Editor’s note: Around 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, the SEC announced that Saturday’s scheduled game between LSU and Florida had been “postponed indefinitely” due to the projected impact of Hurricane Matthew. This preview was posted before that decision was made.
In their first game without Les Miles as their head coach, the LSU Tigers led by interim head coach Ed Orgeron stomped the Missouri Tigers 42-7 last Saturday. With starting running back Leonard Fournette sidelined because of an ankle injury, backup running back Derrius Guice rushed for 163 yards and three touchdowns in the home rout.
Orgeron will go for his second win this weekend as the Tigers will travel to Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators in The Swamp.
Florida is coming off of a 13-7 win over Vanderbilt in a game that didn’t feature much offense. Gators running back Jordan Scarlett ran for a four-yard touchdown and Eddy Pineiro added a pair of field goals to hold off the Commodores.
Saturday will be the 63rd meeting between LSU and Florida. The Gators lead the all-time series 31-28-3. However, the Tigers have won the past three games between the cross-divisional foes.
LSU at Florida
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 8 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: LSU -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Luke Del Rio
After missing the last two games because of injury, Florida starting quarterback Luke Del Rio is expected to play against LSU on Saturday. Del Rio suffered a knee sprain against North Texas, but it appears he is ready to be back under center for the Gators.
Under Del Rio, the Gators went 3-0 as he threw for 762 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. Florida's offense also was more productive with Del Rio at the helm, as the Gators averaged 33.6 points per game.
With backup quarterback Austin Appleby, the Gators averaged just 20.5 points over their last two games. Last weekend against Vanderbilt, Florida managed just 236 yards of offense, so the team is hoping for better results with Del Rio back under center.
2. Danny Etling
Since taking over for Brandon Harris, Etling has performed better under center for LSU. The problem is the Tigers' offense just lacks consistency as the team is still relying too much on its rushing attack.
Etling will be severely tested this weekend as he will face a Florida defense that is one of the best in the nation. The Gators are second in the country in total defense at 229.8 yards per game. They also are tied for fourth in sacks with a total of 19 or 3.8 per game.
3. Gators' Defense
Florida will enter this week’s game against LSU with a number of key injuries on defense. The team is already without defensive tackle Joey Ivie (thumb) and defensive end Jordan Sherit is now sidelined because of a knee injury. Florida also might be without defensive ends Bryan Cox Jr. and Caleb Brantley (hand).
With all of those injuries, the Gators could have a tough time containing the Tigers’ running game. Even with star running back Leonard Fournette limited by an ankle injury, LSU is averaging 237 yards on the ground per game, which ranks 21st in the nation.
The past two weeks against Tennessee and Vanderbilt, the Gators have given up 323 yards rushing on nearly four yards per carry. Against Missouri last week, LSU ran for 418 yards and six touchdowns.
If you are a fan of high-powered offenses then you will probably be disappointed in this game. Both LSU and Florida are offensively challenged even though the Tigers appeared to open up their offense a bit more a week ago following the coaching changes.
The matchup that this game will come down to is the Florida defense versus LSU’s ground attack. If the Tigers can have success running the football against Florida’s injury-depleted defensive line, it could end up being a long day in The Swamp for the Gators.
Florida will need to contain the LSU on the ground just enough to force Danny Etling to throw the ball more. If the Gators can do that, they will have a chance to cause some turnovers and mistakes that could be the difference in a close game. Even without All-SEC running back Leonard Fournette, who may not play because of a lingering ankle injury, to carry this could prove to be a big challenge.
Prediction: LSU 27, Florida 20
— 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.