If you’ve traveled to Baton Rouge for the No. 7 Florida Gators monster matchup with the No. 5 LSU Tigers, we’re going to assume your mind has already been drowned in gumbo and libations so we’ll try to keep this short and sweet. If you haven’t traveled to Baton Rouge for said game, we’ll assume you’re planning out a last minute road trip to get to Tigers Stadium—Death Valley in time for the 8pm ET kickoff and find tickets for the sold out game, and therefore will need time to pull off this foolproof plan…so we’ll try to keep this short and sweet.
Before the Gators second Top 10 matchup in as many weeks, here are the last things you need to know.
One Thing to Remember
These teams match up so well in so many ways. Where one has a weakness, the other has a strength to exploit said weakness. Where one has a strength, the other has a strength which to go toe to toe. LSU has the nation’s No. 1 redzone offense, scoring 100% of the time there. The Gators have the nation’s No. 1 redzone defense, holding opponents to only a 35.7% success rate in the area. The next closest is Temple with 52.6%. The Gators defense in fact has only given up six touchdowns all year and pitched three shutouts. The Gators offense has found incredible success over the middle on slants & quick crossing routes. That is the area where the Tigers defense is giving up the most yards. LSU’s offense hasn’t faced a defense this year statistically better than Georgia Southern (60th in FBS) and there’s a 233 yard differential in what the LSU passing attack has accounted for and what the Gators secondary is giving up on average. So all of those number to say, these two teams match up extremely well. It will be the first true test LSU has faced all season and while the Gators have already faced and overcome tons of adversity, the toll could take effect here. But that’s why we play the game, to see what happens on the field, not on paper.
One Florida Player to Remember
Josh Hammond: As mentioned above, the LSU defense has had trouble over the middle of the field, which is where the Gators offense thrives. One of the best things about the Florida wide receiving corps is that any given night, any given guy can be the standout player of the game. Already this season, we’ve seen Van Jefferson (Kentucky), Tre Grimes (UT Martin), Hammond (Miami), Freddie Swain (Auburn) and Kyle Pitts (Tennessee & Auburn) all have individual standout games. It really is a “pick your poison” corps so whoever LSU negates from the game plan, someone else can stand up. But again, due to the weak spots in the middle of the field and given Hammond’s success between the hashes, this could be another big game for the senior.
One LSU Player to Remember
Derek Stingley Jr. is a freshman corner but as Gators receiver Van Jefferson pointed out this week, he’s not playing like a freshman. Stingley Jr. leads his team with interceptions (2) and has eight pass break ups. He’s stingy and playing within that secondary, has the freedom to do so. He’s also averaging 11.8 yards on punt returns
One Big Question
Can the Gators protect the ball? At this point, we know what the O-line is and where the areas of weakness are going to be each game. They do better in pass protection but quarterback Kyle Trask has to help them where he can, feeling pressure coming and moving the pocket accordingly. A lot of this comes with experience and given his limited game time thus far, experience is one thing he doesn’t have. But that doesn’t stand as much of an excuse during the game. Sometimes he needs to take the sack, sometimes he needs to throw it away. I feel confident Dan Mullen will continue to help him grow in those aspects. But the one thing he and the running backs really have to be more cognizant of is ball protection. Florida has fumbled nine times (third worst in FBS) and five have come directly from Trask when sacked. In a game like this against LSU, one mistake can mean the game. Trask is mostly likely going to be sacked at some point. But if he can take care of the ball, the Gators can at least have a chance to make up for the lost yards.
One Last Prediction
I honestly believe one of the biggest reasons Florida defeated Auburn last weekend was because of the atmosphere in The Swamp. The crowd was truly a major factor in the game, rattling Bo Nix and and the Tigers offense. It was an amazing thing to experience in person. Unfortunately for the Gators, I think that’s going to be the same case this weekend, but again in favor of the home team. Death Valley is going to work its magic. It is without a doubt one of the hardest, if not the hardest place to play in college football. As someone who has been on the field for night games in Death Valley, I can assure you this is not hyperbolic. The Swamp, when rocking like it was last Saturday, is a close second if not right there with Tiger Stadium. But the consistent intimidation Death Valley—especially at night—can cast on opponent is a palpable factor. And so many on this Gators team haven’t played there, due to the scheduling change that came after 2016. The seniors have, which will help.
At the end of the day though, as we went over above, these two teams match up so well across the board. Florida’s defense is going to make this very tough for Joe Burrow and the Tigers, but the most prolific offense in college football right now is going to be able to move the ball enough to score at least a couple of touchdowns. The LSU defense has enough weak spots for the Florida offense to find advantageous matchups. In a situation like that, the crowd and atmosphere can be the deciding factor. Florida can technically afford to lose this one and still beat No. 3 Georgia to win the East. There are plenty of scenarios that play out with Florida winning this game and if the Gators pull it off, I won’t be surprised. This an emotionally motivated team and I think they can ride the Auburn win to a win here. But in good faith, I can’t say it’s going to happen.
*Feel free to curse me in the comments