Can Russell Get It Done?

By Adam Caparell - October 06, 2006

JaMarcus Russell is one of the hottest quarterbacks in the country right now after his performance against Mississippi State last week. And heading into LSU’s critical matchup against Florida, Russell figures to be the key to the Tigers ultimate success. But the question on many people’s minds is whether the junior can get the job done?

Russell, despite some nice numbers, couldn’t lead his team to a win over Auburn earlier this season. His decision making came under fire, and for good reason. Russell made some crucial mistakes, missed receivers and squandered opportunities to knock off Auburn and put LSU in the driver’s seat in the SEC West.

But heading into Saturday, Russell is coming off his first career 300-plus yard passing performance and played well against Tulane two weeks ago as well. LSU coach Les Miles believes Russell is showing more maturity and poise behind center.

"I think JaMarcus is much more confident in the things we ask him to do,” Miles said. “He understands the play calling now. It's like anything else, once you get some experience, you start to see improvement and he's ready to play.”

At 6-foot-6 and over 250 pounds, Russell is as big a bodied QB as there is in the country. He has skills and talent, which he’s shown. He’s the SEC’s most efficient passer this season and has thrown 10 TDs compared to 1 INT and he's now ready to face a Gators secondary that can be had.

But the Tigers aren’t exactly running over the competition with their rushing attack and now they’re facing the best run defense in the SEC. There’s going to be a lot placed on Russell’s shoulders in The Swamp and his decision making will be crucial. The Tigers can’t afford stupid mistakes. There is little margin for error. Russell has great talent at the wide out positions, but he has to be the one to deliver them the ball, and ultimately LSU a win.

“There's a lot of chemistry on our team right now, and I think he's starting to show a lot of leadership,” Miles said. “I think he's an advantage for us in every game. Anytime you go into a key matchup, it's good to have a heavy signal caller. He knows what its like to play in a big game, and he's got the confidence to go out there and win."

The Gators plan to bring the pressure like they did last year. I'm interested to see how Russell handles it.


LSU (+2) Florida
This is practically a pick-‘em. Two good run defense going up against each other and two QBs playing at the top of their games. LSU’s JaMarcus Russell has been playing lights out and Florida’s Chris Leak has been steady all season. But the Tigers have more talent on their team. Florida’s defense is formidable, but I don’t think it stacks up to the Tigers. This game is going to be so close. And Florida has yet to make a field goal on the season. LSU by three.

Texas (-4) over Oklahoma
Two huge rivals with two relatively inexperienced QBs. The Longhorns have the No. 2 ranked rushing defense in the nation. Oklahoma has Adrian Peterson. Something is going to have to give in this game. And that’s going to the Oklahoma defense which has been vastly disappointing. If they can’t pressure Colt McCoy then they have no shot. The Texas offensive line held its own against Ohio State. Why can’t they do it against the Sooners? Texas by 10.

Texas Tech (-4) over Missouri
Missouri has the second best overall defense in the nation, but they haven’t played a big-time offensive team yet. I say they get exposed in this one. Tech’s offense can put up points against anybody (except TCU for some reason). If the Red Raiders can protect Graham Harrell enough, they should be in good shape. Tech by a touchdown.

Tennessee (-2) over Georgia
Tennessee and Erik Ainge are coming in hot and Ainge is developing a nice connection with Robert Meachem and Jayson Swain. Georgia kicker Brandon Coutu has been lost for the season. For a team that is struggling badly on offense and who will be without the services of their kicker who has a long leg, that looks to be too much to overcome. The Bulldogs struggled to score against Colorado and Mississippi. Even with Joe Tereshinski back under center, what makes you think they are going to score against the Vols D? Tennessee by a touchdown.

Oregon (+5) over Cal
The two best offenses in the Pac-10 and two of the best in the nation, if you like scoring, then this is your game. Both teams are much more sound offensively than defensively. Dennis Dixon has been very impressive running the Ducks offense. But so has Nate Longshore with the Bears. Cal’s defense, to me, seems more suspect because they miss tackles. And Cal can’t afford to do that against Jonathan Stewart and Oregon’s wide outs. The over-under is 59.5 in this one. I’d go with the over and the Ducks in an upset.

Last week: 4-1
Season: 19-7

Posted by Adam Caparell at 04:39 PM on October 06, 2006

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