I love Florida Week. It's not the unadulterated hate that I feel for Auburn, but more of a shared knowledge that this game is the measuring stick for both teams. LSU and Florida set the tone for their entire season with this game, and have for about a decade.
As fans, we tend to see things only from the perspective of our own team. LSU has skated through the first month of the season without putting forth what anyone would call an "A" effort. The team has been sluggish, sloppy, unfocused, or whatever word you want to use. It's been hard to watch and there's no denying the simple fact that the team has not played well. Now, the first real test of the season comes around, and it's time to flip the switch. Season begins now.
However, it's not that simple. Florida has its own dreams and desires. They came into the season lightly regarded, and the general consensus was that this would be a difficult rebuilding year in Gainesville. Florida confirmed this narrative in a sluggish week one win over Bowling Green, but then flipped the script with a gutty win in College Station.
Florida then crushed the dreams of the upstart Vols in their infancy and proceeded to dominate Kentucky. All of a sudden, Florida is 3-0 in the SEC, has put up over 30 points in their last two games, and appears to be clicking on all cylinders. So, of course, Florida fans are just as nervous about this game as LSU fans. In fact, the two teams, like always, look a lot alike.
Doing it with defense? LSU fans can point to a team that's 9th in scoring defense, allowing a mere 12.6 points per game. Florida isn't far behind, ranking 10th at 12.8 points. You don't get much closer than that. Both teams are among the nation's leaders in yards allowed, though LSU is much better against the run.
And both teams are justifiably worried about their offenses. Both teams are averaging over 30 points per game, which hides a lot of problems, but both rank near middle of the pack in yards gained. The problem? Neither team can pass consistently.
You think we're flipping out over an offense that only passes for 203 yards/game, ranking 95th in the country? Florida's even worse, passing for 183 yards/game, ranking 110th. Both coaching staffs are saying words like "potential" and the fans might say things like "work on progress", but everyone is thinking the same thing: "Oh God, this can't be our passing game, can it?"
It's usually not a good time to work out the kinks in your offense against one of the best defenses in the country, but that's what faces both teams on Saturday. LSU seems so close to having a competent passing game. The receivers just need to eliminate the silly drops, Mettneberger needs to take better care of the football, and everyone just needs to execute a little bit better. It's so close you can almost taste it.
Thing is, Florida's thinking the same thing.