Published: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 1:04 a.m.
Staff writers Robbie Andreu and Jon McDonald break down the Florida-LSU game
Down on the bayou
Following back-to-back mediocre performances by LSU against Auburn and Towson, many Tiger fans are in a state of depression and seem ready to jump off the ledge for fear of what may be coming down the road in the tough SEC. But didn't many Florida fans feel the same way after the Gators looked borderline inept at times against Bowling Green in the opener? Things have turned out fine for the Gators. Coaches don't like to admit it — or even talk about it — but some teams play up or down to their competition all the time. That seems to be what LSU did in its last two games. Will Muschamp, for one, is not buying into all the moaning coming from the bayou about how bad the Tigers are. “We won't see the same LSU football team (that struggled against Towson last Saturday),” Muschamp said.
Watch out for The Hat
LSU coach Les Miles is a crafty (and sometimes gambling) guy, and he's shown that trait quite consistently against the Gators. His call for a fake field goal led to a touchdown in the 2007 game. His fake field goal kept the late, winning drive alive two years ago in The Swamp. And last year, the Tigers burned the Gator special teams for a touchdown on a fake punt, only to have the score nullified by a controversial excessive celebration penalty called on punter Brad Wing. The Hat has tricked the Gators before, so UF should be on high alert, especially on special teams. “It's about executing and doing your job. That's really all it takes,” Muschamp said.
Uh-oh, it's October
October has been a bad month for the Gators. Over the past two seasons, UF is 1-7 in the month, including 0-4 last season. And here the Gators are again, entering October with one of the nation's toughest schedules. In the next four games, UF will be facing three teams in the current top 10 (LSU, South Carolina and Georgia). The Gators also have another top-10 team (Florida State) waiting at the end of the schedule in November. There's no other schedule quite like it. Florida is the only team in the nation with four current top-10 teams on its remaining schedule.
Beast over the East
The Tigers have played a significant role in the recent Western Division's dominance over the East in the SEC. LSU has swept the SEC Eastern Division for the past two years and the Tigers have won seven straight games vs. teams from the SEC East, including a 42-10 win over Georgia in the SEC title game last year. Overall, LSU has won nine straight SEC games that count toward the league standings (doesn't include Georgia in SEC title game in 2011 and Alabama in last year's BCS Championship Game).
Wanting to change things up after a dismal two-game stretch, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger decided to do away with his mustache. After opening the season with decisive wins over North Texas, Washington and Idaho, the Tigers struggled in victories over Auburn and FCS foe Towson. Despite the apparent disparity in competition, Mettenberger's Tigers are 93rd in the nation in passing offense. Whether or not the signal-caller's facial hair purge will cure what ails the Tigers' offense will be seen today.
Bye the way
Florida's bye week came at a good time this year, even though it was a little early. The Gators got the last week of September off, giving them time to get some key players back from injury. Junior linebacker Jelani Jenkins will be a welcome addition, as he will return wearing a cast after breaking his thumb at Texas A&M on Sept. 8. Defensive end Dominique Easley and fullback Trey Burton are also healthy after not playing against Kentucky on Sept. 22.
LSU has gotten off to sluggish starts the last two weeks and trailed each game late in the first half. At Auburn, LSU went into the locker room down 10-9 and mustered only a field goal in the second half, but that was good enough for a 12-10 win. At home against Towson, the Bayou Bengals needed 10 points in the last three minutes of the second quarter to go into intermission with the lead. Five total lost fumbles in those games certainly did their part to stunt LSU's momentum, with Auburn and Towson scoring 17 of their combined 32 points off of the turnovers. If Florida can pounce on the Tigers and score early, it could put major pressure on LSU's already struggling offense, leading to the same kinds of LSU miscues seen over the last two Saturdays.
The Gators have been in this situation before, 4-0 heading into a home showdown with a powerhouse program from the SEC West, most recently last season. The Gators lost starting QB John Brantley and were routed by eventual national champion Alabama. That started a free fall in which UF lost four straight games, going 0-for-October. While this UF team is far different (two road wins, a bye in September, more depth and experience), the road doesn't get any easier. A win would give the Gators confidence and validation as they prepare for tests against East foes Vandy, South Carolina and Georgia in a three-week span.