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LSU vs. Florida primer

Here is something we’re completely unaccustomed to seeing when LSU and Florida gear up for their annual cross-division matchup: neither is ranked and both are in crisis mode. LSU (4-2, 0-2 SEC) had spent the past 87 weeks in the AP Top 25 before last week’s 41-7 loss to Auburn. And though Florida (3-1, 2-1) somehow beat Tennessee 10-9 last Saturday, nobody would confuse the Gators with a team that has its act together.

It might not have its typical national implications, but Florida-LSU is still one of the league’s top cross-division rivalries. Let’s take a look at some of the key factors in Saturday’s game.

Florida’s key to victory:The Gators are playing like it’s 2012 all over again. The formula that led to an 11-1 regular season was run the ball, run some more, don't screw things up in the passing game, play great defense and special teams. It's not pretty football, and there is almost no margin for error. But what choice does Florida have with struggling quarterback Jeff Driskel at the controls? With quarterback Treon Harris suspended, there is little potential for a new look in the passing game. In fact, if Driskel struggles again it's possible that another true freshman -- Will Grier -- could come off the bench this time.

LSU’s key to victory: Driskel has done nothing to scare an opposing defense in the passing game, and LSU is actually good there, anyway. It’s the run that should concern the Tigers. They have played two spread running teams thus far -- Mississippi State and Auburn -- and couldn’t do anything against them. Nobody is going to confuse those two offenses with what LSU will face on Saturday, though. LSU’s run defense actually improved throughout the Auburn game, and if LSU’s progress continues against the Gators, the Tigers should win.

Florida's X-factor:These teams have some similarities, like the revolving quarterbacks, and secondaries that have been decimated by the NFL draft in recent years. LSU's offense ranks 13th in the SEC, with an average of 18 points a game in conference play, but the defense has given up an uncharacteristic 37.5 points a game. The Tigers have the SEC's worst run defense, giving up an average of 300 yards a game. Florida will rely on 6-foot-2, 235-pound junior running back Matt Jones, who ranks fourth in the SEC with an average of 102.3 yards a game in league games.

LSU’s X-factor: Although Les Miles hasn’t named a starting quarterback, let’s assume it will be Anthony Jennings. Can the sophomore -- who is 5-1 as the Tigers’ starter, but who was booed off the field by fans at Tiger Stadium because of poor play against New Mexico State -- play better than he did in his most recent outings? Florida has a talented secondary, but it’s not a particularly strong opponent this season. That said, the LSU starting quarterback’s performance will be the biggest determining factor on Saturday.

What a win will mean for Florida:LSU's season might have ended last week at Auburn for all intents and purposes, but the Gators have more modest expectations. Beating a talented Tigers team on Saturday would be cause for celebration, as it would keep Florida firmly in contention in the SEC East race. If the Gators beat LSU, it will be because of their defense and running game.

What a win will mean for LSU: If not for last season, this would be the worst Florida team LSU has faced in years. Still, this is a big rivalry game and a win that LSU desperately needs after falling flat in its first two SEC games. Beating an extremely beatable Gators team won’t cause folks in Baton Rouge to start thinking about conference titles or playoff spots, but it would be a nice change from the disappointment that has prevailed in recent weeks.