Major questions about both No. 4 LSU and No. 10 Florida will be answered when the two face off on Saturday.
The Tigers will have their toughest test of the season coming off two consecutive lackluster performances when their travels to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for this Top 10 battle.
It will also be the first serious test for the Gators who will be able to prove that they are a legitimate threat to compete for the SEC title in 2012.
Over its first three games, LSU looked it would be right there with Alabama competing for the No. 1 ranking in the nation. However, the Tigers began to regress offensively against Auburn.
In that game, a first-quarter safety ended up being the difference in a game where LSU netted just 351 yards of total offense and 12 points. The next week, the Tigers stumbled yet again, this time against FCS foe Towson. At one point in the second quarter the Towson Tigers even held a 9-7 lead, though LSU rebounded for an ugly 38-22 win.
Meanwhile, Florida has been riding its strong defense to a 4-0 record. The Gators rank No. 10 in the nation in scoring offense.
UF didn't have a great start to the season against Bowling Green, scraping up a 27-14 win at home. Next, the Gators had to come from behind to top Texas A&M in its first-ever SEC game.
However, the Gators have grown behind their young quarterback Jeff Driskel and have seem to improve with every game this year. They'll look to continue that trend against LSU.
With so many great teams at the top of the SEC, every win is vital. If the Tigers win, they'll still be in the SEC West race alongside Alabama and Mississippi State. If Florida wins, they'll be tied atop the SEC East with the winner of this weekend's contest between South Carolina and Georgia.
After this week, both teams still have three ranked opponents on their schedules.
Players to Watch
Florida RB Mike Gillislee—Florida's sensational senior running back has been his team's primary source for offensive production. Gillislee is currently the No. 2 rusher in the SEC, behind Georgia's Todd Gurley. He has averaged more than 100 yards per game and has found the end zone five times on the ground. He'll be up against the No. 3 rushing defense in the SEC in LSU, which has allowed just 83 yards per game on the ground.
LSU QB Zach Mettenberger—The LSU quarterback doesn't have to put up huge numbers for LSU to be successful. All the junior has to do is avoid mistakes. He has done that fairly well through the air, throwing just two interceptions in 119 attempts. However, he has proven to be prone to fumbles. He coughed it up twice against Auburn and once against Towson. Costly turnovers like this have killed drives for LSU numerous times this year, which is something that must change. This starts with Mettenberger.
Florida LB Jon Bostic—LSU boasts the No. 2 rushing offense in the SEC thanks to a bevy of bruising backs. That's where the Florida linebackers, led by senior Jon Bostic, will come in. He is No. 2 on the team with 22 tackles, four of which have been for a loss. It appears as though his partner in crime, fellow linebacker Jelani Jenkins, will be in action against LSU (according to Chris Low of ESPN.com). This will take some pressure off of Bostic, though it is uncertain just how effective Jenkins will be coming off of a broken thumb.
LSU DE Sam Montgomery—At this point in the season, Montgomery has been arguably the best defensive end in college football. He essentially carried LSU to victory over Auburn and almost half of his sacks on the season have come for a loss, including two sacks. He will be instrumental in pressuring Driskel in the pocket and containing him when he escapes the pocket on Saturday.
Keys to the Game
1. Which defense will force more turnovers?
We should be in for a defensive battle in Gainesville on Saturday, so whichever defense comes up with more big plays will have a huge leg up in this one. Turnovers have killed the Tigers so far, as they have lost six fumbles already this season and have turned it over eight times. However, they have also created 12 turnovers. Florida has been winning so far by protecting the ball, as it has lost only two turnovers. If LSU can notch two or three takeaways against the Gators, that could be all it takes.
2. Which quarterback will be create more plays?
Both of these teams will bring in great running games, which results in an overall push on the ground. The difference between them will likely be in their signal callers. Driskel will look to create plays with his feet, while Mettenberger will live off of play action. Neither team has a dynamite receiving corps, so whichever one of these quarterbacks is able to make more plays while avoiding mistakes will be the difference.
3. Third down conversions.
Neither of these offenses have been great at moving the chains on third down. LSU ranks No. 7 in the SEC on third down, while Florida is just behind at No. 9. Third down conversions and moving the sticks in general will be huge for both teams for obvious reasons. Both squads will be looking to keep the opposing defenses on the field for as long as possible and shorten this game. Whichever succeds, will likely win. It will be vital for both Florida and LSU to gain positive yards on early downs to set up managable situations on third down.
When: Saturday, Oct. 6 | 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium | Gainesville, Fla.
Live Stream: CBSSports.com
Live Stats: CBS Sports Gametracker