LSU vs. Florida: Compelling QB Matchup Will Swing Key SEC Battle

Tim KeeneyContributor IOctober 12, 2013

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 28: Zach Mettenberger #8 of the LSU Tigers passes against the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on September 28, 2013 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

This is not your grandaddy's SEC. 

While Florida and LSU tend to have a knack for churning out old-school SEC battles—14-6 last year, 13-3 in 2009—Saturday's contest is shaping up to be more of a modern tilt. 

While vintage SEC play is typically epitomized by defense, running the ball up the gut and hard-nosed, punch-you-in-the-mouth, good ol' physical football, Saturday's contest from Tiger Stadium will surround a couple of quarterbacks on the rise leading two potentially explosive offenses. 

We'll start with the "veteran" of the duo in Zach Mettenberger. 

The 6'5", 230-pound gunslinger was nothing more than a game-manager in his first full year as a starter in 2012. He completed just 58.8 percent of his throws for 2,609 yards (7.4 per attempt), 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

But the hiring of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron from the Baltimore Ravens has resulted in nothing less than a complete 180 for Mettenberger and the Tigers. 

Cameron has completely opened up the offense, and as a result, the senior QB has been more accurate (68.2 percent completion rate), more explosive (11.1 yards per attempt) and better at sustaining drives (15-to-2 TD-to-INT ratio). 

His QB rating of 190.1 is fourth in America.

Of course, while Cameron has resurrected Mettenberger and the LSU offense, having two stud receivers tends to help, too.

Odell Beckham is fifth in the NCAA in receiving yards (686) and first in kickoff return yards (476), while Jarvis Landry has already surpassed his stats from last year with 616 receiving yard and seven scores. 

The pair of juniors are supremely talented in several facets of the game and both have the look of future NFL players. 

While Mettenberger, Beckham and Landry have combined with Cameron to form one of the nation's most explosive offenses (488.8 yards and 45.5 points per contest), however, they haven't faced a defense like Florida's. 

The Gators allow just 217.0 yards per game (second lowest in the nation) and boast a secondarycornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Robinson and true freshman Vernon Hargreaves III, who may already be the best of the trio, are super talented—capable of slowing down LSU's weapons. 

On the other side of the ball, Tyler Murphy has been a revelation for Florida.

Since filling in for Jeff Driskel after the latter suffered a season-ending broken leg, the junior has completely transformed this offense, completing 72.2 percent of his throws for 530 yards, five touchdowns and just one interception.

In addition to the 181.5 QB rating, he has made plays with his legs, tallying 135 rushing yards and two scores on just 24 carries. 

Oct 5, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy (3) scrambles out of the pocket away from defender Arkansas Razorbacks linebacker Jarrett Lake (39) during the first half of the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit:
Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

With Driskel under center, the Gators scored 24 points against Toledo and just 16 in a loss to Miami. 

Murphy has led a more dynamic offense to 31, 24 and 30 against Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas, three SEC opponents. 

A year ago, Driskel and a Cam Cameron-less Mettenberger combined for 219 passing yards and a total QBR of 39.1.

This year, a Driskel's replacement and a new-and-improved Mettenberger should both easily reach those numbers in what will be a scintillating, back-and-forth, new-school SEC battle.