When Florida and LSU square off on Saturday they will present wildly different styles. Not to be cliche, but this is one of those irresistible force/immovable object situations.
LSU is averaging 45 points, and a whopping 489 yards per game. After going for so many seasons without adequate quarterback play, Les Miles has a stud in Zach Mettenberger. The senior signal caller has already thrown for over 1,700 yards and 15 touchdowns. In their last two games, LSU has scored a combined 100 points.
Conversely, the Gators arguably boast the best defense in all of college football. They have held 12-straight SEC opponents under 20 points. As a reference point, the next longest streak is Alabama at one game. The Gators simply do not allow opponents into the end zone. Even in garbage time against Arkansas, they refused to let the Hogs score.
So where does this leave us, aside from watching a good game? There’s an axiom in sports that says offense wins games, but defense wins championships. That’s where I see this one going.
This game will boil down to Mettenberger making good decisions. He was hit-or-miss last year, but has been nearly flawless this season under the direction of Cam Cameron. Florida will test Mettenberger’s maturation. He knows that any errant throw may not just get picked, but also returned for a touchdown. He’ll also be looking over his shoulder the entire time. Florida’s defense tends to start slowly, but once rolling, they are a juggernaut.
It’s fair to question Florida’s offense against Chavis’ normally stout defense. In the weeks since Tyler Murphy has taken over, Florida’s offense has come to life. Brent Pease and Joker Phillips have seen their passing game come around. But, the thing is, Florida’s best offense is on it’s defensive side of the ball. All UF’s offense has to do is minimize errors and let the defense do the rest.
The kicker in this game is Les Miles. Games like this, with strange match-ups, tend to hinge on a few strategic plays. Les is known as the Mad Hatter for good reason, the guy is a savant. Will Muschamp is a disciple of Nick Saban and Mack Brown. He plays straightforward, conservative football. Considering Miles plays an avant-garde style of ball late in the game, his system messes up formulaic coaches. If the game is close, watch out for Leslie.
SEC teams have been pumping out instant classics every week this season. LSU-UF has the potential to be this week’s candidate. The best quarterback in the SEC, statistically speaking, faces the conference’s best defense. If you’re up in the air on who to pick, consider this tidbit: Florida’s best player is Vernon Hargreaves III, and he’s not even a starter.