You know that paradoxical question: “What happens when an unstoppable force meets meets an immovable object?”
College football fans might get an answer to that question Saturday night in Death Valley.
The unstoppable force would be No. 5 LSU’s offense, which averages a nation-leading 54.6 points per game. And the immovable object is No. 7 Florida’s defense, which is top-five in scoring defense and leads the country in red zone defense.
One of these two will have to give, and the over/under of 56 means the oddsmakers think it will be the Gators defense that bends.
UF’s defense has been stout — only allowing one touchdown in 13 quarters and recording two shutouts — but LSU’s offense has been historically good. The Tigers broke Alabama's record from 2018 for points scored through six games by an SEC team. Redshirt senior quarterback Joe Burrow and a radical change to the offense is why.
Burrow is far and away the best quarterback UF's defense will see this season. His 22 passing touchdowns are tied for the second-most in the country and his 1,864 passing yards are good for No. 2.
And he has a talented wide receiving corps at his disposal. The Tigers have three players with more than 300 yards and 20 catches, led by junior Justin Jefferson whose 30 catches for 547 yards and seven touchdowns are all among the best marks by any FBS wideout.
Burrow is also ridiculously efficient, leading the country in completion percentage (78.4 percent). He has, however, been sacked nine times in five games. The Gators excel at getting to the quarterback, bringing down the opposing team’s play caller 4.3 times per game.
But unless Burrow is brought down, pressure does not seem to phase him, as his completion percentage hardly dips under pressure.
The Burrow-led air attack has altered a traditionally run-heavy program into a passing powerhouse capable of putting up 50 points per game with ease. The fewest points LSU has scored in a game this season is 42.
On the other hand, Florida’s highest opponent scoring output is just 21. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham preaches that his players need just a blade of grass to defend. So far this season, they’ve lived up to that mantra.
UF has allowed its opponents to score five times in 14 trips inside the 20. Three of those scoring trips have resulted in touchdowns. To put into context how good that mark is, Florida leads the country by allowing opponents to score in the red zone 35.7 percent of the time. The next best team in that regard, Temple, allows opponents to score 52.6 percent of the time.
Grad transfer linebacker Jonathan Greenard has been a huge lift for the Gators defensive unit, which will be at full strength for the first time since the Kentucky game with the return of defensive end Jabari Zuniga. Greenard and Zuniga are first and second on the team in sacks, respectively, and lead a dangerous front seven.
But if Burrow’s first five games are any indication of how Saturday will go, the secondary will still get plenty of work. This unit is highlighted by cornerbacks C.J. Henderson and Marco Wilson and the emergence of safety Shawn Davis, who leads the team in interceptions.
Florida’s run defense is No. 15 in the country and its passing defense is No. 18. Both units are among the best in the FBS and they’re both capable of creating turnovers, another defensive category where UF excels. The Gators’ 17 turnovers lead the nation.
Keeping the ball out of Burrow’s hands will be key for this unit come Saturday’s showdown. The problem for Florida is he doesn’t make many mistakes, having thrown just three interceptions all season.
So UF will have to force him into mistakes if it is to put an end to the Tigers’ eight-game streak of scoring 40 or more points and extend its own winning streak to 11 games.
Follow Kyle Wood on Twitter @Kkylewood. Contact him at [email protected].