LSU remains undefeated but has started to slide down the rankings, to No. 4, due to a couple of lackluster showings in its last two games. Therefore, the Tigers need to make a major statement with a victory over the fellow unbeaten and 10th-ranked Florida Gators on Saturday.
The schedule is about to get a lot tougher for the Tigers. This week's game starts a run of four ranked opponents in five games, with the only exception being a road trip to Texas A&M. If they don't improve, they won't remain undefeated for much longer.
Florida already has a win over a ranked team under its belt, knocking off Tennessee on the road. The Gators should also be well rested after enjoying a bye week, which means they should be pretty close to full strength for the high-profile clash.
It should be a terrific game that goes right down to the final possession. Let's look at all the viewing information for Saturday followed by predictions as the two SEC powerhouses face off.
Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.
When: Saturday, Oct. 6 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: CBSSports.com
Spread: LSU -2.5 (Vegas Insider)
It's an interesting spread. Given LSU's subpar performances in recent weeks, and Florida's home-field advantage, an even game would have seemed appropriate. Yet, it seems like the oddsmakers opted to put some stock in the Tigers' track record.
Since it should be a one-possession game, making a pick comes down to deciding which team will handle the pressure the best. That's why I lean toward the Tigers here. They have more big-game experience than the current group of Gators.
The unsatisfying victories also played right into the hands of LSU head coach Les Miles. He can use those games to help his team understand where it needs to improve while still remaining in the national title hunt. He'll have them ready to roll from the opening whistle.
Over/Under: 42.5 (Vegas Insider)
A team can't survive the SEC grind without a rock-solid defense. Both of these teams have one, which is the main reason they enter this game without a loss, despite some inconsistent offensive play. The Tigers and Gators can both get big stops when they need them.
LSU ranks ninth in the nation in scoring defense, while Florida checks in right behind in 10th. Whichever unit makes more key plays in the second half will help lead its team to victory, and should also mean the game stays under the line.
The SEC has once again established itself as the nation's top conference. Once the dust settles, the best defense will likely emerge as the champion. Saturday's game should illustrate that.
Key Injuries (via USA Today)
LSU: Alfred Blue (out, knee), Travin Dural (out, knee) and Jordan Allen (out, knee)
Florida: Matt Patchan (questionable, pectoral), Chaz Green (probable, ankle) and Dominique Easley (probable, knee)
Top 25 Poll Implications
LSU beat Auburn and Towson by a combined 18 points over the last two weeks. That's simply not good enough to maintain a top-two spot in the rankings with so many other teams playing well. The Tigers have to start winning in more convincing fashion.
On the other hand, Florida has a chance to make a big jump in the polls with a win. The Gators have been moving up steadily over the first month, but this is their first chance to really make a gigantic national impact.
All told, a victory should move LSU up at least one spot and maybe even back to No. 2. Florida has a chance to crack the Top Five. It's a critical game for both sides.
Keys to LSU Win
Kenny Hilliard will be the most important player on the field for LSU. Since Alfred Blue is sidelined, the onus will be on Hilliard to grind out yards on the ground early to take pressure off quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who is making his biggest start to date.
If the Tigers can make an impact with the running game in the first quarter, it will open space down the field for Odell Beckham and Kadron Boone. LSU can't allow Florida to stop the run without putting extra players in the box.
On defense, the Tigers have to put a lot of heat on Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel on third down. It's no secret Florida is going to run early and often, but if LSU can get off the field on third down, it will be in good shape.
Keys to Florida Win
Unpredictable play-calling is vital in order for Florida to pull off the minor upset. If the Gators simply run on the early downs and restrict passing, LSU's defense will find a rhythm and have no trouble shutting them down.
Florida has to keep the Tigers honest with some first-down throws and play-action passes to take advantage of what's going to be an aggressive defense. Even one big play early will be enough to slow the LSU defense's attack.
The Gators' biggest defensive key will be stopping LSU's playmakers from breaking the game open. The one area in which the Tigers offense has been reliable is in making game-changing plays, including several long TDs. Florida can't afford for that to happen on Saturday.
LSU 21, Florida 17
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