Scouting report: LSU

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The bye week is over and Florida gets back in action against LSU on Saturday at Florida Field (3:30 p.m., CBS). Here’s a look at the Tigers:


Record: 5-0 (1-0 SEC).

Coach: Les Miles, eighth season (80-18); 12th season overall (108-39).

Series record: Florida leads 30-25-3.

Top players: RB Kenny Hilliard (366 yards, 6 TDs); WR Odell Beckham (16 catches, 286 yards, 2 TDs); DE Sam Montgomery (15 tackles, 2.0 sacks); LB Kevin Minter (34 tackles, 3 pass breakups).

Scouting the offense: QB Zach Mettenberger was supposed to be an upgrade from the Jordan Jefferson/Jarrett Lee combo, but so far Mettenberger hasn’t been any better than those two. He’s only averaging 203.2 yards per game passing and he’s in the bottom third of the league in pass efficiency. He has been hurt by poor offensive line play. The Tigers have given up 11 sacks and Mettenberger has turned the ball over six times (four fumbles, two INTs). The Tigers use a two-back offense and they have four players with 32 or more carries who are averaging at least 5.1 yards per carry. Beckham is a big-play receiver (17.9 yards per catch).

Scouting the defense: There might not be a better pair of ends in the country than Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, although their sack totals are down a bit. They combined for 17 last season but have just three so far this season. Still, there are few teams in the country that have one offensive tackle that can handle one of them, let alone a team having two. The loss of Tyrann Mathieu before the season hurt, but S Eric Reid (26 tackles, three pass breakups, one INT) and CB Tharold Simon (17 tackles, one INT) are solid playmakers in the secondary. LSU is giving up only 83.0 yards per game and 12.6 points per game.

Three keys to victory:

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 UF’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.

The play of UF OTs Chaz Green, Kyle Koehne and Xavier Nixon could be the key to the game. They have to keep Montgomery and Mingo off QB Jeff Driskel. 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. Nixon has struggled this season and UF coach Will Muschamp has hinted that true freshman D.J. Humphries could start against the Tigers. That’s a matchup LSU will certainly try to exploit.

Florida’s pass rush hasn’t done much so far this season (five sacks). LSU’s offensive line has struggled, so this could be the Gators’ chance to take advantage of one of the Tigers’ few weaknesses. If DE Dominique Easley (knee) is healthy and DE/LB Lerentee McCray continues to play well, the Gators will be in position to make some plays in the backfield.