Florida vs LSU
10.6.18 / 3:30 PM
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
In 2016, the annual October clash between Florida and LSU found itself being postponed due to hurricane Matthew barreling towards the Atlantic coast of Florida. After much debate and several ridiculous allegations made by the LSU fan base, the game was finally rescheduled for November 19th.
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva used the natural disaster as an opportunity to gain leverage against his cross divisional foe, refusing to play the game in Gainesville as originally scheduled. Eventually, an agreement was made and Florida conceded their home game in exchange for an upset win in Baton Rouge and back to back home games in 2017 and 2018.
During the 2017 meeting in Gainesville, the LSU band played over a tribute to Gainesville native Tom Petty who passed away the week before. Adding insult to injury, LSU would leave the Swamp with a 17-16 victory. The difference? A missed PAT by otherwise deadly accurate, Eddy Piñeiro.
Which brings us to this Saturday’s eagerly anticipated match up. These two schools don’t really need the extra motivation that the past two years have provided but I can guarantee that both will be ready to level the next blow in an always hard fought series.
Coming into this season, most would look at this date on the calendar and assume it would be another meaningless game for two programs that weren’t expected to do much this year. Florida is coming off of a 4 win season and breaking in a new head coach. LSU was expected to finish third or fourth in the SEC West with a coach who entered the season firmly atop a raging volcano of a hot seat.
Those would be the expectations. But expectation and reality are often strange bedfellows. The reality is that these two teams are a combined 9-1 with the lone blemish being a shocking loss to a Kentucky team that is shocking in its own rite, sitting at number thirteen with an undefeated record.
Fifth ranked LSU’s Joe Burrow has the distinction of being the only quarterback in the country to have wins over two top ten programs this season. Meanwhile, Florida has already matched last season’s win total and finds themselves back in the top 25 after getting back to back wins on the road for the first time since 2012.
This will be the toughest game to date for both teams and both will be looking for another signature win. Both schools boast defenses that rank in the top twelve nationally in scoring and they sit at number one and number two respectively in turnover margin, with Florida also leading the nation in takeaways with fourteen.
At a glance:
Louisiana State Tigers
Baton Rouge, LA
2018 record: 5-0
Head coach: Ed Orgeron
That will be a key factor in Saturday’s game as Burrow has yet to throw an interception, something the Gators ball hawking defense will be looking to change. Like Feleipe Franks, Burrow has improved with each passing week. Both quarterbacks will face terrific defenses this weekend.
Florida currently ranks fifth in opponents completion percentage, allowing just 48.4%. They also boast a fifth place ranking in short yardage third down percentage and a number four ranking in sack rate at 50% and 12.2% respectively.
The Gators defensive front will be looking to dominate an LSU offensive line that has played five different combinations in as many games, due to injury. If Jabari Zuniga, CeCe Jefferson, and Jachai Polite are able to exploit the weak spots, Burrow will be in for a long night.
Apart from attempting to keep Burrow on the turf for much of the night, Florida’s front seven will be tasked with locking down running backs Nick Brossette and Clyde Edwards-Helaire who have combined for 756 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season.
On the offensive side of the ball, Franks will face the most talented defensive backs that he has seen all year outside of the Gators practice facility. Greedy Williams has intercepted eight passes in his eighteen games and will challenge the Gators receivers on every play.
“He’s a good player. I think he’s probably the best corner of the two with him and Kristian (Fulton),” Florida receiver, Joshua Hammond said of Williams. “He’s a long, lengthy guy. He’ll be a good matchup. I think their DBs are kind of similar to ours in a way, so I think we’ll be up for the challenge and kind of prepared. Going against Marco (Wilson) and CJ (Henderson) every day is not an easy day in practice at all. So I think the biggest thing is we got to come out and compete. We’re going against some good DBs.”
Florida’s talented crop of defensive backs affords them a stake in claiming DBU status as well as preparing for games like this where they face an equally talented group. There is no denying the talent level on LSU’s defense.
As good as LSU’s defensive numbers are, it should be noted that the Tigers played Miami to open the season and Miami has since benched QB Malik Rosier. They also shut down an Auburn offense that ranks 108th in yards per play at 4.6. Florida currently sits at number 28, averaging 6.1 yards per play.
There is some familiarity between the coaches as Mullen and his staff faced LSU every year at Miss State. Last season Mullen and Co. dealt Dave Aranda‘s defense arguably their worst defeat ever as they rolled to a 37-7 victory.
Ed Orgeron said of Mullen’s new team, “It looks like the same team, just the uniforms have changed. Dan had a great game plan against us last year and I’m sure we’re going to see a lot of similar things,” said Orgeron. “He knows how to scheme defenses. He knows the defense we run. We have to be prepared for them.”
Look for each team to bring their best to the field on Saturday for the CBS SEC Game of the Week. SEC Nation will be in Gainesville for their weekly show as well. Florida will also be inducting Tim Tebow into the ring of honor and will have the 2008 national championship team in attendance to celebrate the ten year anniversary.