Improved Florida Gators Host LSU Tigers

By: Michael Robinson | Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Florida Gators appear to be a much-improved team in the second year under coach Will Muschamp. They have their toughest test of the season so far when the powerful LSU Tigers visit on Saturday afternoon.

The Don Best Pro Odds screen has LSU as surprisingly low 2½-3 point road favorites. The total is 44½ and CBS will have the 3:30 p.m. (ET) national telecast from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, otherwise known as ‘The Swamp.’

The Gators (4-0 straight up, 3-1 against the spread) just snuck into the AP top-10 for the first time this year despite coming off a bye-week. Their last game was September 22nd versus Kentucky, a 38-0 win as 23½-point home favorites, improving them to 3-0 SU and ATS in the SEC.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel has helped the team turnaround after a subpar 7-6 SU (4-8-1 ATS) season last year. The sophomore ranks sixth in the conference in passing efficiency (158.0), but can also make plays with his legs with 148 rushing yards.

Senior Mike Gillislee (402 yards) has already surpassed his season-high in rushing. He’s averaging 5.8 yards per carry and at 210 pounds is a much bigger back than the two main ball carriers last year, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps.

The Florida defense was supposed to be good with 10 returning starters and Muschamp’s storied background as a d-coordinator. That’s come to fruition with the scoring defense down to 12.75 PPG, tied-for-10th in the country and helping the ‘under’ start 3-1.

The Tigers (5-0 SU, 2-3 ATS) are also undefeated and rank fourth and third respectively in the AP and Coaches Poll. However, they seem to have a bit of a hangover after losing the national title game to Alabama and then the dismissal of star cornerback / returner Tyrann Mathieu in August.

Coach Les Miles guys have had an easy schedule with the smallest spread -18 at Auburn on September 22. That was also the only road game, with LSU barely holding on for a 12-10 victory. The team was 5-0 ATS in true road games last year.

LSU’s win versus Towson last week was a second consecutive failure to cover, 38-22 as 43-point favorites. The FCS squad somehow managed to out-gain the Tigers in rushing (188-158) and even led 9-7 in the second quarter. It’s fair to say a far more determined effort will be needed against Florida.

Miles thought he had an upgrade at quarterback this year with Zach Mettenberger, but he hasn’t been great (150.5 rating), especially given the quality of competition. The running game ranks 18th in the country (229.6 YPG) and has several studs left even with Alfred Blue (knee) out indefinitely.

LSU is going to make Florida prove it can stop the run with Mettenberger taking occasional shots down the field to Odell Beckham and Kadron Boone. Defensively, LSU has the speed to contain Driskel’s running as well as bring the heat via the pass rush. Florida will need to establish Gillislee early if it hopes to pull off the upset.

Florida will be looking for revenge after losing the last two against LSU (0-2 ATS). Last October was a 41-11 debacle in Baton Rouge as 14-point road ‘dogs.  LSU gashed the Gators via the run (238 yards).

The Gators are just 1-7 SU and ATS over the last two years in October.

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