Today storylines: UF at LSU


Florida cornerback Jaylen Watkins pulls in an interception in front of LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr. during last year's game at The Swamp.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 1:13 a.m.

Today's storylines

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Florida cornerback Jaylen Watkins pulls in an interception in front of LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr. during last year's game at The Swamp.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer

Tigers can still bite on defense

The LSU defense, which lost a ton of top-flight talent to the NFL, has uncharacteristically given up all kinds of points and yards this season, the most stunning performance (for the wrong reasons) being the 44 points surrendered to Georgia two weeks ago in the Tigers' only loss. But don't expect Will Muschamp to fall into any kind to trap taking the Tigers likely on the defensive side of the ball. “They've got a lot of young guys, but they're very talented defensively,” Muschamp said. “They can run, they can strike, they can play. They're young right now, but they're fundamentally sound. They play hard, they play fast, they play physical, and that's the type of defense we will see on Saturday afternoon.”

Mettenberger lighting it up

The last time the Gators saw Zach Mettenberger, he was a quarterback struggling with consistency and confidence in the Tigers' 14-6 loss a year ago in The Swamp. The Gators will be confronted by a much different quarterback today. Mettenberger has blossomed under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and is one of the nation's hottest passers heading into today's game. He's thrown for 300-plus yards in each of the last two games and has already passed for 1,738 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. He is on pace to set the school record in both categories. “He's throwing that thing man. He's looking like an NFL quarterback,” UF middle linebacker Antonio Morrison said.

Tigers looking for redemption, too

Much of the talk around the Florida football team this week has been about the 2011 game in Baton Rouge in which the Gators, starting a true freshman quarterback (Jacoby Brissett), were embarrassed by 30 points (41-11). They say they're looking forward to going back to Death Valley to atone for that poor performance two years ago. The Tigers are probably just as motivated to atone for what happened to them in The Swamp a year ago. They were worn down and out by the Gators in the second half and lost 14-6. The Tigers are planning to show the Gators (and everyone else) they're a lot tougher and a lot more physical than what they showed in last year's game, when they got pushed around pretty good in the second half.

Gators tough in the middle

Last year's big Gator goal was to win the fourth quarter, and UF did, dominating opponents in the final 15 minutes of games, including last year's victory over LSU. This season the Gators have held their own in the fourth quarter, but where they have been most proficient is in the middle portion of games, outscoring opponents by a combined 79-12 in the second and third quarters without giving up a touchdown. In the second quarter alone, the Gators have outscored the opposition by a whopping 55-3. So pay close attention to that second quarter today.

Opposing forces

LSU boasts one of the nation's top offenses, averaging 45.5 points and 488.8 yards per game. Florida's strength is just the opposite, limiting opponents to 12.2 points and 217.0 yards per game. The Gators' stingy defense will look to slow down an offense that features QB Zach Mettenberger and two top receivers (Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr.), as well as one of the SEC's top tailbacks in Jeremy Hill. Which side will impose its will?

Even series

In recent years, it's been anybody's game when Florida faces off with permanent cross-division rival LSU. Tiger Stadium is typically a tough place to win, but the Gators have won 16 of their 30 games played there. LSU coach Les Miles is 4-4 against Florida (3-1 at Tiger Stadium), and UF's Will Muschamp is 1-1 against the Tigers in his brief tenure. The two teams are also 5-5 against each other over the last 10 meetings.

Raised stakes

When the Tigers and Gators get together, title hopes for one or both teams are typically on the line. This year is no different. The Tigers' only loss came at Georgia two weeks ago, and LSU can ill afford another league loss with Alabama and Texas A&M still on the schedule. The Gators remain unbeaten in SEC play, but still face defending East champ Georgia as well as No. 14 South Carolina.

Grinding it out

Last year's game may not have produced a lot of highlight-reel plays, but that was just the way Muschamp wanted it. The Gators imposed their will, running the ball 25 straight times to close out the Tigers in a 14-6 win. UF controlled time of possession, keeping the ball for 37:24. This year, the Gators are even better in that statistic, leading the nation in time of possession (37:39). Keeping the Tigers' talented offense off the field and wearing down the defense would go a long way in helping the Gators win today.

Today's game questions

1. Can the Florida secondary prevent big plays in the passing game?

2. Will the UF defensive front be able to generate some pressure on quarterback Zach Mettenberger?

3. Can Tyler Murphy and the Gators make some big plays in the passing game against a suspect LSU secondary?

4. Will the UF offense control the ball and the clock, keeping the LSU offense on the sideline for long periods of time?

5. Which tailback has the bigger game — Matt Jones or LSU's Jeremy Hill?

Visit Gatorsports.com after the game for Andreu's Answers.

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