Game preview: Florida vs. LSU

October, 5, 2012
10/05/12
8:00
AM ET
No. 4 LSU (5-0, 1-0 SEC) at No. 10 Florida (4-0, 3-0 SEC)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Florida Field, Gainesville, Fla.
CBS

Three storylines

1. Measuring stick: Has Florida narrowed the gap between where the program has been the past two seasons and the SEC’s elite teams? This game will give us the answer. LSU has one of the league’s top running games and one of the nation’s top defenses. UF’s offensive line has a lot to prove, too. For months we’ve heard that it is tougher and stronger, but if it gets handled the way it did last season we’ll know that nothing has changed.

[+] EnlargeJeff Driskel
Jim Brown/US PresswireJeff Driskel can expect a lot of heat from LSU's front line on Saturday.
2. Pressure on the QBs: Both teams have a young QB in his first season as a starter, and the best defense against an inexperienced QB is to bring a lot of pressure. LSU will try to do it with just its formidable front four, particularly DEs Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery. UF is going to try to take advantage of LSU’s weak spot at left tackle (Chris Faulk is out for the year, and Alex Hurst and Josh Dworaczyk have struggled). LSU QB Zach Mettenberger has looked shaky and has committed five turnovers. Florida QB Jeff Driskel has been efficient and has steadily improved in his three starts.

3. Tricky: UF has gotten burned by a fake field goal and a fake punt against LSU in the past two seasons. LSU coach Les Miles hasn’t attempted a fake this season, but he earned the nickname "the Mad Hatter" for a reason. The first time the Tigers line up to punt, expect UF to be especially vigilant. Getting faked out three years in a row would be embarrassing.

Gators to watch

RB/FB Trey Burton: He had a big game against Tennessee but missed the Kentucky game with back spasms. Expect him to have a significant role in the offense against LSU if he’s completely healthy. He’ll play in the Wildcat and will be a factor in the passing game.

LB Jelani Jenkins: He will be playing his first game since he suffered a fractured right thumb Sept. 8 against Texas A&M. He’s going to play in a cast. Jenkins might not play as many snaps because of his conditioning, but UF coach Will Muschamp said the linebacker will have no limitations on when he will play.

WR Quinton Dunbar: UF is going to need to make some plays in the passing game, and Dunbar has started to emerge as a dependable target. He has had at least three catches in all but one game so far this season and caught a touchdown pass against Kentucky.

Tigers to watch

RB Kenny Hilliard: The 6-foot, 231-pound sophomore is a bruising runner who leads the Tigers in rushing (366 yards). He has already rushed for six touchdowns and is averaging 6.9 yards per carry.

WR Odell Beckham: Beckham is averaging 17.9 yards per catch (16 catches for 286 yards) and is LSU’s best downfield threat. He caught five passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns against Towson.

FS Eric Reid: Reid is one of the nation’s top safeties and he has amassed 26 tackles, one interception and three pass breakups. He’s the most experienced player in a young secondary.

Key matchup

Florida LTs Xavier Nixon and D.J. Humphries vs. LSU DE Sam Montgomery: Nixon has struggled this season and was benched for the second half of the Kentucky game for Humphries, a true freshman who enrolled in January. Even if Nixon starts, Humphries will be on the field a lot. They draw a tough task in Montgomery, an All-American who has 26 tackles for loss and 13 sacks in his career.

By the numbers

4 -- Number of times both teams have been ranked in the top 10 at game time (2012, 2009, 2007 and 2006). UF won two of those games (2006, 2009).

7 -- Consecutive victories for LSU over SEC Eastern Division teams. The last time the Tigers lost to an East team was 2009, to Florida (13-3 in Baton Rouge, La.)

16 -- Victories for LSU in the 17 games with Les Miles in which the Tigers have scored a special teams touchdown.

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter

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