#17 FLORIDA (4-1 3-0 SEC) @ #10 LSU (5-1 2-1 SEC)
Saturday brings a daunting task for the 17th ranked Florida Gators (4-1 3-0 SEC) as they travel to Death Valley to face the 10th ranked LSU Tigers (5-1 2-1 SEC). Last year’s game ended with a Gators 14-6 win, as Zach Mettenberger struggled to figure out the swarming Florida defense.
This year seems to be a storyline of the same nature with the Gators’ inferior ranking. But it is also much different. Mettenberger has a Heisman wish and he has done nothing but impress. Even in the Tigers’ lone loss to Georgia, Mettenberger shined: throwing 372 yards and 3 touchdowns (62.3 completion percentage). On the season, he has a 68.2 completion percentage, 1738 yards and 15 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions. He has led his team into the top ten of scoring offenses in the NCAA (9th at 45.5 ppg).
On the opposing side, the Gators defense is as good if not better than last year. Even without safeties Josh Evans and Matt Elam, no quarterback has passed for over 165 yards on this secondary. The Gators rank near the top of every major defensive statistical category, most relevant being passing efficiency defense at 81.2 per game (tied for 1st in NCAA) and passing defense at 152 yards per game (6th in NCAA). But that’s not all, ranking 2nd in rushing yards and total yards allowed per game, the Gators defense is sound all across the board. The Gators own a 13 game streak of allowing 21 points or less to SEC teams. The last SEC team to score over 24 points was LSU on Oct. 8, 2011.
We very well know this game could come down to who can make the less mistakes. The Tigers defense and the Gators revamped offense should decide this game. Whether it’s turnovers by Florida or blown coverages by LSU, something has to give.
The last few games have brought a drastic improvement to the Florida offense. Statistically, the yards are about the same, but the excessive turnovers have stopped. The result is the Gators now finishing drives and putting points on the board. Since Driskel’s injury, the Gators offense has produced 28 points per game, this is in part to Tyler Murphy and company taking care of the ball. Murphy doesn’t get quite as many touches as Mettenberger, but he does the most with what he gets; he ranks third in the SEC behind Mettenberger and Georgia’s Aaron Murray in passing efficiency (both rank in the top 10 in the NCAA). With the recent rise of Solomon Patton the Gators now look to have a great set of receivers to compliment their new found passing attack.
When you look at the Tigers you think of great defenses. But after graduation and the draft last year, LSU’s defense has looked average at best. They rank 46th in the NCAA in yards allowed per game (367 yards). The LSU defense has struggled at times to stop the run since losing Mingo and Mongomery to the NFL and as seen with the Georgia game, its secondary can be exploited by an accurate quarterback with a balanced attack. With the exception of Georgia, LSU hasn’t played any team with an overpowering offense.
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