Saturday, October 12, 2013
LSU marks Florida's biggest test yet
By Edward Aschoff
Today is the day we learn a lot about Florida. We'll see just how good the nation's No. 2 defense is, and we'll find out if Tyler Murphy is the real deal.
When the 17th-ranked Gators (4-1, 3-0 SEC) run out into Tiger Stadium later today to face No. 10 LSU (5-1, 2-1 SEC), they'll do so with a team still fighting to make its way to Atlanta for the SEC championship game. Right now, many view Florida as a defensive team, but with the Tigers giving up 367 yards and almost 25 points a game, this could be a chance for Florida to wrangle up some points.
But can the Gators do it inside Tiger Stadium against a defense looking to rebound after giving up 41 and 26 points in consecutive games? If Florida is going to upset the Tigers, Murphy has to stay upright, and the offense can't turn the ball over. He has been very efficient throwing the ball so far, completing more than 70 percent of his passes and registering a QBR of 96.5 running the offense. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Gators have 10 touchdowns on 32 drives led by Murphy; they had only five touchdowns on Jeff Driskel's 28 drives.
What will help Murphy is a solid running game. The Gators didn't establish much of one against Arkansas, but Murphy still was able to throw for 230 yards and three touchdowns. LSU's defense was gutted by Georgia's running game early, so that should make Florida feel pretty good.
And keeping the ball away from LSU's offense will be key. The Tigers sport one of SEC's best offenses and might have the most balanced attack with Zach Mettenberger and Jeremy Hill. LSU is averaging 488.8 yards per game, and Mettenberger has thrown for a league-high 1,738 yards and 15 touchdowns. Hill is averaging 118 rushing yards per game.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Florida's defense hasn’t allowed a passing touchdown in its last two games or a regular season opponent to reach a QBR of 60 in its last 15 games. In five games this season, no team has reached a QBR of 30 or passed for at least 170 yards against the Gators. Florida has allowed the lowest Total QBR (13.0) of any defense, and its opponents are completing 46 percent of their passes. Florida's biggest strength has been the secondary, as opponents have completed 21 percent of their passes thrown 15 yards or longer, the third-lowest completion percentage of any AQ conference defense.
If Florida is going to show the SEC that it's for real, it'll have to jump over the hurdle that is LSU.