Last Modified: Friday, October 11, 2013 6:23 PM
Apples, meet your oranges.
LSU should find itself in a classic battle of contrasting styles this afternoon when the high-powered, No. 10-ranked Tigers
take on the Southeastern Conference’s top defense in No. 17 Florida. The game will begin at 2:30 p.m. and will be televised by CBS.
Most any other year it would likely be strength against strength, down and dirty in the trenches, SEC-style.
But while LSU (5-1, 2-1 SEC) has discovered the joy of flying high under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and rejuvenated quarterback Zach Mettenberger, the Tigers’ usually reliable defense has had some major hiccups, particularly in the last two weeks. They split the two games while giving up 44 points to Georgia and 26 to Mississippi State.
The Tigers suddenly seem comfortable trying to outscore teams in offensive shootouts, Florida (4-1, 3-0) is sticking to its roots with hard-nosed defense and a ball-control offense that tries to keep its top-ranked defense out of tough spots.
“A very sound scheme,” LSU coach Les Miles said of the Gators’ defense. “They don’t give up big plays.”
In the past, LSU wouldn’t mind that kind of game. But with a leaky defense the Tigers haven’t had much choice but to get into wild shootouts.
“It’s not nearly as much fun when it’s a game that you feel like you may have to just score more than the opponent,” Miles said. “But I like how our defense is coming. I think we’ll get back to great LSU defense very quickly.”
It doesn’t matter to Florida head coach Will Muschamp, who will see some familiar faces when LSU honors its 2003 national championship team at halftime. Muschamp was the defensive coordinator of that LSU team under Nick Saban, and at the time he was all about statistics.
Now he doesn’t care.
“I just want to win,” Muschamp said. “If it takes 51-50, let’s go.”
“I used to grab those stat sheets when I was a coordinator,” Muschamp explained. “Not anymore. There’s one stat that matters, and that’s winning. Do what you gotta do. It’s hard enough on Saturday afternoons without worrying about all the other stuff. Just do what you gotta do to win.”
Both teams’ weaknesses have recently shown promise. The Tigers held Mississippi State to a field goal in the second half last week. Florida’s offense got somewhat of a boost when Tyler Murphy, a classic dual-threat quarterback, was forced into the starting spot by an injury.
“He’s a guy who’s very athletic,” Miles said. “He can throw the football and they’ve run a number of wide kind of reverses and those things. So it’s an offense that’s diverse.”
The LSU offense and the Gators’ stingy defense — Florida allows 12.5 points per game — may well cancel each other out. Then it could be up to LSU’s defense to slow down the Gators’ offense in a battle of the game’s afterthoughts.
Like Muschamp, it really makes no difference to Miles.
“I just want to win the next game,” he said when asked what his defense had to do. “I want to win by one more point than our opponent. If we can continue to do that, we’ll get to the back end and go yes or no.”