The Florida Gators' rivalry with the LSU Tigers has been an interesting one, to say the least, over the years.
One of the highlights of the Tigers' 5-5 season last year was their 37-34 victory over the Gators in The Swamp. Now LSU (3-3, 1-2 SEC) looks to win its third consecutive game against No. 20 Florida (4-2, 2-2) on Saturday afternoon in Baton Rouge.
The Tigers are coming off a 42-21 loss to then-No. 16 Kentucky. That loss has led to rumors swirling that head coach Ed Orgeron's job could be in jeopardy two years after winning a national championship. All but one of LSU's games remaining are against Top 25 teams.
Last week, Florida recovered from its loss to Kentucky by shutting out Vanderbilt 42-0 on homecoming. Now the Gators will look to carry that moment into a hostile environment.
Saturday will mark the 68th meeting between the Gators and Tigers as Florida holds a slim 33-31-3 advantage in the series.
No. 20 Florida at LSU
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 16 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Florida -10.5
When Florida Has the Ball
A week after an inconsistent performance against Kentucky, Florida quarterback Emory Jones recorded one of his better games of the season against Vanderbilt. Jones threw for 273 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 40 yards on five carries against the Commodores.
Jones did throw a careless interception in the second half and missed a few opportunities against a Vanderbilt team that kept the game closer than it should have been in the first half.
The ground game has been Florida's strength all season and was against the Commodores as the Gators rushed for 181 yards and two scores. Florida is third in the nation with 273.6 rushing yards per game.
This run-heavy approach is not a good matchup for an LSU defense that has had trouble in that department all season. The Tigers are ninth in the SEC in rushing defense at 154.1 rushing yards allowed per game. Kentucky gashed LSU for 330 and three touchdowns last Saturday in Lexington, at a ghastly average of 7.3 yards per carry.
When LSU Has the Ball
Injuries on both sides of the ball are beginning to mount for the Tigers. The latest has LSU losing arguably its top playmaker for the rest of the season.
Wide receiver Kayshon Boutte, who was tied for the NCAA lead with nine touchdown catches, is done after suffering an ankle injury in last week's loss to Kentucky. Boutte's absence will leave a huge void, as his 38 catches for 508 yards were far and away the top marks on the team, not to mention his touchdowns. Next on the list among pass catchers is tight end Jack Bech, who has 22 receptions for 272 yards and a score. Boutte alone also is responsible for more than half of the team's 17 touchdown grabs.
Boutte's injury is added to a pile that has already seen the Tigers lose linebacker Jared Small and defensive end Andre Anthony to season-ending ailments. Additionally, All-America cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. is out indefinitely after undergoing surgery on his left foot last week. And don't forget that the troubles started before the season when starting quarterback Myles Brennan broke his arm on a fishing trip just a few days before the start of fall camp.
Backup Max Johnson has played well in Brennan's absence. His 17 touchdown passes are good for second in the SEC, and he's only thrown four interceptions. But Boutte's injury will put even more pressure on Johnson and an unproven receiving corps, especially in light of a lack of production from the ground game.
LSU is averaging a meager 83.3 rushing yards per game. That's second to last in the SEC — only because of Mike Leach's Air Raid attack at Mississippi State (56.2 ypg) — but ranks the Tigers 127th out of 130 FBS teams.
All of the pressure is on Florida, as the Gators are expected to not only win but win big. As we've seen with this rivalry, however, anything can happen on any given day.
Johnson should be able to generate some plays against a Florida defense that hasn't performed the same since the close loss to Alabama a few weeks ago. The loss of Boutte certainly hurts, which will likely limit the Tigers' big-play production.
The game will come down to Jones and if he's able to limit his mistakes. As long as the Gators can run the football effectively, they should be able to come away with the victory. However, if Jones has to make a lot of plays with his arm, this game could be closer than some people expect.
Prediction: Florida 31, LSU 27
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— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.