Improved Zach Mettenberger Gives LSU Tigers an Edge vs Florida Gators

By Tyler Brett
zach mettenberger
Daniel Shirey – USA TODAY Sports

The LSU Tigers are on a roll offensively to start 2013. After a disappointing 2012 season offensively, where the Tigers averaged just 374.2 yards per game and 29.8 points per game to rank in the bottom half of the SEC, LSU is firing on all cylinders. Through six games, Les Miles has his team averaging 488.8 yards and 45.5 points per game. The biggest difference has been the night-and-day transformation of quarterback Zach Mettenberger whose big play ability gives LSU an edge when they welcome the Florida Gators to Death Valley on Saturday.

If you asked most people about the NFL future of Mettenberger in 2012, they would have replied, “What future?” As a junior, Mettenberger struggled to consistently lead LSU’s offense and finished the season completing less than 60 percent of his passes for 2,609 yards with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He was clearly overmatched by the Florida defense last season in Gainesville and the LSU offense limped to a six-point effort on a pair of field goals as they gained just 200 yards and eight first downs while turning the ball over three times.

This season, Mettenberger is a whole new quarterback under center. Through six games, he’s already thrown for 1,738 yards and 15 touchdowns (3 more than his entire 2012 output) with only two interceptions. He’s completing nearly 70 percent of his throws and is attacking down the field with a college football-leading 35 passes of 20-yards or more. He has been his best in SEC play, completing 70.5 percent of his throws with six touchdowns and averaging 313.7 yards per game against conference foes.

He’s been helped out by the emergence of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry at wide receiver who each have over 600 yards receiving on the year and rank as the No. 3 and No. 4 pass catchers in the SEC, respectively. New offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has found a way to get that raw ability that made Mettenberger a highly regarded prospect and turn it into production on the field. This is the quarterback that LSU fans have been waiting to see and he is delivering in a major way this season.

On Saturday, he’ll face his toughest test of the season against a Florida defense that ranks among the best in the country. Their secondary is athletic and physical and can create turnovers as well as anyone in the country. Will Muschamp will have his front ready to get after Mettenberger and create havoc for the quarterback, much like they did last season, to try and force him into some bad decisions with the football. It will be a good test to see how much of roll this LSU offense is on as they come crashing into the defense of Florida on Saturday.

Mettenberger looks like a completely different quarterback than the one who got harassed and flustered against Florida last season but we’ll see just how different he is in Baton Rouge this weekend. Will his transformation stick and allow the senior quarterback to keep his team on track for a trip to Atlanta for the SEC title game?

Join Kris Hughes and Tyler Brett for even more analysis of the Florida/LSU matchup live on the Google + College Football Pregame Rant this Saturday at 8:30 am PST/11:30 EST live online! We’ll be picking two fans — one from each team — to tell us why their team will win and add to a lively discussion on what we see as each team’s keys to victory. Join us!

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