Will Muschamp took on a hefty rebuilding project at Florida, where the team has been barely better than .500 since Tim Tebow left, but LSU coach Les Miles has noticed substantial progress.
Miles’ team hammered Florida 41-11 a year ago at home. The Gators were reeling from a blowout loss to Alabama the week before and were unsettled at quarterback.
This year, both teams seem to be on solid footing. No. 10 Florida rolled through the opening month 4-0 and is only a 2 1/2-point underdog against fourth-ranked LSU, which comes to town Saturday (3:30 p.m., CBS).
“I think this team is well-prepared, more competitive,” Miles said of the Gators. “They look like a very, very quality Florida team … I think they’re certainly very representative of some of the best teams that Florida’s had.
“I think (Muschamp’s) well down the road, in my opinion. I think that he’s improving the team.”
With Jeff Driskel firmly planted as the starting quarterback, the Gators already are in better position to pull off an upset than they were last season. They had lost starter John Brantley the week before, and Driskel did not dress because of an ankle injury. True freshman Jacoby Brissett, from Dwyer High School, made his debut in the loss.
This time, Driskel is making his fifth consecutive start. He has completed 69.6 percent of his passes and is averaging 174.5 yards per game with four touchdown passes, one TD run and an interception. He is No. 23 in the nation in passing efficiency with a rating of 158.0.
“It’s night and day,” Miles said of Driskel’s play. “When you have a quarterback that understands what his role is and what he’s supposed to do, it just makes an offense more productive.”
Florida and LSU are permanent cross-division rivals and have played every year since 1971. With Tebow at quarterback from 2006 through ’09, the Gators went 3-1. They lost to LSU each of the past two seasons.