LSU Tigers vs. Florida Gators Complete Game Preview
LSU against Florida is the SEC's best permanent cross-divisional rivalry. The game is also the center of controversy.
LSU head coach Les Miles has been vocal in his disdain of the permanent cross-divisional rival in the SEC. Miles says it is unfair LSU and Florida must play every season, while other SEC powerhouses have more favorable matchups.
The game is a must-watch with heavy BCS implications. Both LSU and Florida are one-loss teams fresh off a conference victory last week against Mississippi State and Arkansas, respectfully. LSU is looking to avenge its 14-6 loss last season in Gainesville.
Here's everything you need to know:
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET, 2:30 p.m. CT
Place: Tiger Stadium; Baton Rouge, La.
Spread: LSU by seven, via Scores and Odds
LSU Keys to Victory
Be Efficient in the Red Zone
LSU's inability to punch the ball into the end zone was the deciding factor in last year's 14-6 loss. The Tigers reached the red zone twice, but had to settle for field goals both times. Florida's two trips in the red zone resulted in touchdowns.
But the struggle not only applies to the LSU offense but defense as well. The Tigers need to force the Gators to kick field goals.
LSU leads the conference in red zone efficiency as quarterback Zach Mettenberger has become a better decision maker. The stingy Gators defense leads the conference in red zone defense.
The Gators offense is last in red zone efficiency, while the LSU defense ranks 12th of out 14 teams in the SEC.
Whoever can score touchdowns instead of settling for field goals will win the game.
Run the Football
Jeremy Hill was not yet a factor of the LSU offense when the Tigers played the Gators last season. Hill only got eight yards on two carries.
LSU could not get Hill going against the 3-4 front of Georgia earlier this season. The LSU offense struggled with communication, thus the Tigers only gained 77 yards on the ground.
Florida plays a more complicated 3-4 with better athletes. If Hill can gash the Gators for one of his patented big runs, then LSU's chances of winning grows exponentially.
Florida Keys to Victory
Keep Offense Simple
Offensive coordinator Brent Pease has done a great job of calling plays for his new quarterback Tyler Murphy. Murphy took over the starting duties when Jeff Driskel suffered a season-ending leg injury.
Pease called a wide variety of plays when the Tigers began to wear down last season in the "Swamp." It involved simple misdirection runs with wide receiver motion, which confused the LSU defense. Florida scored their second touchdown against LSU using this philosophy.
The "Bayou Bengals" have not stopped anybody in the SEC this season. Pease must instruct Murphy to not help the opposition with interceptions.
LSU struggled defensively last week when Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott used his speed for backbreaking scrambles. Pease should instruct Murphy to tuck and run if he sees a lane open up.
Win Special Teams
The last time Florida played in Baton Rouge, the Gators allowed LSU punter Brad Wing to execute a fake punt that ignited Tiger Stadium. Miles always loves to open up his bag of tricks at home in big games.
The Gators have to stay disciplined on coverage units, not only for fakes but the dangerous returner Odell Beckham Jr.
Florida also lost the reliable Caleb Sturgis to the Miami Dophins. They have had a revolving door at kicker with Austin Hardin and Brad Phillips.
Players to Watch for LSU
LSU's Third Receiver
Star receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and a gimpy Jarvis Landry will face their toughest test yet against a talented Florida secondary.
When Georgia doubled LSU's Beckham Jr. and Landry, Mettenberger did a great job of finding Kadron Boone for two early touchdowns. Last week, Mettenberger found Travin Dural for a critical first down against Mississippi State on 3rd-and-long.
Florida will have some success against Beckham Jr. and Landry. Last season, the Gators only allowed two LSU receivers to catch passes.
If Boone, Dural or one of LSU's tight ends can step up, the Tigers' chances of success through the air grows exponentially.
Senior linebacker Lamin Barrow was given the coveted No. 18 uniform before the season began. But he has looked slow and has missed tackles he normally made last year.
Florida will pound the rock against the Tigers with the massive running back duo of Mack Brown and Matt Jones. Barrow should have a field day as the game caters to his skill set.
Kevin Minter put his name on the map with 20 tackles against the Gators last season. Barrow should have his most productive tackling performance in conference play much like Minter.
Florida Players to Watch
Vernon Hargreaves and Loucheiz Purifoy
Florida cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves and Loucheiz Purifoy against LSU wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry could be the head-to-head positional matchup of the year in college football.
Hargreaves and Purifoy is college football's most talented duo of corners in the country. Beckham Jr. and Landry are the only receiving duo who both rank in the Top 10 nationally in receiving yards.
Hargreaves is the best freshman in the country. Purifoy returned an interception for a touchdown last week against Arkansas.
SEC football is at its best when future NFL players face each other. In this case, all four will be playing on Sunday in the near future.
Quarterback Tyler Murphy does not need to win the game for the Gators—just do not lose it.
Murphy has shown some savvy as the starting quarterback, especially taking over the reins during conference play. LSU will be his biggest test, yet, on Saturday.
The Tigers will play plenty of zone coverage and be safe in their pass-rushing lanes, forcing Murphy to read defenses instead of scrambling for huge gains. He must stay patient and not force anything.
Murphy has been aided by the emergence of receiver Solomon Patton. Murphy should find Patton against a porous LSU secondary.
What They Are Saying
Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease says he is pleased with the progression of quarterback Tyler Murphy, per Richard Johnson of Gator Country:
He’s keeping us on the field, keeping us in good down-and-distance situations. Knowing who to get the ball to at times. Hey, making a play with his feet. Knowing when to stay in bounds, knowing when to get out-of-bounds and protect himself.
[Tyler Murphy] is a guy who is very athletic and can throw the football. They run a number of wide reverses and fake reverses. … It’s an offense that’s diverse. He plays smart and does what the coaches ask him to do.
Florida head coach Will Muschamp says his No. 1 SEC defense has achieved their success because everybody is playing their roles effectively, per Edgar Thompson of The Orlando Sentinel:
Anytime you want to be good defensively, No. 1, you’d better be into tackling. Then, from there, you need to be able to be multiple enough to play man and zone concepts and pick times to pressure.
We’ve been able to rush four guys. Any time you’re able to rush four guys and generate pressure and affect the quarterback, it’s gonna give you a chance to be pretty successful defensively.
You can’t make a living pressuring all the time and bringing five and six guys. Eventually, good teams are gonna be able to go outside and win against you.
There might be a record for ice baths when the final whistle blows in Tiger Stadium on Saturday. The game will feature a fair share of hard hits typical of a LSU game.
LSU and Florida has been an excellent yearly rivalry in college football. While Florida leads the all-time series, the Gators and Tigers have each won six of the last 12.
Florida lost their best defensive lineman to injury weeks ago, in Dominique Easley. But the Gators still boast a fierce front without him. The LSU offensive line has struggled, blocking the bull rush, something the Gators do well.
Usually when two teams of equal talent play, the team with superior line play wins. Florida has a slight edge in the trenches on both the offensive and defensive line.
Mettenberger will have some struggles against Florida. He has benefited from his receivers, creating massive separation against defensive backs. Beckham Jr. and Landry will not be as dominant against the best corners they have faced since TCU.
With that said, Florida has not faced a offense as talented as LSU. Young quarterbacks rarely survive in Tiger Stadium, so expect LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis to confuse Tyler Murphy.
The game will be uglier than people think. Jeremy Hill will rush for a rough 95 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns, as the Tigers win a close one to keep their BCS hopes alive.
LSU 24, Florida 21