Tyler Murphy’s performance today could decide how fans judge him from here on out.
If the Gators win, he’s the two-star recruit who stepped up for his injured teammate, leading the Gators to unforeseen heights during their 2013 season. A road win at LSU would solidify his place in Gator lore, putting the fans solidly behind him no matter what.
But if they lose — if Murphy struggles in Baton Rouge against LSU and the Gators lose — the rabid dogs will emerge from the dark corners of the Internet to crucify him. With most of three games to prove that he belongs in a program predicated on success, a letdown now would be disastrous to his reputation among the fan base.
In today’s “what have you done for me lately” sports environment — particularly college football’s “one loss and it’s over” mindset — popular opinion can turn quicker than Benedict Arnold during the Revolutionary War. There is rarely middle ground. But a win against the No. 10 team in the nation on the road would do wonders for Tyler Murphy’s reputation and his confidence.
For me, today is the day we find out if he can handle the stresses and rigors of being an SEC quarterback. And it won’t be easy. The Gators offense has been efficient — slow, but efficient — since he took over for Jeff Driskel, but this is the first real challenge for Tyler Murphy. Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas weren’t too tough to handle but playing a top-10 team in their house will up the difficulty a bit.
The good news for Murphy is that the Tigers, who rank 43rd in the NCAA in total defense (367 YPG), have allowed no less than 21 points in a single Southeastern Conference game this season. They gave up 44 to Georgia and 26 to Mississippi State.
So, barring some sort of rejuvenation, the Gators should be able to move the ball on offense. Murphy just needs to manage the game and keep it close.
The game will truly be decided on the other side of the ball. Will Vernon Hargreaves and the Gators defense be able to slow down Zach Mettenberger and the high-flying Tiger offense (45.5 PPG)? That will probably be where the game is won or lost.
Don’t be too hard on Tyler Murphy. Remember, this is his first tough SEC road game, and the Gators are underdogs. He may not get the job done, but if he does, there is a lot of reason for optimism in Gator Nation.
The Gators are 7-point underdogs in this one, kicking off at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS. LSU (5-1, 2-1) is coming in fresh off a 59-26 victory on the road against Mississippi State last week. They are 4-0 at home this season. The Gators (4-1, 3-0) come into town after dismantling Arkansas 30-10 last week in the Swamp. They are 1-1 on the road.
I think this will be a tough one for the Gators to pull out, but seven points is too high for their stout defense. LSU wins it, but it’s close.
LSU 31 Florida 28
What does everybody else think? Can the Gators pull it out?