The Gators’ loss came out of conference, but if the reptiles have any chance of overtaking Georgia in the SEC East, they have to hunt down a Tiger in its own backyard Saturday night. That is going to be a lot easier said than done. Florida’s defense is arguably the best not only in the SEC, but in the nation.
We will see exactly how formidable the Gators’ defensive unit is, as their will be tested by the balanced air and ground assault of a revamped LSU Tigers offense that even the most ardent LSU supporter still is bewildered by.
Florida’s defensive backs and defensive line are the strengths and thus the keys for the Gators. The secondary was blown away in Miami by a surprising hurricane that gave them their only loss of the season. The reptiles have since rebounded to impose their will on lesser opponents, running off several games in a row.
Florida has outlasted foes in slug-fest games, but they have also not faced anyone close to possessing the artillery they will see Saturday afternoon in Baton Rouge.
The physical dominance of the Florida defensive line will put LSU’s shaky-at-times offensive line in a precarious place most of the night. If LSU can protect Zach Mettenberger and give him the time he needs to throw the football, this will also limit how the Gators defensive coverage can be played. A hot Mettenberger opens up a lot of option and ultimately spells trouble for Florida.
Key no.1: Can the LSU offensive line protect Mettenberger and give him time to throw the ball?
Look for Mettenberger to throw earlier as LSU can ill afford to get into numerous third-and-long situations and expect success.
Florida has been exceptional against the run this year. The question for the Gators is can they do that against an elite back like Jeremy Hill? Georgia stacked the line of scrimmage and effectively sold out to stop the LSU ground game. That strategy paid off, but the talented LSU receiving corps made the Dogs pay and pay big all afternoon.
Don’t look for Florida to go with the same game plan. If the Gators can make this one a low scoring grind it out game that should be to their advantage. Look early for Florida to see if Hill can beat them and for the Gators to focus on shutting down the aerial assault.
Key no. 2: Can Hill and company do enough damage on the ground (especially early) to make Will Muschamp make adjustments to curtail the run, and by doing so opening up the passing lanes?
The LSU defense was incinerated a couple weeks ago by Aaron Murray and Georgia. It was something that the Tigers were not accustomed to. Mississippi State also had their way with the young Tigers defense in the first half last week and was then effectively shut out in the second. Florida does have some offensive weapons and are probably on par with Mississippi State, if not better.
Key no. 3: Who will be able to impose their will on the game more effectively, Florida’s offense or LSU?
The Gators are swimming into Baton Rouge with a new and unproven quarterback at the helm. Death Valley is not known for being hospitable or for being a proving ground for aspiring players. The winner of the game may likely rest on this key.