Baton Rouge, LA (SportsNetwork.com) - A Top 25 showdown in the SEC is on tap
in Baton Rouge, as the 17th-ranked Florida Gators take on the 10th-ranked LSU
Tigers in a cross-divisional affair.
Les Miles' Tigers are once again one of the favorites to dethrone Alabama in
the always tough SEC West. LSU is a solid 5-1 on the campaign, with the lone
loss coming in a shootout with SEC East power Georgia at the end of September.
The Tigers were able to find their way back to the win column last weekend
however, with a 59-26 road win at Mississippi State.
Will Muschamp's Gators have faced some adversity early on with the loss of
their starting quarterback, but that hasn't prevented Florida from posting a
4-1 mark to this point. The only blemish on the record is a 21-16 road loss at
Miami-Florida. The team has posted three wins since, all in-conference,
including a 30-10 blasting of Arkansas last weekend in Gainesville.
This marks the 60th all-time meeting between these two national powers.
Florida holds a 31-25-3 series advantage, but the two programs have split the
last 10 meetings.
Tyler Murphy is starting to feel more comfortable in the pocket and that
should worry Florida's opponents going forward. The junior QB has taken over
for the injured Jeff Driskel and is coming off a game in which he threw for
240 yards and three touchdowns against Arkansas. It marked the most passing
yards by a UF quarterback since 2011. He hasn't had to throw the ball much due
to a ground game that nets 192.0 yards per game, but Murphy has been
efficient, completing 72.2 percent of his throws, for 530 yards, with five TDs
against just one INT.
The primary receivers Murphy will seek down the field are seniors Trey Burton
(23 catches, 282 yards, 1 TD) and Solomon Patton (19 catches, 348 yards, 4
TDs) and junior Quinton Dunbar (18 catches, 274 yards).
Muschamp is impressed with Murphy's poise under center.
"He did a fantastic job again of just managing our team. I've been criticized
a little bit for saying 'manage.' Tom Brady is a great game manager. It's
about converting third downs. It's about completing passes. It's about getting
your offense in and out of the right runs, the right passes, protections,
taking the ball to the right spot, taking care of the football scoring points,
moving your team, your team having confidence in you. I mean, that's one of
the greatest compliments you can have as a quarterback. A game manager: a guy
who does what he is supposed to do."
The majority of the rushing attempts have gone to sophomore Matt Jones (322
yards, 4.3 ypc, 2 TDs) and junior Mack Brown (284 yards, 3 TDs).
Where Florida has a distinct advantage is on the defensive side of the
football. The Gators are fourth nationally in scoring defense (12.2 ppg),
second in rush defense (65.0 ypg), sixth in pass defense (152.0 ypg) and
second in total defense (217.0 ypg).
Playmakers abound for the Gators on defense, starting with All-American
candidate Loucheiz Purifoy. The junior cornerback is one of the top DBs in the
country and showed it last weekend against Arkansas, taking an interception 42
yards for a score. He is joined in the secondary by safeties Jaylen Watkins
(team-high 27 tackles) and Cody Riggs (22 tackles, 6.0 TFL). Sophomore Dante
Fowler (17 tackles) is a handful up the field as well, leading Florida in both
TFL (7.0) and sacks (3.0).
The Florida defense will have its hands full this weekend, as LSU has proved
to be one of the top offenses in the nation. The team ranks ninth nationally
in scoring (45.5 ppg) and is churning out nearly 500 yards of offense on
average (488.8 ypg). It is a pick-your-poison for opposing defenses, as LSU
has the ability to move up and down the field via the run (197.3 ypg) or the
pass (291.5 ypg).
Senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger has developed into one of the SEC's top
signal callers and that is saying a lot considering the company he keeps
(Manziel, McCarron, Murray). Mettenberger is on pace to break school records
for passing, as he has already thrown for 1,738 yards and 15 TDs. He has
completed 68.2 percent of his throws and has just two interceptions in 157
Of course it helps to have as potent a one-two punch on the outside as there
is in the nation. Wideouts Jarvis Landry (42 receptions, 616 yards, 7 TDs) and
Odell Beckham Jr. (35 receptions, 686 yards, 6 TDs) are a lethal duo. Beckham
leads the country in all-purpose yards (228.2 ypg) and is averaging 21.1 yards
every time he touches the ball.
Still, if an opponent concentrates too much on LSU's passing attack, tailback
Jeremy Hill will make them pay. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound sophomore is averaging
118.8 yards per game on 7.5 yards per carry. He has already amassed 594 yards
and is responsible for nine of the team's 20 rushing touchdowns to date.
Mettenberger knows he will be facing a tough defense this week.
"I think Florida has a combination of both athleticism and great schemes. They
have a great defensive coordinator, but they also have tremendous athleticism
on the defensive side of the ball. They have big guys that can run,
linebackers that can cover and corners that cover very well. We will have our
opportunities to be man on man with the defense and hopefully we can score
more times than not against them."
A potent offensive attack has masked average numbers on the defensive side of
the football for LSU. The Tigers are allowing foes to put up 24.7 ppg, while
yielding 367.0 yards of total offense. A lack of big plays has been
problematic at times, with LSU collecting just 10 sacks and nine takeaways
through six games.
Linebacker Lamir Barrow leads the team in tackles with 36 stops. Fellow LB
D.J. Welter is a close second with 31 tackles. Cornerback Jalen Mills has a
team-high two interceptions, while defensive end Jordan Allen paces the team
in sacks (2).
The Sports Network