Photo: Will Vragovic, Tampa Bay Times
#17 Florida (4-1, 3-0) at #10 LSU (5-1, 2-1)
Saturday, Oct 12th, 3:30 PM EST, CBS
Line: LSU by 7
This rivalry between founding members of the SEC has gone back and forth recently with each team winning six of the last twelve games. Florida has won three of the last five but LSU has won two of the last three. LSU has won three of the last four in Baton Rouge. This has been a competitive rivalry and nothing less is expected when the two teams meet this Saturday.
The Gators come in at 4-1 and 3-0 in the SEC. Their strength is a defensive unit that ranks fourth in the Nation in points allowed, allowing just 12.2 per contest. Florida also ranks second Nationally giving up just 217 yards per game. On offense, Florida is still struggling to find an identity but QB Tyler Murphy has played very well since taking over for Jeff Driskel. Murphy is completing 72% of his passes and has 5 TD to only 1 INT.
The LSU Tigers are usually known for their stout defense but they've done things a bit differently this season. The Tigers are third in the SEC scoring 45.5 points per game. New Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron has lit a fire under QB Zach Mettenberger. Mettenberger ranks first in the SEC, which is filled with top QBs, in QB rating and has 15 TD to only 2 INT. The WR tandem of Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry is arguably the best in the Nation as they've combined for 77 receptions and 13 TD. If those three players don't get you then RB Jeremy Hill will as he's averaging 118 ypg and has 9 TD on the season.
For Florida to win: Florida has won this year by playing great defense and not turning the ball over on offense. Florida has turned the ball over 10 times this year and 5 of those came in their loss to Miami. In addition to taking care of the ball, the Gators will need to put some points on the board. They need to establish the run early and they need to be able to hit a few big plays throughout the game to keep John Chavis and the LSU defense honest.
For LSU to win: LSU needs to keep doing what they have been doing this year and let their offense roll. Just because you are playing a top notch defense doesn't mean they need to reign in the game plan. Feed Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham while still letting the RB corps do what they are known to do. On defense, the Tigers need to contain Tyler Murphy. Don't let him beat them with his feet, make him do it with his arm.
Key Player (Florida): Tyler Murphy. Murphy has been playing very well since replacing injured Jeff Driskel but he hasn't gone on the road into a hostile environment. That changes this week as Florida must go to Death Valley in Baton Rouge and face LSU in one of the most hostile environments in all of college football. Murphy must protect the football but he also must facilitate the Gators offense. The Gators love to "win ugly" but Murphy needs to get the ball to his play-makers in order to keep the chains moving and keep up with the LSU offense.
Key Players (LSU): Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham. Last year these two combined to catch 4 passes for 78 yards against Florida in a loss. Landry's contribution to that was nil. Beckham's contribution was mainly a 56 yard reception that he then fumbled (Florida's Matt Elam recovered). These two players have shown that they are elite play-makers and they need to be just that against this Florida defense. They need to make their presence known early to take the pressure off of a running game that struggled in their last big showdown (against Georgia).
Key Stat: LSU is the best team in the conference in converting third downs. They are converting at a 58.33% clip so far in 2013. The Gators are the best team at stopping their opponent on third downs. They are holding teams to just a 22.95% conversion rate.