SEC Rivals Florida and LSU will face off this Saturday at 3:30 PM EST for the 46th consecutive season. While the two teams play in opposite divisions in the SEC, they’ve played each other each and every season sine 1971. Overall the Gators hold the series lead 32-28 with three ties. While the Gators hold the series lead the Tigers have won 9 of the last 15 matchups.
Florida enters the game ranked 20th in the coaches poll coming off of an impressive win over Vanderbilt, while LSU enters the contest unranked following an embarrassing loss to Troy that snapped a 49 game home winning streak against non-conference opponents. The Gators have won three games in a row, while the Tigers have dropped two of their last three games.
The Gators certainly have much more positive momentum going into this one, but while the Gators stand at 3-1, they could just as easily be 1-3 after miraculous last second victories over Tennessee and Kentucky.
Let’s take a look at some key storylines to watch in this one:
Can UF get their passing attack on track? The Gators passing offense has been atrocious in 2017, as it has been for much of the last decade. After losing Luke Del Rio for the season and learning the team’s best WR Tyrie Cleveland would be out with a high ankle sprain, can the Gators do anything through the air? If they look to utilize freshman QB Feleipe Franks’ big arm they could get in trouble against a dynamic LSU pass rush. Florida will need to find a way to get Kadarius Toney, Brandon Powell, Freddy Swain, and Dre Massey involved, but shouldn’t do so at the expense of protecting the ball. The Tigers have recorded 15 sacks already in 2017 and feature one of the hottest pass rush prospects in the country Arden Key. It looks as though the Gators offense will need to rely heavily on the running game again in this one.
Speaking of the running game — the Gators have been pretty darn good on the ground so far and had an impressive rushing attack against Vanderbilt last week. Malik Davis rushed for a season high 124 yards and two touchdowns, while Lamical Perine added 58 yards and three touchdowns of his own. Davis, a true freshman, looks to be a star in the making, and will give SEC defensive coordinators nightmares in the future, but for now he’s a key piece to the Gators rushing attack and a real difference maker – he’s rushed for at least 90 yards in three consecutive games and as he has seen an uptick in usage and production so too has the Gators offense been able to put more points on the board. The Gators rushing attack has been impressive as of late, but equally unimpressive has been the LSU run defense in recent weeks. The Tigers gave up 191 yards on the ground to Troy’s Jordan Chunn last week. The Gators will look to run the ball early and often.
On the other side of the ball LSU’s offense got off to a hot start to the season, but have fizzled out as of late. In two of their last three contests they’ve failed to eclipse 21 points. The Tigers have an impressive duo of running backs in Derrius Guice and Darrell Williams. They’ll be a true test for Gators defense that has yet to perform to the expected level of a typical Florida defense. Danny Etling, LSU’s starting QB hasn’t been all that impressive in 2017, but one thing he has been doing is protecting the football. The Gators young, but uber talented secondary will need to get their hands on the ball once or twice in this one to give the Gators offense a jump start.
PREDICTION: The Gators and Tigers are very evenly matched. Both rely heavily on their running game and defense to win games. The Gators enter the game on a hot streak, while the Tigers have lost two of their last three, but the Tigers haven’t yet lost their pride. The coaching battle may decide this one – Can Florida draw up some creative plays to get their young playmakers the ball? Does LSU’s Ed Orgeron already have one foot out the door after losing to Troy at home? I believe the Gators will be able to run the ball with freshman Malik Davis and will continue their dominance at home under HC Jim McElwain. This one will be close, and likely will be in question late, but if your asking me to pick Ed Orgeron or Jim McElwain in a close one the answer is very, very clear. I’ll take coach Mac to get the Gators past the Tigers in this one. McElwain furthers his impressive home record to 13-1.
FINAL SCORE: Florida 31, LSU 29