After an offensive explosion against Mississippi State on Saturday, No. 10 LSU (5-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) will face the second-ranked defense in the country this weekend against Florida, and LSU coach Les Miles is preparing for the obstacle.
The No. 17 Gators (4-1, 3-0 SEC) have held opposing offenses to a mere 217 yards per game this season. This will be one of the first primary defensive tests for the Tigers, who rank fourth in the SEC in total offense.
“We’ll be challenged,” Miles said at his weekly Lunch with Les press conference. “[Florida is] a very talented team. Any time these two teams match up … they’ve always been very competitive and a great challenge. In my opinion, they look a lot better than No. 17. They lead all major defensive categories. [Florida coach] Will Muschamp does a great job with that defense.”
Junior quarterback Tyler Murphy will lead the Gators into Baton Rouge on Saturday. Murphy has completed 72.2 percent of his passes for 530 yards and five touchdowns while also running for 135 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.
Miles said he’s expecting Florida’s offense to give his defense some trouble this weekend.
“[Tyler Murphy] is a guy who is very athletic and can throw the football,” Miles said. “They run a number of wide reverses and fake reverses. … It’s an offense that’s diverse. He plays smart and does what the coaches ask him to do.”
Miles confirmed the health of senior linebacker Tahj Jones and senior safety Craig Loston, who each missed Saturday’s game against Mississippi State.
Jones didn’t travel with the team to Starkville, and Miles indicated Jones was still further away from seeing playing time than Loston.
LSU senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger has been a center of attention around the SEC, as his 15 touchdowns and 1738 yards receiving rank him first in the conference.
Miles said it’s not about the statistics for his quarterback, though.
“What he’s doing is facilitating victory,” Miles said. “His contribution is going to be based on how well we do and what the final scores are. Some days, throwing for 250 is not enough. It’s based on what’s needed for victory. I can’t imagine he won’t be motivated right through this season with the idea that there are opportunities for this team to achieve and achieve greatly.”
The improved performance by Mettenberger has him garnering attention in the national media, as he was ranked No. 10 on this week’s Sports Illustrated Heisman Trophy watch list.
With key SEC games against Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama and Texas A&M still on the schedule, solid statistical performances could propel him directly into the final conversation for the national award.
Though the attention could start to flow in Mettenberger’s direction, Miles said he isn’t worried about his quarterback becoming overwhelmed.
“I would expect that Zach would handle that kind of scrutiny pretty well, considering the kind of things he’s already handled very well this season,” Miles said. “You’ll find that all those people who are in the running for national awards, their team does