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COLLege FOOTBALL

LSU’s Odell Beckham seeks redemption against Florida

The prospect of lining up against Florida apparently brings back some bad memories for LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr.

Beckham declined multiple interview requests leading up to Saturday afternoon’s clash between the No. 17 Gators (4-1, 3-0 SEC) and the 10th-ranked Tigers (5-1, 2-1) in Death Valley, even though he’s having a stellar season.

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He’s coming off one of the best games of his career, making nine catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns in a victory at Mississippi State last weekend. He leads the nation in all-purpose yards with 228.2 per game, averaging 21.1 yards each time he touches the ball. He’s even returned a missed field goal for a 100-yard touchdown.

The thing is, about this time last year, Beckham had one of his career’s more frustrating days in Gainesville, Fla. He fumbled following a deep catch — a turnover which cost LSU one of its best scoring chances on a day when points were precious in a 14-6 loss to the Gators. Beckham then refused to speak to reporters for more than a month afterward.

Now comes Beckham’s chance to exorcise some demons, but he’ll have to do it against one of the best secondaries in the nation.

Cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy and Vernon Hargreaves III are among the standouts on a Florida defense that has yielded only 152 yards passing per game, the sixth-lowest average nationally. Purifoy had a sack, a forced fumble, and returned an interception for a touchdown in last week’s 30-10 win against Arkansas. Hargreaves, a freshman, leads the team with three interceptions.

Beckham and Jarvis Landry are making a case as the nation’s best receiving tandem. Through just six games, they’ve combined for 77 receptions for 1,302 yards and 13 TDs.

Even if Florida manages to slow LSU’s passing game, the Gators still have to worry about running back Jeremy Hill. He is averaging 118.8 yards on the ground and has scored nine touchdowns.

.   .   .

All that matters to Texas coach Mack Brown this week is trying to win a game.

That hasn’t always been an easy task the second Saturday in October in the Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma.

With so much speculation about whether Brown’s job is in jeopardy, a win by the Longhorns (3-2, 2-0 Big 12) over Bob Stoops and the 12th-ranked Sooners (5-0, 2-0) at the State Fair of Texas would certainly settle things down — at least temporarily.

A fourth straight loss by the Longhorns to Oklahoma, especially another lopsided one like the last two years, would only accelerate a burnt orange panic.

This will be the 15th meeting between Brown and Stoops, five more than Fred Akers and Barry Switzer in what had been the previous longest coaching rivalry in the series. Oklahoma is 9-5 in the series under Stoops, with wins by 38 and 42 points the last two seasons and a 52-point victory 10 years ago.

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