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LSU vs. Florida Football Prediction and Preview

LSU vs. Florida Football Prediction and Preview

LSU vs. Florida Football Prediction and Preview

This year's LSU vs. Florida matchup will look a little different than years' past.

While the Gators (8-1) are No. 6 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, LSU (3-5) has struggled, losing three of its previous four games. But it is a rivalry game, so who knows what could happen in this year's edition?

Florida can't afford to overlook LSU, especially if the Gators want to have any chance of playing in the playoff. And that's even with a showdown with No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta on tap for next Saturday.

Meanwhile, for the Tigers, this has been a season to forget. The latest dose of bad news for the defending national champions came on Wednesday when the school announced a self-imposed postseason ban in conjunction with an NCAA investigation into alleged rules violations that occurred under former head coach Les Miles' watch. So LSU is staring in the face of going from undefeated and winning the national title to finishing with a losing record and not returning to the postseason in the span of less than a calendar year.

Florida leads the all-time series over LSU 33-30-3, and the two teams have split the last four meetings. The Tigers won last year's matchup 42-28 in Baton Rouge.

LSU at No. 6 Florida

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Florida -23

When LSU Has the Ball

The Tigers are coming off a 55-17 beatdown on the road to Alabama last week. LSU struggled on both sides of the ball as the offense finished with 352 yards. Going into this season, everyone knew that quarterback would be a major question mark following the departure of record-setting Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, and that was certainly been the case.

Myles Brennan got off to a strong start, averaging 370.7 passing yards per game, but he suffered a season-ending abdominal/hip injury in the loss to Missouri on Oct. 10. TJ Finley took over after that, with fellow true freshman Max Johnson also seeing his share of playing time. Since Brennan's injury, the Tigers have averaged 267.2 passing yards per game with seven touchdowns and five interceptions across five contests.

Between injuries and opt-outs, LSU's offense has suffered greatly. The Tigers have averaged 22.8 points over the last five games and have gone from being the nation's No. 1-ranked offense to 49th in yards and 60th in points per game.

And while Florida has had its share of issues on defense this season, the Gators have been playing better on that side of the ball recently. Florida is up to fourth in the SEC in scoring defense (25.1 ppg) after holding Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and Tennessee to a total of 46 points over the last three games. Those three teams, just like LSU, have struggled throughout this season.

When Florida Has the Ball

In complete contrast to LSU, Florida's offense this season ranks among the best in the country. The Gators are first in FBS in passing offense (376.7 ypg), 10th in scoring offense (42.0 ppg), and 12th in total offense (502.9 ypg).

Similar to last year's Tigers team with Burrow, Florida is led by its own Heisman Trophy-contending (some say front-runner) quarterback, Kyle Trask. Trask isn't going to threaten Burrow's historic numbers, but he leads the country with 38 touchdowns passes and is second in passing yards (3,243). He's done this while completing 71.4 percent of his passes and throwing just three interceptions despite ranking seventh in pass attempts (322 in nine games).

"The guy is tough," LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said earlier this week. "He's tough, a competitor. He's a diamond in the rough. I think you look at 38 touchdowns to three interceptions. The way he operates. The way he finds the guys. Dan (Mullen) is a great game-day caller. He knows exactly what to do with his quarterback. I think it's a combination of a great quarterback and a great caller."

Not only will Trask be playing in his final game in The Swamp on Saturday night, but so will No. 1 wide receiver Kadarius Toney. Tight end Kyle Pitts has not ruled out a return for his senior season, but this could very well be his final game in Gainesville as well as he is expected to be an early-round pick in next year's NFL draft.

Trask and his weapons will get their shot against an LSU defense that has taken its lumps. The Tigers are last in the SEC in passing defense (313.1 ypg) and are giving up 469 yards and 33 points per game. Last week, Alabama rolled up 650 yards (385 passing, 265 rushing) and 55 points on them.

Final Analysis

As long as Florida doesn't take LSU for granted, the Gators should win this game easily. The SEC East champs are the better team in all three areas and should put up a number of style points in preparations for next week's showdown in Atlanta against No. 1 Alabama.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Florida

LSU is ready for its nightmare season to end, both on and off the field. The Tigers should be able to move the ball against the Gators, but it won't be enough for the victory.

Prediction: Florida 48, LSU 27

Podcast: CFB Rankings, Coaching Changes and Week 15 Preview and Predictions

— 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, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.