Florida vs. LSU: Gators' Upset Bid Hinges on Front Seven

Allison Banko@@allisonbankoFeatured ColumnistOctober 10, 2013

Sep 21, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy (15) works out prior to the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Last go 'round, the Gators wanted to bring the hurt.

UF sought to avenge its 30-point 2011 loss to LSU, driving the Gators to a 14-6 upset over the then-No. 4 Tigers in the roars of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

"We wanted to hurt them," Dominique Easley told reporters following last season's win. "We wanted them to feel the pain that we felt last year. We had hurt in our heart, so we wanted them to feel the same thing." (Associated Press, Article by Mark Long)  

Florida's defense secured the upset then, and they're equipped to do it again in Death Valley on Saturday. 

UF is currently dominating the SEC in defense, freezing opponents to an average of 12.2 points and 217 yards per game. The Gators are elite in rushing defense, reigning at No. 2 in the nation and first in the conference, allowing an average of 65 yards a contest. Perhaps most impressively, Florida's defense hasn't allowed more than 20 points in 12 straight SEC games.

STARKVILLE, MS - OCTOBER 05:  Jeremy Hill #33 of the LSU Tigers rushes for a touchdown against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during a game at Davis Wade Stadium on October 5, 2013 in Starkville, Mississippi.  LSU won the game 59-26.  (Photo by Stacy Reve
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

UF head coach Will Muschamp at his press conference Monday (via GatorZone.com):

We've recruited well. We do a good job at developing our guys, whether it's in the strength program, whether it's coaching or whether it's practicing the right way...You take good talent and then guys are willing to have that blue-collar mentality and work hard at it and come together for a common purpose. You can do some good things and it's probably a good mixture of all those things combined.

LSU, on the other hand, is leading the SEC in total offensive TDs (35) and total offensive yards (averaging 488.8 per game). But Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger and his offense haven't yet been faced with what the Gators bring to the table this season.

The Gators have the tools to stop LSU running back Jeremy Hill (No. 2 in the country with 9 rushing TDs) which will force Mettenberger to deliver through the air against the most elite secondary he's seen all year. While the senior QB sits at SEC Offensive Player of the Week and leads the conference in pass efficiency at 190.1 rating, Florida's secondary is a huge hurdle he'll have to overcome to bag a win Saturday.

Mettenberger had a career high in passing performance against Georgia with 372 yards earlier this season, but he won't be able to easily dissect SEC Defensive Player of the Week Loucheiz Purifoy and Co. Purifoy notched the most impressive game of his career last week against Arkansas by returning his first career interception for a touchdown, completing four tackles, one sack, three pass breakups and a forced fumble.

Freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III is proving to be no picnic for opponents, either. On top of leading the Gators in interceptions with three, he's tied in the SEC for passes defended, averaging 1.6 per game.

If the Gators want upset the Tigers, UF's front seven must bring it harder than they ever have if they want to successfully out-muscle the Top 10 Tigers.