Jim McIlwain's Gators look to stay undefeated in the SEC and add to the visiting Tigers' misery
This year's LSU-Florida game was supposed to be played in Baton Rouge, but Hurricane Matthew forced the 2016 game to be moved from Gainesville. After last week's performance in Death Valley, it might be good for LSU to go on the road.
The Tigers were shocked at home by Troy 24-21 as the Trojans snapped LSU’s streak of 49 straight home victories over non-conference opponents. Now at 3-2, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron and his Tigers will look for a key road SEC win against the Gators.
Last week, Florida put together its best performance of the season, beating Vanderbilt 38-24 at home. But the win was costly as starting quarterback Luke Del Rio was lost for after breaking his collarbone.
Saturday will be the 64th meeting between the two schools. Florida holds a 32-28-3 advantage in the series
LSU at Florida
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 7 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Florida -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Florida's offense
In relief of Luke Del Rio last week, Feleipe Franks was solid, completing 10 of his 14 pass attempts for 185 yards. He didn’t get the Gators into the end zone with either his arm or his legs, but Florida got offensive support elsewhere.
Malik Davis ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. Lamical Perine also chipped in 58 yards and three scores in the win over Vanderbilt. As a team, Florida posted a season-high 218 rushing yards and five touchdowns (on 51 carries) against the Commodores.
Meanwhile LSU had all kinds of troubles trying to slow down Troy’s Jordan Chunn in Tiger Stadium. Chunn gashed the Tigers for 191 rushing yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry. Look for the Gators to try and establish the run early.
Besides Del Rio, Florida also will be without leading wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland, who is dealing with a high ankle sprain. Cleveland is the only Gator with more than 107 receiving yards as the offense has managed just 212.8 passing yards per game. Even though that’s sixth in the SEC, it’s just 79th in the country.
2. LSU’s defense
Despite the loss to Troy last week, the Tigers rank among the FBS leaders in sacks. They got three against the Trojans and have 15 in five games thus far. That puts them second in the SEC and tied for 12th nationally in total sacks.
Florida has had some issues with pass protection, surrendering 2.5 per game (95th in the FBS in that category). The Gators also are ranked in that same area (97th) when it comes to total offense (358.5 ypg) so it will be interesting to see how LSU’s defense bounces back in the Swamp.
3. Gators’ defense
In Florida head coach Jim McIlwain’s first two seasons the Gators finished eighth and fifth, respectively, in the nation in total defense. So far in 2017, this unit hasn’t measured up to the same standard.
Florida currently ranks 69th in the FBS at 381.3 yards per game. Consider that last season only four teams – Arkansas, Florida State, LSU and Tennessee – posted that many yards on the Gators. They also held four teams to no more than 187 yards, including SEC East rivals Georgia (164) and Kentucky (149).
For all of LSU’s struggles, the Tigers still have a pair of quality running backs in Derrius Guice (314 yards, 5 TDs, 4.8 ypc) and Darrel Williams (320, 5,) who could give a Florida defense that’s given up 141 rushing yards per game some trouble.
After an embarrassing loss to Troy last week, expect LSU to play inspired football on the road in Gainesville. The Tigers will likely be able to get pressure on redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks because of the Gators’ suspect offensive line.
Troy showed last week that opponents can run the ball against LSU and Florida will most likely try and follow this blueprint as well. It won't be pretty, but the Gators should be able to pull out another tough victory at home.
Prediction: Florida 24, LSU 21
— 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.