The Florida Gators travel to Baton Rouge to take on the LSU Tigers this Saturday afternoon. On paper, this game looks to be an epic clash of two traditionally rich college football programs, but there’s more excitement and animosity built into this year’s matchup.
Florida and LSU were originally scheduled to play back on Oct. 8th in Gainesville, but due to Hurricane Matthew, the game was rescheduled for Nov. 19th in Baton Rouge. Rescheduling the game wasn’t as easy, as both parties made things difficult for the SEC.
LSU felt like the Gators were dodging the Tigers and Florida didn’t want to give up its home-field advantage. Eventually, the SEC laid down the law and forced both teams to play this Saturday. Throughout the rescheduling process, another level of bitterness was added to the rivalry, which will be on full display Saturday afternoon.
Due to a lack of consistent offensive production from both teams this season, Florida and LSU’s battle will likely be a defensive one.
However, if the Gators are going to clinch the SEC East on Saturday, the offense is going to have to play their best game of the season. LSU possesses the third best defense in the SEC, as they only allow 312 yards per game. Florida is only averaging 378 yards of offense per game, which ranks 12th in the SEC. Guys like sophomore receiver Antonio Callaway and sophomore running back Jordan Scarlett will look to have big days for the Gators in order to take pressure off of backup quarterback Austin Appleby. However, Callaway will have a hard time getting going, as the LSU defense is the second best pass defense in the conference. The Tigers are only giving up 198 yards per game through the air this season, while the Gators are only throwing for 225 yards a game, ranking 10th in the SEC.
LSU’s rush defense is just as big of a weapon for the Tigers as their pass defense is. The rush defense of LSU is only allowing 114 rushing yards per game, third best in the SEC, while the Gators’ rushing attack is second to last at 152 yards per game. If Scarlett and the Gators’ offensive line can’t get anything going on the ground against LSU’s stout defense, it’s going to be a long day for Florida in Baton Rouge.
Yes, the LSU defense has the edge over Florida’s offense, but the same can be said for Florida’s defense. The Gators’ enter Saturday’s game with the best defense – statistically speaking – in the SEC. Florida is only allowing opponents to gain 266.4 yards of offense per game, which ranks best in the SEC. Meanwhile, LSU’s offense is only averaging 404.2 yards of offense per game, the fourth worst in the SEC.
The Gators have a clear advantage on defense, especially when it comes to LSU’s passing attack going up against the Florida secondary. Yes, Malachi Dupree will be lined up at receiver for LSU, but he’ll be lined up against arguably the best corners in the country. Florida corners Jalen ‘Teez’ Tabor and Quincy Wilson headline a secondary that ranks first in the SEC in pass defense, only allowing 155 yards through the air per game. Led by Danny Etling, LSU has the worst passing offense in the conference. The Tigers are only averaging 170 passing yards per game and to think that will change on Saturday afternoon against the best secondary in the country is absurd.
Florida’s rush defense going up against LSU’s vaunted rushing attack will be the deciding factor in Saturday’s game. This matchup is without a doubt, the matchup to watch for in this game. Florida has the second best rush defense in the SEC, as the Gators are only allowing 111 rushing yards per game. The Tigers are rushing for 233 yards per game behind Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice. Stopping Fournette and Guice is no small task and it’ll especially difficult for Florida on Saturday, as the Gators will be without four of their best defensive players. Jarrad Davis, Bryan Cox, Marcus Maye and Alex Anzalone are all key contributors who will miss Saturday’s show down with LSU due to injury.
If the Gators are going to upset LSU and clinch the SEC East title, several Florida defenders are going to have to step up and play their best game of the season. If Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice are rushing at will against Florida, it’s going to be a long day for fans, players and coaches of the Gators.
In the end, the LSU Tigers hold the edge.
Edited by David Bradford
Featured image by Chris Parent