Gators game preview: LSU

ESPN’s GatorNation brings you the 30 things you need to know about Florida’s upcoming 2012 season. For 30 weekdays we’ll preview games, talk about trends, spotlight players and positions, and give you pretty much everything you need to know to be ready for the season before the Sept. 1 opener against Bowling Green.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- GatorNation is previewing each of Florida’s 2012 opponents. Today is LSU (Oct. 6 in Gainesville).


2011 record: 13-1 (8-0 SEC), lost to Alabama 21-0 in AllState BCS National Championship Game.

Coach: Les Miles, eighth season (75-18); 12th season overall (103-39).

Series record: Florida leads 30-25-3.

Top returners: RB Spencer Ware (707 yards, 8 TDs); WR Odell Beckham (41 catches, 475 yards, 2 TDs); DE Sam Montgomery (49 tackles, 9 sacks); CB Tyrann Mathieu (76 tackles, 2 INTs).

Did you know? The Tigers have three players -- Montgomery, DT Bennie Logan and DE Barkevious Mingo -- who are projected to be among the top 15 picks in the 2013 NFL draft should all three decide to come out early.

Scouting the offense: Everything rests on new QB Zach Mettenberger. If he develops into the player he was projected to be, the Tigers may be nearly unstoppable. They’re still going to pound the football and have a stable of backs with a mixture of size and speed. The only question is at receiver, but is there any doubt the Tigers will have players emerge?

Scouting the defense: There may not be a better pair of ends in the country than Montgomery and Mingo. They combined for 17 sacks last season, and there are few teams in the country that have one offensive tackle who can handle one of them, let alone two. The secondary keeps replenishing itself with big-time players. CB Tharold Simon is the next one.

Three things to watch:

  1. LSU’s offense put up 453 yards against UF last season, including 238 yards rushing. LSU’s OL returns four starters, and the Tigers have a seemingly endless supply of running backs. If Florida’s defensive front is indeed stronger and tougher, then it’ll have to show up in this game. LSU wants to pound the football, and if UF can’t stop the Tigers it’ll be a long day.

  2. The play of Florida OTs Matt Patchan, Chaz Green and Xavier Nixon could be the key to the game. They have to keep Montgomery and Mingo off whichever QB is in. They’ll have help, either from backs chipping, a tight end, or double teams, but sometimes they’ll have to go one-on-one, and they have to win more of those battles than they lose.

  3. LSU has embarrassed UF on special teams in the last two meetings, with a fake field goal and Brad Wing’s near-TD run on a fake punt. Les Miles always seems to have something cooking, so it’ll be important that the Gators’ special teams stay disciplined.