterested Tiger Stadium fans didn't even bother to boo the Gators (or any appearance by LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson) coming out of the tunnel at halftime in No. 1 LSU's 41-11 vaporization of No. 17 Florida on Saturday afternoon.

Excitement early. Snoozefest by halftime. Leave for the exits by the end of the third quarter. And then booze it up in the remaining daylight outside Tiger Stadium about midway through the fourth quarter as LSU coach Les Miles toyed with the Gators by having Jefferson pull off a Tim Tebow-style jump pass for a 2-yard touchdown to rub it in.

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Follow that up with a leaping interception in the end zone by "The Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu and the LSU fans chanting, "We want 'Bama!" and the game went just about how everyone expected.

How LSU and Florida each move forward with the most important position on the football field will play a major part into whether the Tigers continue their run to No. 1 or to whether Florida's season goes down the tubes.

LSU didn't exactly go Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees and completely open up the passing game. The Tigers judiciously threw the football, yet weren't afraid to allow either Jarrett Lee or Jefferson to take chances.

Lee seemingly improves with every pass he attempts going back to last season. That was evident by his first throw as he tossed a perfect 46-yard touchdown strike to Rueben Randle to almost immediately suck the life out of Florida. Lee found Randle later for a 57-yard connection as Lee finished 7 of 10 for 154 yards and a score.

But Lee wasn't alone.

Jefferson threw a couple of strikes on his first two passes of the season with a 37-yard completion to Russell Shepard en route to a touchdown-scoring drive and a 22-yard dart to Deangelo Peterson.

The two-pronged plan, at least against Florida, worked to near perfection.

"I think we can get better than that," Miles said. "I thought we did some good things with both. I thought both guys played well."

Miles said LSU kind of stuck to the plan on how to play both quarterbacks, but said there were some things he didn't do with both players and then threw some plays out once the win was in hand.

Lee said that he really doesn't know or is ever told about the rotation going into a game. He did say that Saturday's rotation was "great."

"It's whatever we need to do at that moment and that's kind of how we go about it. ... This football team, coaches, we were never concerned [about the return of Jefferson]," Lee said. "Through media and fans, Jordan has made big plays for us before. Him coming back was not a problem. We're happy to have him back. He's making plays for us."

There always seems to be a sense of uneasiness whenever Jefferson enters the game, though. Whether it's linked to his widely publicized arrest leading up to the season or it goes back to Jefferson's uneasy play last season that pushed Lee into the lineup, there's always seems to be a nervousness surrounding Jefferson's play. The same nervousness the LSU staff had when playing Lee early in his career.

Now the fear is that Lee's uneasiness may return with Jefferson lurking over his shoulder and Jefferson saying earlier this week that it's his personal goal to retake the starting job.

When asked about Lee's rapport with Rueben Randle and if the quarterback rotation could throw a wrench into that development, Miles responded, "I think that that's speculation and I don't really want to talk about it. I enjoyed the Lee-Randle touchdown pass and I enjoyed the Jefferson-to-the-tight end touchdown pass."

Jefferson wasn't made available to the media.

The approach doesn't look like it's going anywhere anytime soon. So LSU fans will have to rest uneasy even at No. 1.

The Gators may not have a plan going forward.

Florida played three quarterbacks, and none of them presented any danger throwing the football. That included true freshman starter Jacoby Brissett. Chris Rainey and Trey Burton took plenty of snaps and gave the Gators nothing.

At least Muschamp can fist pump or unnecessarily rant and rave up and down the sideline for one thing Saturday. He pulled one over on the fans and media by starting Brissett and concealing the injury to true freshman Jeff Driskell, who relieved the injured John Brantley last week against Alabama, as he didn't even dress out. So there's that.

It didn't fool LSU, and may not fool future opponents either. Brissett threw for 94 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Now that's necessarily a crime considering LSU's defense.

What it did do was push Muschamp into risk-taking as early as the first quarter, which inherently told his players that they had no chance against LSU. Florida had already gambled on a fourth-and-1 in its own territory once in the first quarter, but Muschamp decided once wasn't enough. He called for a fake punt on fourth down, <i>on the same drive</b>, to no avail.

(And while we're on trick plays, the taunting penalty called on LSU punter Brad Wing's 54-yard scoring run on a fake punt where he raised his arms for a split second around the Florida 5 was technically the right call. It's considered a penalty if: "An unopposed ball carrier obviously altering stride as he approaches the opponent's goal line or diving into the end zone." Miles even said the penalty was warranted. It certainly wasn't egregious. But officials are looking for taunting before the end zone. Don't give them a reason to call it. Wing did, albeit miniscule, and the refs made the call. Was that interpretation of the rule ridiculous, though? Absolutely.)

Brissett's outing came against an LSU defense Muschamp termed "pretty vanilla" on Saturday, and it was his first-ever start. Where the Gators go after this will play huge into where the start of the Muschamp era goes from here.

"We've got to re-evaluate where Jeff is," Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "John may be out for the [Auburn] game [next Saturday] more than likely. I'll let you know Monday for sure but I would imagine he would be. Jeff, he may be back. We need to evaluate where we are on the offensive side of the ball and what we need to do to be successful."

The adage of having two quarterbacks is like having no quarterbacks may not apply with LSU. I have a new adage for Florida: having no quarterbacks is like having no quarterbacks. My new saying may leave Muschamp and Co. with plenty of sleepless nights before game day.

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