It's GameDay: LSU Travels for Top 10 Matchup in the Swamp
LSU Sports Interactive
BATON ROUGE -- With so many streaks on the line and one of the nation's top offenses going against college football's top defense, something will have to give on Saturday when ninth-ranked LSU travels to face fifth-ranked Florida.
On the LSU side, the Tigers go into the contest having won two straight and three of the last four against the Gators. LSU, which has also won two consecutive games against the Gators in Gainesville, is the last team to beat Florida in “The Swamp”.
For Florida, the Gators bring a 12-game home winning streak into the contest, while also possessing one of the nation’s top offenses. The Gators, behind quarterbacks Chris Leak and Tim Tebowe, are averaging 30 points and 438 yards per game. Leak has never thrown an interception against the Tigers, but he will go against an LSU defense that ranks fifth in the nation with nine interceptions this year.
Will it be the LSU defense or the Florida offense? Will it be the Florida’s 12-game home winning streak or the Tigers’ two-game streak over the Gators in the Swamp? Will it be Florida quarterback Chris Leak or the Tiger secondary? Kickoff to determine which streak remains intact is set for 2:30 p.m. CDT from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville. The game will be televised to a national audience by CBS.
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It’s the only all top 10 matchup in college football on Saturday. LSU goes into the contest with a 4-1 overall mark and a 1-1 league record, while Florida is 5-0 overall and 3-0 in conference play.
Saturday’s game will pit Urban Meyer’s spread offense, one that averages 30 points and close to 450 yards per game, against an LSU defense that is ranked among the top five in the nation in six categories, including being ranked No. 1 in total defense (193.4 yards per game) and No. 2 in scoring defense (7.4 points per game).
“Florida is a very talented team, as talented team as we’ll face,” LSU coach Les Miles said this week. “They are very balanced on offense. Chris Leak is a talented quarterback who makes good decisions and runs the offense well and they bring in Tim Tebowe specific situations. They have a very diverse attack with a great deal of speed on the perimeter with their receivers.”
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It’s also an LSU defense that has yet to allow any first quarter points and one that has just given up six first half points all season. The Tigers have outscored their first five opponents, 66-0, in the first quarter and 118-6 in the first half of games this year.
"This is a very talented defense, one that’s as good as I’ve ever been around,” Miles said. “This defense is like our team in that they enjoy playing the game. It doesn’t matter the opponent or the situation, they just want to get out there and play. They like to run and they like to hit. It’s a very good scheme and it’s one that let’s our playmakers make plays, which is something that we are going to have to do against Florida.”
Some of the top playmakers for the Tiger defense this year have been the defensive front, which is led by senior Chase Pittman and junior Glenn Dorsey. The Tiger defensive line has combined for 11 sacks, led by Tyson Jackson’s 5.5 sacks. Dorsey is second on the team with 23 tackles and he’s tied for team-high honors in tackles for losses with six. Pittman has 15 tackles and four sacks for the Tigers.
When the Tigers have the ball, LSU will turn to quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Week. Russell, who ranks No.2 in the nation in pass efficiency, threw for a career-best 330 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 48-17 win over Mississippi State. Russell goes into the Florida game having thrown just one interception all year.
Russell, who made the first start of his career at Florida two years ago, is 18-3 as the Tiger starter, which is the second-best mark percentage wise in school history.
Russell, in just his second year as the Tigers’ full-time starter, is no stranger to big games as he led the Tigers to a road win over No. 3-ranked Alabama a year ago. Miles credited Russell’s emergence as one of the nation’s top quarterbacks with experience and confidence.
“I think JaMarcus is much more confident in the things we ask him to do,” Miles said. “He understands the play calling now. It’s like anything else, once you get some experience, you start to see improvement and he’s ready to play. There’s a lot of chemistry on our team right now, and I think he’s starting to show a lot of leadership. I think he’s an advantage for us in every game. He knows what its like to play in a big game, and he’s got the confidence to go out there and win.”
Russell’s play has been enhanced by the play of LSU’s receivers, a unit many are calling one of the best in the nation. LSU’s trio of receivers – Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis, and Early Doucet – have combined for 64 receptions for 1,019 yards and eight touchdowns. Davis leads the group with 25 catches and 394 yards, while Doucet is tops in touchdowns with four to his credit. Doucet has also rushed for a score this year.
"I think our receivers are a real plus for us,” Miles said. “You see what those three guys do in games eacy week, but what you don’t see is the way they practice. They practice hard each day and they pursue excellence on the practice field, which is why they play so well in games. They are excited about our offense and excited about playing on Saturday. Our like our receiver core. I feel it is a real advantage for us."
For the Tigers to have a chance on Saturday, they must come up with some type of running game. The Tigers are averaging only 144 yards rushing per game, led by true freshman Charles Scott, who has 214 yards and five scores this season.
“We’ve had a good week of practice,” Miles said. “I like what I saw in practice this week and the mindset of our football team. Playing in these types of games are exciting. It’s one of the reasons that these players came to LSU.”