Sep 21, 2013; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger (8) before a game against the Auburn Tigers at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Mettenberger Making Strides; Faces Huge Test Against Georgia

In a league that may feature as much quarterback talent as any other conference in the country, LSU Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger was being overlooked. That’s a reality that you have to live with after a year as mediocre as Mettenberger’s first at the helm in Baton Rouge.

As a highly-touted junior college transfer, Zach Mettenberger was expected to make an immediate impact for the better for LSU. And, after years of Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee sharing the reins, Mettenberger’s arm talent was supposed to give the Tigers an immediate upgrade at the position.

Unfortunately for LSU, what transpired was something decidedly more mediocre.

Mettenberger’s numbers weren’t putrid, but they certainly weren’t anything to write home about. He threw for 2,609 yards while completing 58.8% of his passes and throwing 12 touchdowns against seven interceptions.

Even worse, with the exception of a surprising performance against the Alabama Crimson Tide, where Zach Mettenberger flashed some of the talent that made him a five-star in the first place, he was at his worst in the LSU Tigers’ biggest games.

Against the Florida Gators, he was 11-for-25 with an interception. Against the Texas A&M Aggies, he completed less than 40% of his passes for a whopping 97 yards. In the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against Clemson, Zach Mettenberger could only muster 120 yards through the air on his way to posting a QBR of 9.6.

A theme began to emerge, and as we entered the 2013 season the reality was that Zach Mettenberger was ineffective–if not downright awful–in big games. And while he fashionably managed games on the way to 10 wins, he didn’t belong in the discussion among the SEC’s budding quarterback prospects (think Ole Miss Rebels QB Bo Wallace), despite all the physical skills we raved about when Mettenberger was a prep and JUCO star.

However, four games into the season, Zach Mettenberger looks as if he might be reversing course. In wins over the TCU Horned Frogs and the Auburn Tigers, Mettenberger was opportunistic and in routs of UAB and Kent State he was dominant–the way an SEC QB is supposed to be against non-AQ opponents.

After throwing for just 12 touchdowns in all of 2012, Mettenberger has managed to toss 10 through the season’s first four games. He’s completed just under 65% of his passes on the year, he’s averaging over 11 yards per pass attempt and his passer efficiency rating is an astronomical 193.6.

On Saturday, Zach Mettenberger faces what may be the defining game of his career when he travels to Athens to take on the Georgia Bulldogs in a battle between Top 10 teams. The matchup itself pits two dominant SEC programs against each other in what may be an early-season national championship eliminator, but it has even more personal significance to Mettenberger.

That’s because coming out of high school as a Georgia prep star, Zach Mettenberger originally committed to and enrolled at the University of Georgia, where he was expected to secede Aaron Murray as the Bulldogs starting quarterback. However, as a freshman, Mettenberger was kicked off the team for a violation of team rules before ultimately transferring to the LSU Tigers via Butler Community College.

Now, Mettenberger makes his return to Athens with an opportunity to put LSU into the national conversation as a title contender, while simultaneously putting a premature end to Georgia’s own championship aspirations. It’s far from a certainty, and it’s probably the biggest test Zach Metternberger has faced on the road to date, even having traveled to Florida and A&M last season.

Mettenberger can expect to see as hostile of a crowd as he’ll ever witness, with much of that hostility being directed at the senior himself. But, if he can lead the LSU Tigers to a road win, it could be vindicating.

At that point, it’d be awfully hard to overlook Zach Mettenberger or the LSU Tigers anymore.

Tags: Louisiana State Tigers Zach Mettenberger

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