To say that Tim Tebow is the key to the Gators offensive attack against LSU this weekend is both an obvious statement and an understatement.
While the Gators offense looked okay for a quarter against Kentucky last weekend with John Brantley at the helm, to think they could go into Death Valley and beat LSU without their heart and soul is laughable.
To begin with, you have to look at the intangibles: Tebow is the leader of the Florida football team and the face of Gator Nation. No team can afford to lose their best player going into their biggest game of the season, and the Gators are no different.
Death Valley is a tough place for any team on a Saturday night, when the fans are at full tilt and the smell of bourbon is in the air. The Gators need the experience, poise, and will of Tebow if they have any hope of returning to Gainesville on Saturday night with their perfect record and National Championship hopes in tact.
Now you take a look at the tangibles. I know the LSU defense is a bit down (ranked 42nd in the nation in total defense and dead last in the SEC with only five sacks on the year) and the offense is positively anemic, but the key to the Gators offense is Tebow, and without him John Brantley does not bring the same skill set.
The image up top is a typical spread formation with Tebow and Demps or Moody lined up in the backfield, Aaron Hernandez lined up to the left at tight end, and your X and Z receivers split wide.
The Y receiver (could be Rainey, James or one of the wideouts) will come in motion to Tebow's left and then the Gators will option off of one of the defensive ends.
Although the formation looks like a Texas Tech formation, the play is often times more like a Georgia Tech option, with Tebow handing off to the tailback or Y receiver to run a dive or inside zone run with the option of keeping or pitching to the other back when he reads the opposite side end or outside linebacker.
In order for a triple option to work, the quarterback and both backs have to be viable running options, and without Tebow, Brantley is just not the running threat and the defensive ends and linebackers will key off Demps, Rainey, and Moody.
Think of how Rich Rod's offense looked last year in Michigan compared to how it looked in West Virginia the year before. That's what happens when you lose your quarterback in this type of system.
For that matter, think of how West Virginia's offense looked when Pat White was hurt. Sure they had Steve Slaton and Noel Devine, but without the trigger-man the offense sputtered.
Demps, Moody, and Rainey are great backs but they operate best out of an option system and that option system sputters without Tebow.
Now if the Gators receiving corps were stronger, I think you could gameplan with Brantley and use the pass to set up the run. But with WR's Deonte Thompson and Andre Dubose out, the available crop of receivers just don't strike fear into any defensive secondary.
It would be a long day of seeing eight to nine players in the box for Rainey and Demps if Tebow was not able to play.
The Gators have been experimenting with the Wildcat this week in practice with Demps, James, Hernandez, and CB Joe Haden, but while this makes for an interesting package, you could not run out of this offense for an entire game.
The bottom line is that the Gators need Tebow, and thankfully it looks like they will have him.