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Column: LSU's flaws give UF hope

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Posted: Monday, October 1, 2012 2:13 am | Updated: 5:36 pm, Wed Aug 28, 2013.

Florida's matchup against LSU on Saturday naturally evokes memories of last season's 41-11 beatdown, but this isnít the same Tigers team.

The 2011 group was utterly dominant until the national title game. Sure, they couldnít pass, but the defense was unflappable and the running game was unstoppable.

The 2012 version of LSU has many flaws, meaning Florida has a better chance to pull an upset on Saturday than the Tigers' No. 4 ranking might suggest.

In a 12-10 win against Auburn on Sept. 22 and a 38-22 win against Towson on Saturday, LSU's shortcomings were on display.

Leading up to Saturday, coach Les Miles talked about wanting to make improvements and iron out the wrinkles following the disappointment against Auburn.

After another poor showing, Miles described the mood in the locker room as somber.

"To say that we made improvement, I canít say that," Miles said.

"I'd have to say it was the same style of football that we played last week."

Perhaps the Tigers' most glaring weakness is the lack of a passing game.

Whether it's the transition to Zach Mettenberger at quarterback or the loss of Rueben Randle at wideout, the Tigers haven't been able to move the ball through the air.

LSU has the nation's 95th-ranked passing attack, with just 203.2 yards per game.

Despite a concerted effort to get the passing game going — Mettenberger threw 26 times, including four in a row with LSU already up 31-16 midway through the fourth quarter — LSU tallied only 238 yards through the air.

Mettenberger missed multiple open throws, and his receivers compounded the issue with drops.

The rain in Death Valley made for an easy excuse, but that isnít nearly enough to justify LSU's five fumbles.

And it has nothing to do with the Tigers committing 10 penalties for 69 yards, a recurring trend for a group that ranks No. 110 nationally with 8.4 penalties per game.

"It was just sloppy play," Mettenberger said.

"We have been sloppy week in and week out. We have to clean it up. Right now we are not playing LSU football. Iím very disappointed in myself and the team right now."

The sloppy play wasnít limited to the offense.

An experienced and supremely talented defense missed tackle after tackle.

Yes, the outfit is still in the top 10 against both the run and the pass.

Multiple players will make a lot of money in the NFL.

But, right now, they're a little vulnerable.

Especially against an offense like Florida's, which will aim to establish itself physically and grind it out on the ground.

LSU defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery have a chance to be top-10 NFL Draft picks. But Mingo is 240 pounds, and Montgomery is 260. Theyíre speed rushers, not run-stuffers.

The Tigers don't have a defensive lineman who weighs more than 308 pounds.

Against a Florida offensive line that continually boasts improved size, strength and toughness because of its work in the weight room during the offseason, this could be a favorable matchup.

Of course, there's always the possibility LSU snaps out of it.

Maybe Towson was LSU's version of Bowling Green.

The Tigers played sub-optimally by choice to try to iron out some wrinkles, and they'll kick it into high gear against a legitimate opponent.

But if they don't, a surprisingly strong Florida team will have a good shot at its most shocking win yet; one that would propel UF into the type of title discussion few expected we'd hear this season.

Contact Greg Luca at gluca@alligator.org.

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