Oct 04, 2018

Big Ten & SEC Week 6 Preview: Florida, LSU square off in The Swamp

In the sixth week of the college football season, members of the Florida Citrus Sports Team Selection Committee are making visits throughout Big Ten and SEC country, meeting with fans across both conferences in advance of the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Here’s a look at some of the most highly-anticipated games on the schedule this week:

No. 5 LSU (5-0, 2-0 SEC) at No. 22 Florida (4-1, 2-1 SEC) – 3:30 p.m. on CBS

LSU and Florida will meet in Gainesville for the second straight year this Saturday as a result of scheduling issues caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The teams played back-to back games in Baton Rouge in 2015 and 2016.

The Gators leads the all-time series 32-29-3, but the Tigers have won the last two games in Gainesville (17-16 in 2017 and 30-27 in 2014). Saturday will be the 13th time in the last 15 meetings both teams enter the game nationally ranked.

LSU is off to its best start since 2015, when the Tigers won their first seven games, including four SEC wins, and climbed to No. 2 in the nation. The Tigers are also coming off a big month, as they won five games during September for just the second time in school history. The only other time LSU won five games in September came in 2012.

The Tigers’ reached October undefeated despite one of the toughest schedules in the country during the opening month of the season. LSU’s four FBS opponents included two teams ranked in the Top 10 at the time of the matchup, and overall, the four teams are a combined 14-5 overall, with LSU being responsible for four of the five losses. (Ole Miss also lost to No. 1 Alabama.)

Tigers quarterback Nathan Burrow is one of only two Power 5 quarterbacks with 1,000 passing yards and no interceptions this year. On the other side, the Gators’ defense is tied for the FBS lead with 14 takeaways, and is the only SEC defense with more than 11 takeaways.

Florida’s defense also leads the nation in opponent red zone touchdown percentage (25 percent) as its opponents have scored just two touchdowns (tied with Minnesota for the fewest nationally) in eight red zone trips this season.

Maryland (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) at No. 15 Michigan (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten) – 12 p.m. on ABC

Saturday’s game will be the eighth meeting between Michigan and Maryland. The Wolverines hold a 6-1 series lead and have won three of the four games played as Big Ten East foes. The Terps’ only victory in the series came in the inaugural meeting as conference rivals, a 23-16 win for the Terps at Michigan Stadium in 2014.

Saturday will also be Michigan’s 118th homecoming game. The Wolverines have claimed victories in 19 of their last 23 homecoming games and 43 of their last 50 contests.

The Wolverines tout one of the most balanced offenses in the country under head coach Jim Harbaugh. U-M is averaging 205.6 yards rushing and 206.2 yards passing per contest. The offense has gained a total of 1,028 yards on the ground and 1,031 through the air in the first five games

The Terrapins currently lead the Big Ten and rank tenth nationally with a +1.25 turnover margin through four games. Senior linebacker Tre Watson currently leads the Big Ten in tackles per game (9.8) and solo tackles per game (6.3).

On the other side of the ball, Maryland is averaging 258.5 rushing yards per game, which ranks 10th nationally and third in the Big Ten Conference. The rushing attack is led by the tandem of senior Ty Johnson and redshirt freshman Anthony McFarland, who have combined for 594 yards after both notched 100-yard days last week.

Iowa (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) at Minnesota (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) – 3:30 p.m. on BTN

Minnesota welcomes Iowa to TCF Bank Stadium for the 112th all-time meeting between the border rivals. Since 1935, the schools have played for the coveted Floyd of Rosedale trophy. Saturday’s contest will also be Minnesota’s 100th homecoming game and 14th against Iowa

The Gophers lead the all-time series 62-47-2, but Iowa has won three in a row and 13 of the last 17 meetings, including its last visit to Minneapolis, a 14-7 win in 2016.

The Gophers have one of the youngest teams in the nation, as 59 of the 113 players on the roster are freshmen (highest number among FBS teams).

The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, have one of the toughest defenses in the country, and allow just 13 points (No. 1 in the Big Ten) and 260.5 yards per game. On the other side of the ball, Iowa tight end Noah Fant has 16 career TD receptions, more than any other tight end in program history

No. 13 Kentucky (5-0, 3-0 SEC) at Texas A&M (3-2, 1-1 SEC) – 7 p.m. on ESPN

Texas A&M and Kentucky face off on the gridiron on Saturday for the first time in 65 years and for the first time as members of the SEC. The last time the two teams met was the early 1950s, when the Wildcats were coached by future Texas A&M and Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

Saturday’s game is also the first SEC home game for head coach Jimbo Fisher. He will be facing UK head coach Mark Stoops, who served as Fisher’s defensive coordinator on his first three Florida State teams in 2010-12.

With a win, Kentucky would move to 6-0 for the first time since the 1950 team won its first 10 games. Meanwhile, the Aggies are looking to snap a six-game losing streak to Top-25 teams. The Aggies’ most recent Top-25 victory was a 45-38 overtime win over No. 9 Tennessee on Oct. 8, 2016.

The UK defense, led by senior pass rusher Josh Allen (6.0 sacks, 10.5 TFL), ranks among the nation’s best units and has allowed just 11 points per game in league play.

No. 8 Auburn (4-1, 1-1 SEC) at Mississippi State (3-2, 0-2 SEC) – 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2

Saturday will be the 92nd meeting between Auburn and Mississippi State. The Tigers hold a 63-26-2 record all-time against Mississippi State and have won seven of the last 10 matchups against the Bulldogs, including a 49-10 victory in Auburn last season.

Auburn travels only 848 total miles to its five away games this season, with contests in Atlanta; Starkville, Miss.; Oxford, Miss (the longest trip at 263 miles); Athens, Ga.; and Tuscaloosa, Ala. Only Ball State (827 miles) has a shorter FBS travel itinerary this year.

This matchup will feature two of the SEC’s toughest defenses. The Tigers defense rank third nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 12.6 points per game. MSU’s defense is ranked in the top five in the SEC in three major statistical categories — No. 5 in scoring defense (13.4), No. 3 in passing defense (166.4) and No. 2 in total defense (286.8).

Other Big Ten and SEC games being played this week.

Illinois (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) at Rutgers (1-4, 0-2 Big Ten) – 12 p.m. on BTN
Northwestern (1-3, 1-1 Big Ten) at No. 20 Michigan State (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) – 12 p.m.  on FS1
Maryland (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) at No. 15 Michigan (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten) – 12 p.m. on ABC
Missouri (3-1, 0-1 SEC) at South Carolina (2-2, 1-2 SEC) – 12 p.m. on SEC
No. 1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC) at Arkansas (1-4, 0-2 SEC) – 12 p.m. on ESPN
Iowa (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) at Minnesota (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) – 3:30 p.m. on BTN
No. 5 LSU (5-0, 2-0 SEC) at No. 22 Florida (4-1, 2-1 SEC) – 3:30 p.m. on CBS
UL Monroe (2-3, 0-2 Sun Belt) at Ole Miss (3-2, 0-2 SEC) – 4 p.m. on SEC
Indiana (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) at No. 3 Ohio State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) – 4 p.m. on FOX
No. 13 Kentucky (5-0, 3-0 SEC) at Texas A&M (3-2, 1-1 SEC) – 7 p.m. on ESPN
No. 8 Auburn (4-1, 1-1 SEC) at Mississippi State (3-2, 0-2 SEC) – 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2
Vanderbilt (3-2, 0-1 SEC) at No. 2 Georgia (5-0, 3-0 SEC) – 7:30 p.m. on SEC
Nebraska (0-4, 0-2 Big Ten) at No. 16 Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) – 7:30 p.m. on BTN

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