When: Saturday, November 19, 2016
Where: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, La.
Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Radio: Gator IMG Sports Network, LSU Sports Radio Network
Odds: The Tigers are currently 14-point favorites, via OddsShark
The No. 18 Florida Gators (7-2, 5-2) travel to Baton Rouge on Saturday afternoon to face No. 16 LSU (6-3, 4-2) in a matchup that was originally supposed to take place on October 8 in Gainesville. However, Hurricane Matthew intervened, and after much bickering the game was rescheduled and moved to Baton Rouge.
There’s a lot riding on this game for both schools. The Gators are looking to wrap up the SEC East, while the Tigers are hoping to finish the season strong for interim coach Ed Orgeron in the hopes it’ll boost his odds of getting the job on a permanent basis.
In a bit of irony, the starting quarterback for each team will be former Purdue Boilermakers. LSU quarterback Danny Etling played 13 games for Purdue during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. On the other side, Gators’ signal-caller, Austin Appleby, played in 16 games for the Boilermakers from 2013-15.
Luke Del Rio was UF’s starter entering the season, but injuries opened the door for Appleby. Last week, Appleby was back in the lineup after Del Rio suffered a shoulder injury and had his best game of the season in leading the Gators to a 20-7 win over South Carolina. Appleby completed 17 of 21 passes for 201 yards and two scores, while also rushing for 34 yards.
The Gators have struggled on offense throughout the season, but actually showed more life last week with Appleby back under center than they had with Del Rio in recent weeks.
On the other side, Etling isn’t asked to do much. He’s the quintessential game manager. He takes care of the football, doesn’t take a lot of chances down the field and, most importantly, hands off the ball to Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice.
Fournette, a Heisman favorite entering the season, has missed four games yet has still rushed for 803 yards and eight scores. That’s in six games. Fournette has rushed for 98 yards or more in five of six games.
Guice is no slouch, either.
The speedy sophomore leads the Tigers in rushing with 881 yards and nine touchdowns. Guice averages almost nine yards per carry and will truly test a stout Florida defense.
The Gators rank No. 13 in rushing defense, allowing opponents just three yards per carry. Fournette and Guice will surely put pressure on Florida’s front seven, meaning Etling could play a much larger role. Of course, Florida isn’t easy to pass on either, as the Gators rank No. 2 in pass-efficiency defense. Overall, UF is No. 3 in total defense behind only Michigan and Alabama.
LSU is certainly no slouch defensively. The Tigers are No. 13 in total defense as they allow just 312 yards per game.
So, what happens?
The Tigers are 4-1 since Les Miles was fired on September 25. LSU’s lone loss was to No. 1 Alabama, 10-0, in a game that was deadlocked through three quarters. Offensively, things have picked up since Orgeron took over. Outside of the Alabama loss, the Tigers are averaging over 40 points per game in their four wins under the interim boss.
Florida, meanwhile, is carried by its terrific defense. The Gators rank 95th in total offense and 82nd in scoring offense.
Tiger Stadium is a notoriously difficult place to play for opponents and don’t expect anything different this weekend. The Gators will enter Death Valley a motivated bunch after all of the bad blood emanating from losing a home game.
However, it won’t matter.
LSU is the better football team. Scoring on Florida’s defense won’t be easy, but Fournette and Guice will make enough plays to carry the Tigers to an important SEC win. Etling will make a play or two and LSU’s defense will force multiple turnovers.
LSU 20, Florida 10