Baton Rouge, LA - Florida didn't need Tim Tebow to perform like a world beater in its first four games.
But a scary injury could mean the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner won't be at full strength heading into the team's biggest road test of the season.
The Gators may not even have him at all.
Tebow's recovery from a concussion could keep him out of top-ranked Florida's Southeastern Conference showdown in Baton Rouge on Saturday night, when No. 4 LSU will try to end the defending national champions' 14-game winning streak.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made N/A point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 67% of bets for this game have been placed on N/A (View College Football bet percentages).
Tebow is third in the nation in passer rating through four games (170.3), has thrown six touchdown passes and run for five others while averaging a modest 160.5 yards per game through the air, but fans in Gainesville are hardly concerned with their senior quarterback's numbers as he tries to join Ohio State's Archie Griffin as college football's only two-time Heisman winners.
With the Gators (4-0, 2-0) leading 31-7 in the third quarter Sept. 26 at Kentucky, Tebow was knocked out with a vicious shot to the head, sending him to the hospital overnight with a concussion. Florida went on to win 41-7, and had a bye week to rest and recover for a trip to Death Valley - the site of Tebow's only loss in an opposing SEC stadium.
The winner of this game has gone on to capture the last three BCS championships, and LSU (5-0, 3-0) picked up its highest-profile win of its 2007 championship season against the defending national champion Gators. Tebow led Florida to a 10-point fourth-quarter lead before the then top-ranked Tigers stormed back for a 28-24 win.
"It was a tough night," coach Urban Meyer said. "We needed to make a stop on defense, not allow a score or not turn the ball over. It haunts us."
Now, the Gators are facing the prospect of making their return visit to Tiger Stadium - where LSU has won 32 consecutive Saturday night games - without their two-time All-American quarterback. Tebow practiced Tuesday for the first time since suffering his concussion, but still hasn't been cleared to play Saturday.
Meyer, though, certainly hasn't ruled Tebow out.
"He looked like Tim out there (Tuesday),'' Meyer said. "Obviously practice is a lot different from what's going to happen Saturday night. We're still doing an evaluation.''
Tebow took about half the snaps Tuesday - backup John Brantley got the other half - and competed in about 80 percent of the workout. He was held out of 11-on-11 drills.
Brantley has looked good in his brief time on the field as a sophomore, completing 73.3 percent of his passes and throwing four touchdowns without an interception.
While Tebow's potential absence - and Brantley's first collegiate start - would figure to give the Tigers a major edge, coach Les Miles lamented Tebow's injury during his weekly news conference, saying it "saddened" him.
"It's the worst thing about college football. You don't want injury. You don't want it for your opponent. You don't want it for yourself,'' Miles said. "I want them to do whatever they need to do for them. Tim Tebow is great for football. He's great for Florida. If he's healthy and capable, we'd love to compete against him.''
The Gators earned a measure of revenge for their 2007 loss in Baton Rouge with a 51-21 rout in Gainesville last season, as Tebow and current Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin helped Florida rack up 475 yards of offense against a Tigers defense that came in among the nation's best.
Currently 16th in the nation yielding 14.8 points per game, LSU's defense has carried an offense that ranks 99th in total yards (321.6) behind sophomore quarterback Jordan Jefferson.
However, when the Tigers allowed 13 fourth-quarter points last Saturday at Georgia, Miles' much-maligned rushing attack - averaging 3.7 yards per carry - came through. All-SEC tailback Charles Scott hadn't scored a touchdown or gained more than 63 yards until the trip to Athens, where he ran for 95 yards and a pair of touchdowns - including the game-winner with 46 seconds left - in LSU's wild 20-13 win.
"Our offense has confidence in Charles Scott,'' Miles said. "Our offense has confidence in the ability to run the football. We just needed to do it and put it together.''
Scott certainly has something to prove against the Gators. He's carried the ball a total of 16 times for 44 yards in LSU's last two meetings with Florida.
The Gators rank 17th in the nation against the run (92.8 ypg), but the ground game on offense has made Meyer's team deserving of its No. 1 ranking. Led by Tebow and sophomore tailbacks Jeffery Demps and Chris Rainey, Florida is averaging a Football Bowl Subdivision-high 307.5 rushing yards.
The Gators have averaged 5.8 yards per carry against LSU the last two years, but Meyer knows his team is in for a stiff test.
"I think their defensive front is a typical LSU," said Meyer, who is 6-1 at Florida against top-five opponents. "... This will be as good a defense as there is in college football."
LSU is 2-8-1 all-time against No. 1 teams, with its lone regular-season victory coming 28-21 over Florida in prime time Oct. 11, 1997, at Tiger Stadium.
Posted: 10/7/09 1:00PM ET