Top storyline: All up in the air
No opponent has stopped LSU’s potent passing game this season. Florida might be the best candidate, though. The Gators have cornerback Marcus Roberson back from a sprained knee and paired with Loucheiz Purifoy at cornerback along with safety Jaylen Watkins as part of the nation’s No. 6 pass defense. They’ll have to stymie the nation’s top catching tandem in LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, who average 217 receiving yards per. Will Muschamp emphasized Florida will be multiple in its looks, playing split safety and middle field coverage. LSU showed last week it can make foes pay for packing the box, but the Tigers haven’t seen a secondary this capable all season.
Keep an eye on: Florida QB Tyler Murphy
Murphy, a junior, makes his first foray into Tiger Stadium. How he responds is vital. Since taking over for Jeff Driskel, who went down against Tennessee with a broken leg, Murphy has slowly seen his role expand. He went 16-for-22 with 240 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-10 victory over Arkansas, and the week before won at Kentucky. Yet he hasn’t been in an environment as hostile what he’ll encounter Saturday. Two weeks ago, LSU rattled new Auburn starter Nick Marshall, who had his worst outing of the season. How will Florida react if Murphy runs into trouble early?
Key matchup: Buck/DE Fowler vs. LSU O-line
The Gators’ 11 sacks rank a modest eighth in the SEC, while 33 tackles for loss slot them ninth. Dante Fowler Jr., a 6-foot-3, 266-pound sophomore, has been UF’s most active lineman with three sacks and seven tackles for loss. The loss of tackle Dominique Easley needs to be accounted for, but the Gators’ big uglies still get after passers. Against LSU, ratcheting up pressure on quarterback Zach Mettenberger is essential. Over the past two weeks, LSU has allowed Georgia and Mississippi State to notch seven sacks and nine hurries. If Fowler and Co. can harass Mettenberger, LSU’s passing game might be short-circuited.
X Factor: Florida’s wide receivers
The Gators’ passing game is carried out by committee. Senior Solomon Patton ranks ninth with 69.6 yards receiving per game, but factoring in senior Trey Burton and Quinton Dunbar creates a trio posting 181 yards an outing. If LSU gets locked into playing mostly nickel and dime sets, what happens? Under that setup, there’s a chance freshmen Tre’Davious White and Rashard Robinson will be on islands, and Jalen Mills slides into the nickel spot. Last week, there were gaffes. However, White, Robinson and safety Corey Thompson were around the ball. A solid second half against Mississippi State can’t wipe out eight quarters of struggles that came before, though. The Gators want to churn out yards on the ground, but LSU can’t let Murphy and his receivers get going.