Florida faces it’s second formidable foe in a week. The Gators head to Death Valley, one of the toughest places to play in America to face the number one team in the country. LSU already has wins over then third ranked Oregon, 25th ranked Mississippi State, and 16th ranked West Virginia, all away from home. Now they get the 17th ranked Gators on their home turf where they’ve won 13 in a row, their last loss being against Florida in 2009. Florida comes into this game bruised and banged up after last weeks slugfest beatdown with Alabama. Quarterback John Brantley will not play due to a high ankle sprain, beginning the Jeff Driskel era prematurely. Driskel has struggled when he’s had his chances. But Driskel was the number one quarterback recruit this past year and can make plays with both his arm and his legs. The last time the Gators started a freshman in Baton Rouge was in 2003 when Chris Leak shocked the nation and beat the heavily favored sixth ranked Tigers. This, however, will undoubtedly be Florida’s toughest task on the season.
There are some more storylines between Florida head Coach Will Muschamp and LSU. Muschamp started out as a linebackers coach under Nick Saban in 2001 and quickly moved up to defensive coordinator in 2002. His defense led the nation in scoring defense at 11 points per game and total defense, giving up 252 yards per game, in 2003 when the Bayou Bengals took home the BCS National Championship. He followed Saban after 2004 when Saban left for the NFL to coach the Miami Dolphins.
Louisiana State University, located in Baton Rouge, was founded in 1860. Nicknamed the Tigers, LSU is the only team from the SEC’s West division to play Florida every season. The Gators and Tigers will meet for the 58th time with Florida holding a 30-24-3 advantage over LSU. Florida also holds a 16-13 advantage in Baton Rouge. The Gators and Tigers have combined to win three out of the last five BCS National Championships and over the past ten years, the series is split with each team winning five games. Les Miles is in his seventh year as head coach of the Bayou Bengals and holds a 67-17 record overall, with a 3-3 record against the Gators. Louisiana State has won ten SEC Championships and three National Championships, both most recently being in 2007. LSU is 5-0 on the season with wins against Oregon, Northwestern State, Mississippi State, West Virginia, and Kentucky.
The offense certainly isn’t the strength of this team, however they do get a playmaker back in quarterback Jordan Jefferson. But so far this season, Jarrett Lee has managed the Tiger offense perfectly, not making mistakes, but moving the ball down the field when needed. Lee has thrown for 793 yards, seven touchdowns, and only one interception. His favorite targets are true freshman wide receiver Odell Beckam Jr. with 20 catches for 268 yards and two touchdowns and WR Rueben Randle with 19 catches for 319 yards and three scores. The strength of this offense is it’s running game. LSU’s trio of running backs, sophomores Spencer Ware, Michael Ford, and Alfred Blue, have carried this offense so Lee doesn’t have to. Ware has rushed for 323 yards and 3 touchdowns, Ford has 322 yards and six TDs, and Blue has 148 yards and three touchdowns. Overall, the Bayou Bengals score 38 points per game while rushing for 172.6 yards per game and passing for 177 yards per game for a total of 349.6 yards per game.
This is the strength of the LSU team. It seems year after year the Tigers put together a swarming defense, ready to pounce if you let them. This group is no different, led by self proclaimed “Honey Badger” cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu is a ball hawk, scoring two touchdowns on fumbles, and leading the Tigers with 35 tackels, four tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, one and a half sacks, and one interception. Only a sophomore, Mathieu has caused nine forced fumbles in his career, the most in LSU history. Other defensive studs are defensive end Sam Montgomery with 18 tackles, four and half tackles for loss, and two sacks, CB Tharold Simon with 27 tackles, 6 passes broken up, and one interception, and defensive tackle Bennie Logan with 19 tackles and four and half tackles for loss. LSU is holding opponents to 12.8 points per game, 60.4 rushing yards per game, 201.8 passing yards per game, for a total of 262.2 total yards per game.
Once again, Florida and LSU look like the same team on paper. Strong defenses, strong running games, and quarterbacks that manage the game. Unfortunately for the Gators, their QB will be on the sidelines and a true freshman will be making his first start in a hostile environment. LSU should be able to force Driskel to make some bad decisions and get pressure on him. The upside of having Driskel as the QB is he can evade tacklers with his feet. But in reality, this Tiger defense is too strong and Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps could be looking at another tough afternoon. And LSU’s defense will score some points.
LSU 28, Florida 7
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