Week 6 – LSU at Florida

Posted Oct 3, 2012

Week 6 CFN Fearless Prediction & Game Preview – LSU at Florida

LSU (5-0) at Florida (4-0) Oct. 6, 3:30, CBS

Here's The Deal: Georgia vs. South Carolina might get more of the spotlight this Saturday, but this game is bigger.

It's time to unmask these two teams and see who they really are. Which one is the true national title contender and which one might be exposed a bit? Is LSU as bad as it looked against Auburn and Towson, and is Florida as strong as it has been looking as it rises and builds? Is this when LSU flips the switch and goes back to being the LSU that ripped apart the 2011 regular season, or is this the time when the Gators show they're ready to be special in what would be the far-and-away biggest win in Will Muschamp's young head coaching career?

These two teams aren't pretty and they aren't going to put on any sort of a Baylor-West Virginia-like show. The defenses are tremendous, the running games are pounding, and the special teams have been solid – for the most part. The two aren't quite mirror images of one another, but they're both tough as nails and they're both loaded with future NFL starters.

LSU has dropped far and fast in the polls considering the brilliance of Alabama and the flash of Oregon, but that doesn't matter a lick. With the Gators this week, and with South Carolina and Texas A&M to follow before the Alabama showdown, the Tigers can rocket back up the charts and will be No. 1 again on November 4th if they can win their next four games. However, the have to be far sharper and far more impressive than they were in the strange 12-10 win over Auburn – the offense couldn't seem to find the breakout play – and the sleepy 38-22 victory over Towson. But LSU does that from time to time under Les Miles and then, just when everyone starts to think there are problems, then comes the roar. All the pieces are in place, and now it's time to show why the team is on a 17-game regular-season winning streak.

Florida has had a hard time finding any national love or respect, but there might not be two more impressive wins this season than the victory at Tennessee a few weeks ago and the SEC opener for Texas A&M in the most hostile and crazed environment of any game this year. It's hard to grasp on to a team that doesn't have much of a passing game and wins games by outlasting and beating up the opponent, but Florida has been ultra-effective in its first four games. If it can come away with a win over LSU, no one will care much how it happened.

The two programs have met 58 times with LSU winning the last two, but there hasn't been much of a rivalry aspect to this matchup. The Gators owned the series during the Spurrier era, and as good as the two have been over the last several years, they have never met in the SEC championship. Outside of Florida handing the eventual national champion its only loss of the 2003 season, the two haven't really gotten in each other's way. This year, though, considering what this means for the reloading of Florida or for LSU's national title dreams, this one really, really matters.

Why LSU Might Win: No one has smacked around Florida yet. How do you bully a bully? By being more physical, and LSU has the toughness on the defensive front and the power on the offensive line to get into a shoving match without a problem. Texas A&M might have one of the five most talented offensive lines in college football, but it's not built to blast away like LSU's line can, and no one so far on the Florida schedule has the same caliber of backs. Florida has won so far by wearing down its opponents, and LSU does the same thing, only better.

The Gators have to run to win, but LSU isn't giving up a thing on the ground allowing just 26 yards to a Washington team that just outphysicaled a Stanford team that beat up USC. Towson gained 188 yards last week, but that was the first time all season long that anyone passed the 100 yard mark – LSU is going to be a wee bit more focused and prepared for its trip to Gainesville. Florida won't be able to run inside on Anthony Johnson and Bennie Logan, while Sam Montgomery should be in for a huge day against a Gator O line that has given up 12 sacks so far.

Why Florida Might Win: Where's the LSU offense? That supposedly pounding running game didn't show up against an Auburn defensive front that's been gouged by everyone else, and while it might have been an unfocused effort against Towson, there's still no excuse for only gaining 158 yards. How sloppy has LSU been? The O put the ball on the ground seven times in the last two games losing five fumbles and the tea committed 19 penalties – LSU is last in the SEC and 108th in the nation in penalties. Florida has been air-tight in terms of hanging on to the ball throwing just one pick and with the lone lost fumble coming in the opener against Bowling Green. LSU fumbled as many times against Towson as Florida has all season.

Florida might not have much of a passing game, but it's effective when Jeff Driskel has to throw completing close to 70% of his passes with over 200 yards in each of his last two games. The Tyrann Mathieu-Morris Claiborne-less LSU secondary hasn't been bad, but it hasn't exactly been tested yet. Florida isn't going to wing it all over the yards, but when it has to come up with the one key throw to keep the chains moving, the team that's No. 2 in the nation in time of possession should be able to hang on to the ball.

What To Watch For: This game will likely come down to the kicking game, and while Florida's Caleb Sturgis and LSU's Drew Alleman might take center stage at some point, the key should be the punting game.

So complete and so dominant was LSU's 41-11 win over the Gators last season that it didn't matter when punter Brad Wing got flagged for an early celebration/taunting penalty on a fake. His touchdown that was called back was the signature moment of the blowout, but this year he'll be needed more for what he does best. Field position will be at a premium for both offenses that aren't likely to go on long scoring drives, and Wing should be a difference-maker after starting out the year averaging over 45 yards per kick and putting nine of his 20 punts inside the 20. As good as Wing has been, Florida sophomore Kyle Christy has been equally strong averaging 45.4 yards per try and putting six of his 17 kicks inside the 20. He's also getting more help from the coverage team – the Gators are third in the nation in net punting.

What Will Happen: The atmosphere will be charged, Florida will come out strong, and there will be moments when LSU gets shut down cold. And then LSU will be LSU, at least on defense. The Tiger offense won't go anywhere, but the defensive front seven will stop the Gator ground attack and won't let Driskel convert enough third down plays. It's going to come down to a late kick, and Alleman has been shaky, but LSU will survive and move on.

CFN Prediction: LSU 23 … Florida 17
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) LSU -2.5 O/U: 44.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Master, 1 – Trouble with the Curve): 5