The partnership between LSU's Zach Mettenberger and Cam Cameron is still in the honeymoon stage, but it will face its toughest test to date when Florida visits on Saturday.
Thus far, Tigers fans could hardly have expected more from their quarterback, Mettenberger, and first-year offensive coordinator, Cameron, who have turned LSU's formerly unimaginative offense into a juggernaut.
“I think Zach in his fifth year, or in his final year in college, kind of looks around and goes, 'I kind of got this. I understand this,' ” LSU coach Les Miles said of Mettenberger, who ranks fifth nationally with a Total QBR of 92.3. “Then to take a mentor that can fine tune the thought process, I just think it's exactly the right thing.”
No. 10 LSU (5-1, 2-1 SEC) and its talented offense -- which also boasts tailback Jeremy Hill and wideouts Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. -- hasn't had to function against a defense like that of No. 17 Florida (4-1, 3-0), however.
The Gators lead the SEC in scoring defense (12.2 ppg), total defense (217 ypg), passing defense (152 ypg) and rushing defense (65 ypg) and come in having just held Arkansas' powerful rushing attack to just 111 yards in last Saturday's 30-10 victory.
Florida coach Will Muschamp said this week that he'd be happy to win 51-50 on Saturday at Tiger Stadium, as long as his team comes out on the winning end. And a close game would be a reasonable expectation, as the annual cross-divisional rivals have split their last 10 meetings, with six of those 10 games being decided by 10 points or less.
Miles agreed that a one-point win would suit him, as well, although he would prefer to see his defense return to the imposing style of years past that has been absent for most of this season.
“I can tell you this: It's not nearly as much fun when it's a game that you feel like you may have to just score more than the opponent,” Miles said. “I like how our defense is coming, an I think we'll get back to great LSU defense very quickly.”
The Tigers took a step in the right direction in last week's 59-26 win over Mississippi State when they outscored the Bulldogs 31-3 in the second half. They hope it's a sign that their young defense has turned a corner.
“We came out in the second half and everybody had it on their mind and said, 'Hey, we're going to communicate, get the calls and play great football,' ” defensive lineman Anthony Johnson said.
They'll get a shot at a Florida offense on Saturday that has improved with Tyler Murphy under center, but still ranks 93rd nationally in scoring at 25 ppg. That means the strength-versus-strength matchup between the LSU offense and Florida defense will be the showdown worth watching -- and the Tigers like their chances with Cameron calling plays for Mettenberger.
“Coach Cameron's always talking about, 'It's not them, it's us. It's what we can do right and if we do things right, nobody can beat us,' ” offensive lineman Vadal Alexander said.