LSU takes on the Florida Gators this Saturday at Tiger Stadium in a game that was rescheduled due to Hurricane Matthew. Most say the game could have been played, but it wasn’t and now here we are with two teams fighting for legitimacy in a crowded Southeastern Conference.
In the beginning of the year, both of these teams were trending in opposite directions. Florida boasted one of the nation’s top defenses and was undefeated heading in to a Week 4 showdown with Tennessee, while LSU had dropped the season opener to Wisconsin and did not look great in wins against lesser opponents.
LSU ended up losing to Auburn, fired Les Miles and everybody thought the season was lost. But then Florida lost to Tennessee — as its vaunted defense gave up 38 points to the Vols offense.
Fast forward to Week 12 of the season and 16th ranked LSU is favored by double digits over 21st ranked Florida. If the originally scheduled game had taken place, I do not think LSU would have been such a heavy favorite as they now find themselves.
Oct 17, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) carries the ball against the Florida Gators in the second half at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Florida 35-28. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
Florida enters the contest with a record of 7-2 (5-2), while LSU sits at 6-3 (4-2). Florida rebounded from a blowout loss against Arkansas to beat the lowly South Carolina Gamecocks; and the Tigers throttled Arkansas after losing to Alabama.
One big note from that Florida loss to Arkansas was that the Razorbacks destroyed the Gators run defense, galloping for 223 yards. The Tigers have dominated almost every opponent they have faced in the run game, with the very notable exception of Alabama.
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Florida ranks 3rd in overall defense, 13th against the run and 3rd against the pass. LSU is ranked 13th in overall defense, 17th against the run and 29th against the pass.
LSU will have to generate offense through the air in this contest, in order to open up running lanes for Fournette and Guice. The Gators may not be as stout up front as Alabama, but I have no doubt that the defense is more than capable of getting to Etling and making life difficult for the Tiger offense.
Gators quarterback Luke Del Rio is looking to return to action after missing the previous game with a shoulder injury. It was reported that Del Rio might be out for the season after Gators head coach Jim McElwain was quoted as saying that the injury was severe enough to where it was difficult for the quarterback to even lift his duffle bag.
Oct 29, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Luke Del Rio (14) throws the ball against the Georgia Bulldogs during the first half at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Reports from earlier this week have indicated that Del Rio will try to play Saturday. If he cannot go, look for 5th year Senior Austin Appleby to handle the snaps at QB. Fun fact: Appleby was Danny Etling’s backup at Purdue in 2014.
Both teams have a lot riding on Saturday’s contest as Florida looks to clinch the SEC East Conference Title with a win over the Tigers.
LSU has a chance to end the season with a 3 game win streak and if Auburn loses to Alabama, they could end up in 2nd place in the west. This could also mean a Sugar Bowl berth for the Bayou Bengals.
Saturday will be an emotional game for LSU as quite a few seniors will be playing for the final time in front of the Tiger faithful: Tre’Davious White, Kendall Beckwith, Duke Riley, Ethan Pocic, Travin Dural and Josh Boutte to name a few.
FINAL ANALYSIS AND PREDICTION:
LSU players and fans have been waiting for this game ever since it was cancelled earlier this year. The players all made mention of how unhappy they were sitting at home and watching every other team in the country play.
Additionally, LSU fans feel like Florida tried to get one over on them by skipping a worthy opponent; and allegations were thrown back and forth between administrations and mud slinging was in full effect.
Oct 11, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; LSU Tigers defensive tackle Davon Godchaux (57) and linebacker Kwon Alexander (4) tackle Florida Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel (6) during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. LSU Tigers defeated the Florida Gators 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
In the end, Florida plays a day game in Baton Rouge and LSU travels to the swamp in 2017 and 2018.
Florida has a great defense but their quarterback play has been inconsistent at best due to injuries. Conversely, LSU has been firing on all cylinders on both sides of the ball (except for the offense against Alabama) since Coach O has taken over.
I do not see Luke Del Rio finishing this game and bringing in a cold QB off the bench against this Tiger pass rush doesn’t bode well for Florida. Nevertheless, I do expect another great game between these two rivals. I’m not sure this is a double digit win for LSU, but a win regardless.