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Florida at LSU

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The stakes will be extremely high Saturday afternoon in Baton Rouge where LSU and Florida will collide in an SEC showdown. The loser will essentially get knocked out of the national-title picture, while the winner will join Georgia with the nation’s most impressive resume for one-loss teams.

Most books have had LSU (5-1 straight up, 3-2-1 against the spread) favored by seven all week. On Friday morning, some spots reduced the number to 6.5. The total is 48. Gamblers can take the Gators on the money line for a +240 payout (risk $100 to win $240). For first-half wagers, LSU is a four-point favorite and the total is 24.

Florida (4-1 SU, 2-3 ATS) has won three straight games since suffering its only loss by a 21-16 count at Miami. The Gators are 3-0 in SEC play and have covered the spread in back-to-back outings.

Will Muschamp’s team beat Arkansas 30-10 last week as a 13.5-point home ‘chalk.’ The 40 combined points hit right on the total for a push.

The Razorbacks had a first-and-goal opportunity in the final minute that could’ve changed the result for bets on both the side and total. However, UF’s defense got a fourth-down stop to secure the spread cover.

Florida junior quarterback Tyler Murphy enjoyed a third consecutive solid performance. He completed 16-of-22 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. Solomon Patton had six receptions for 124 yards and two TDs, while Loucheiz Purifoy had a 42-yard interception return for a TD.

Murphy is third in the SEC in passing efficiency. He has a 5/1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and has also run for a pair of scores.

Florida is second in the nation in total defense, allowing just 217 yards per game. The Gators are giving up only 12.2 points per game, but LSU undoubtedly has the most prolific offense they have seen so far.

Likewise, LSU will face the best defense it has seen in 2013. Zach Mettenberger is making himself a lot of money this year with his NFL stock rising with every performance. The senior signal caller has connected on 68.2 percent of his throws for 1,738 yards with a 15/2 TD-INT ratio.

Mettenberger has two of the SEC’s best wide receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Beckham is tops in the SEC in all-purpose yards and third in receiving yards. He has made 35 receptions for 686 yards and six TDs. Landry has 42 catches for 616 yards and an SEC-best seven TDs, but he might not be at full speed vs. UF after being limited at practice this week due to a foot injury sustained at Mississippi St.

After missing a season-opening win over TCU due to a suspension, sophomore RB Jeremy Hill has been gashing opposing defenses. Hill has 594 rushing yards and nine TDs, averaging 7.5 yards per carry.

LSU bounced back from a 44-41 loss at Georgia to smash Mississippi St. 59-26 as a seven-point road favorite. The Tigers broke open a tight game (31-26) in the fourth quarter by scoring 28 unanswered points.

Mettenberger threw for 340 yards and a pair of TDs, while Hill ran for 157 yards and two scores on just 16 carries. Kenny Hilliard added three rushing TDs and Beckham had nine receptions for 179 yards and two TDs.

Two defensive starters, safety Craig Loston and LB Tajh Jones, didn’t make the trip to Starkville due to injuries. Loston, a second-team All-SEC selection in 2012, is expected to start but Jones remains a game-time decision. UF is expected to get starting CB Marcus Roberson back after he missed three consecutive games.

The ‘under’ is 3-1-1 overall for the Gators, 2-0 in their road assignments. The ‘over’ has hit in all six of LSU’s games and this is the lowest total it had seen.

Florida has covered the spread in five of its last six trips to Tiger Stadium. The non-cover came two years ago when UF quarterbacks John Brantley and Jeff Driskel got injured in a loss to Alabama the previous week. True freshman Jacoby Brissett took his first career snaps in Baton Rouge and result was predictable, as LSU cruised to a 44-11 victory.

When these SEC rivals met at The Swamp in Gainesville last year, Florida captured a 14-6 win as a three-point home underdog. Mettenberger completed only 11-of-25 passes for 158 yards and was intercepted once. UF held LSU to just 1.7 yards per carry.

During Will Muschamp’s tenure, UF has compiled a 3-2 spread record in five games as a road underdog. On Les Miles’s watch, LSU has posted a 20-31-1 ATS mark in 52 games as a home favorite.

CBS will have the telecast at 3:30 p.m. Eastern.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Florida has held 12 straight SEC opponents to 20 points or fewer.

--East Carolina RB Vintavious Cooper (concussion) is ‘doubtful’ Saturday at Tulane. Cooper has rushed for a team-high 382 yards and two TDs. He has also hauled in 22 catches for 186 yards.

--Since 2004, Northwestern owns a 12-4 spread record in 16 games as a road underdog. Since losing (but covering) to Missouri in the 2008 Alamo Bowl, the Wildcats have covered the number at a 6-2 ATS clip in eight games as double-digit underdogs. Coming off of last week’s crushing home loss (and crazy wrong-side winner) to Ohio St., Pat Fitzgerald’s team is a 10-point underdog at Wisconsin.

--Boise St. is 20-8 ATS as a road favorite since 2008. The Broncos are favored by 6.5 at Utah St., which won’t have star QB Chuckie Keeton for the rest of the season after he tore his ACL in a 31-14 home loss to BYU last week.

--The line for Georgia vs. Missouri moved down to seven late Friday afternoon. The Bulldogs were favored by 8.5 early in the week. They will be without their two best RBs unless Todd Gurley (‘doubtful’) makes a remarkable recovery in the next 18 hours and three of their top four wide receivers.

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