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Florida Provides a Familiar Face in the Midst of Change

I don't recognize this LSU team, but Florida? That's who we are. Or used to be.

That looks familiar.
That looks familiar.
Sam Greenwood

It wasn't all that long ago that LSU had an impenetrable defense and a ball control offense that was asked to simply not screw it up. When we think of a Les Miles team, that is what we think of. A team that hits you hard on both sides of the ball, but the playmakers are on the defensive side of the ball.

Welcome to 2013. LSU's defense has been rather porous, and it strikes the fear in precisely no one right now. Instead, the LSU offense is a holy terror, marching up and down the field at will and threatening to break pretty much every team offensive record.

What would you prefer, as a fan? The great defense and the struggling offense like the 2011 team or this current model in which first one to 40 wins. LSU fans are conditioned to prefer the former. It's been our identity for so long, it's what we expect LSU to football to be. Right now, watching this team is like watching a bunch of impostors in LSU's uniforms. This simply isn't the team we've known for so long.

This weekend, LSU fans get to meet the old version of themselves again. Florida is the team we're used to having. They play outstanding defense, led by athletic and talented upperclassmen. Their offense is a total mess, and the goal is to not lose the game. Let the defense make plays, and eventually the offense will put together one or two drives, and maybe take advantage of some short fields.

Florida plays grown man football. They play what was, until last year, LSU football. While the rest of the SEC is doing their best Pac-12 impression, Florida is staying true to the mantra of the SEC: hit hard, ask questions later. Titles are won on defense, not with your fancy offenses.

But this year, even Alabama is winning in shootouts. What's going on here?

Florida enters this game with the 4th ranked scoring defense in the country, and 2nd in total yards. LSU ranks 52nd and 44th in the categories, though it does feel a whole lot worse than that. When you're used to excellence, mediocrity feels like it's the Worst Defense Ever.

On the flipside, Florida ranks 92nd in scoring offense, and 79th in yards. LSU is, shock of all shocks, 9th in scoring offense, though only 23rd in yards. For the first time in a long time, LSU is playing the part of the irresistible force against the immovable object.

It's easy to tell yourself that neither arrangement is superior, great offense with mediocre defense or great defense with mediocre offense, but it's hard to believe that. The last decade of LSU football, heck all SEC football, has taught us that defense comes first. We are spending this season trying to unlearn what we "know" about our team and our conference.

It would be easier to accept this shift to relying on the offense if the offense had come through in the biggest game of the year. Against Georgia, LSU was down three with the ball and two minutes to play. Great offenses put together a two minute drill there and at least tie the game. Not only did LSU fail to score, the offense never crossed midfield. When it mattered most, LSU's offense acted like every other LSU offense we know so well.

If the offense is going to carry us, it needs to carry us.

This team has been fighting a version of itself, trying to transform its identity on the fly. Well, now the ghost of LSU's past has shown up on the doorstep. Florida is the team we usually are, and we all reflexively want to be.

To move forward this year, LSU needs to kill that old version of itself. It needs to conquer the old LSU, and that means dominating the old version of SEC football. This game should be like looking in a mirror. Instead, it's gazing into the past.

Time to accept the present and move into the future. The defense is what it is, so the offense needs to come through against an elite unit. It's very likely this game could come down to the final drive, with the offense needing to execute a two minute drill to pull out a win. LSU needs to be rely on the offense to win games like this.

After all, that's our identity this year. The offense needs to carry the load, but we first need to destroy the old version of ourselves. It's time to move on and be what we are.