The well-rested No. 10 Florida Gators will play host to the fourth-ranked LSU Tigers in a key SEC showdown on Saturday.
Florida head coach Will Muschamp has imposed his defensive philosophy to spark the Gators to a hot, 5-0 start. The Gator defense allows just 12.8 points per game, which ranks 10th in the nation. LSU, meanwhile, hasn't played a high level of competition in recent weeks, and certainly face a stiff test in The Swamp.
Before the season began, this would be viewed as a severe mismatch. Thanks to multiple Tiger starters falling by the wayside, though, this should be one of the best games of the college football slate to date.
Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL
When: 3:30 p.m. ET. October 6, 2012
Listen: Florida: GatorVision
LSU: WNXX-FM 104.5 (ESPN Baton Rouge)
Live Stream: CBSSports.com
Betting Line (via OddsShark): LSU -2.5
LSU Injury Report
RB Alfred Blue (Out)— It seems the powerful Tigers back will be out for an extended period due to the knee injury suffered against Idaho over two weeks ago. The ground game has been fairly productive without him, but Blue's 6.8 yards per carry average is easily the best on the team.
Florida Injury Report
OL Chaz Green (Questionable)—A sprained ankle has kept Green out of the previous two contests, but it's possible that he will play on Saturday.
OL Matt Patchan (Questionable)— The redshirt junior was projected to start at right tackle, but has yet to play this season due to a nagging pectoral injury from preseason practice.
DL Dominique Easley (Questionable)—Easley was out for the Kentucky game, and his status for Saturday's contest remains up in the air.
(Note: Injury information found via USA TODAY)
BCS/Top-25 Poll Implications
This marquee matchup is a make or break game for both teams in terms of national championship hopes. While LSU's title hopes wouldn't necessarily be dashed with a loss in such a hostile environment, a victory would help momentum immensely since they host No. 6 South Carolina next week.
Meanwhile, most of the tough games left on Florida's schedule are at home, but it will be crucial to beat a quality opponent on their home turf.
What They're Saying
According to a report by Robbie Andreu of the Herald-Tribune, Muschamp feels that his team will be nearly at full strength coming off the bye week.
Chaz Green, Dominique Easley, Trey Burton and Jordan Reed should be fine for LSU, I think, based on the information I have.
That's great news, especially because Burton had a sudden case of back spasms ahead of the Kentucky game, and played such a key role in the road victory over Tennessee.
Glenn Guilbeau of Gannett Louisiana notes that the 41-3 LSU victory over Washington looks much stronger considering the Huskies upset the fifth-ranked Stanford Cardinal. Still, the victory over Towson last week was far from convincing, and facing the Gators will determine just how good this Tiger team is.
LSU Player to Watch: QB Zach Mettenberger
In order for the Tigers to get a road victory against an SEC rival, Mettenberger must make more plays in the passing game.
The absence of Blue definitely hurts the rushing attack, and the Tigers are unlikely to approach their 230-yard average on the ground against a stout Gator defense. It will likely boil down to whether Mettenberger can continue avoiding mistakes and account for at least one touchdown with his arm.
Florida Player to Watch: TE Jordan Reed
With a team-high 16 receptions, Reed has become the favorite target of first-year starting signal-caller Jeff Driskel. Two weeks ago, Reed took a vicious, sandwiched hit from two Kentucky players, and also injured his shoulder later on. He creates mismatches, and how healthy he is will determine how much he factors into the game plan
It may be strange to say "Defense vs. Defense," but this should be a low-scoring affair. Both squads rank neck and neck in terms of points allowed, but both offenses are based around the run. The secondaries will loom large, because whoever succeeds more at limiting big plays in the passing game will likely win this one.
The Gators have already rattled off three conference wins, while LSU's lone victory came in a 12-10 grinder against Auburn. Last year's 41-11 defeat surely lurks in the minds of the returning Florida players, and vengeance should play a factor at home.
Florida has the slight edge at quarterback thanks to the dual-threat of Driskel, and LSU will feel the loss of Blue against better competition.
Florida 14, LSU 11