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Florida's SEC Title Hopes Take a Hit With John Brantley's Injury

Not only did Florida’s SEC East title hopes take a hit with the loss to Alabama, but the Gators also suffered a blow on offense with the injury to quarterback John Brantley. The senior suffered a leg injury at the end of the first half and is out indefinitely. Brantley will not play in this Saturday’s matchup against LSU.

Florida coach Will Muschamp declined to give a recovery timetable for Brantley during his Monday press conference. The senior quarterback will at least miss Saturday’s game against LSU and would figure to be a longshot to play on Oct. 15 against Auburn. However, the Gators have a bye week before playing Georgia on Oct. 29, and it’s not out of the question Brantley could return for that game. However, there is no indication on how serious his ankle injury is.

Before his injury against the Crimson Tide, Brantley was having a solid performance. He opened the game with a 65-yard touchdown toss to Andre Debose and completed 11 of 16 throws for 190 yards.

Brantley’s numbers this season weren’t overwhelming – 942 passing yards, five touchdown tosses and three picks – but he has looked like a different quarterback than we saw last season. The senior has looked very comfortable under the direction of coordinator Charlie Weis and is a perfect fit for Florida’s pro-style attack.

Replacing Brantley in the lineup will be Jeff Driskel. The true freshman has played sparingly this year, completing 7 of 16 passes for 73 yards and two interceptions. He also has 26 yards on 12 rushing attempts.

Driskel was rated as the No. 1 quarterback and the No. 17 overall player in the 2011 recruiting class by Athlon Sports. The true freshman will be making his first start in a difficult environment, as Florida takes on LSU this Saturday. The Gators have lost two out of their last three games in Baton Rouge and lost last season’s matchup in Gainesville 33-29.

Although Driskel isn’t short on talent, it’s going to be an uphill battle winning Saturday night’s game in Baton Rouge. The Tigers last lost at home came on Oct. 10, 2009 to Florida. If Driskel struggles, the Gators will turn to redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy or true freshman Jacoby Brissett. 

Expect the Gators to get creative on offense and place this game into the hands of running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. Although Driskel will have to hit some throws for the Gators to win, the offense needs huge performances from the rushing attack. Florida also needs a standout game from its defense and could use a score from its special teams.

Even with the uncertainty surrounding Brantley’s long-term availability, Florida still has a chance to win the SEC East. If the Gators can knock off Auburn on Oct. 15 and get Brantley back in time for the game against Georgia, they will be right in the mix for the conference crown.