LSU and Florida face off this weekend in the Swamp in Gainesville in a game that will either establish Florida as a legitimate national championship contender or affirm LSU's top-five ranking, which looks shaky after remarkably average performances versus Auburn and the FCS Towson.
The key to the game may rest with the quarterbacks, both of whom have posted unblemished records in their first seasons as starters in the SEC.
Zach Mettenberger was supposed to be the cure to the Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee blues. The former Georgia Bulldog and junior college transfer came to Baton Rouge with the reputation of having a big arm and the ability to stretch the field.
Instead, he's looked more like the sequel to the Jefferson/Lee debacle.
Mettenberger currently ranks eighth in the SEC in yards per game (203.2), ninth in touchdown passes (6) and seventh in completion percentage (65.5), and has been sacked 11 times.
He has fumbled three times in the last two games, losing all three. For perspective, Jefferson, who was a dual-threat weapon, only fumbled six times in 10 games last season.
It's Mettenberger's inconsistencies that force me to give the edge at quarterback to Florida sophomore signal-caller Jeff Driskel.
Statistically, Driskel hasn't been great.
He's averaging 174.5 yards per game, has tossed four touchdowns and has been sacked 12 times, eight of which were against Texas A&M in Week 2.
But he is completing 69.6 percent of his passes, hasn't lost a fumble all season and seems to have learned from his mistakes versus the Aggies and isn't taking as many sacks now. He's also added 148 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown.
It's more than stats, though.
Driskel has proven that he can be a successful game manager but also proved that he can be a difference-maker.
On the road at Tennessee, he made several big throws in the win over the Vols. He hit Solomon Patton down the sideline for 17 yards late in the second quarter to set up a field goal and then hit tight end Jordan Reed near the end of the third quarter for the go-ahead touchdown with a pass that some NFL quarterbacks couldn't make.
The bottom line is that Driskel has proven during the first month of the season that he's more dependable than Mettenberger, and he'd done it on the road against SEC rivals.
Both of these teams match up well. They run the ball, play defense and win games in the second half. Because of that, this game will probably come down to the final five minutes and could come down to a key turnover.
Because of that, I give the edge to Driskel and the Gators.
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