The undefeated #5 LSU Tigers are on a hot streak after beating two Top 10 teams in Miami (FL) and Auburn away from home, and then throttling Ole Miss at home last weekend. But the Tigers face a different test this weekend as they play on the road against the #22 Florida Gators. The Gators are 4-1 and coming off two impressive road wins. Both teams have a lot left to prove, and this game could propel either to a special season.
How to Watch
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Commentators: Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson, Jamie Erdahl
Streaming: CBS Sports
LSU travels to the Swamp for the second year in a row, a side effect of the awkward Hurricane Matthew situation of 2016. That is just the latest source of vitriol in this rivalry that is always filled with close, big games. This is the first Top 5 opponent Florida has hosted since #3 Ole Miss in 2015, a game where the Gators dominated the Rebels.
LSU has one of, if not the best resume in the country. The defense has been as good as ever with star coordinator Dave Aranda leading a talented group of players such as Devin White, Greedy Williams, and Grant Delpit. There are questions on offense however. The addition of Joe Burrow has stabilized the group, but the offense has not been overly explosive.
The run game is still there with Nick Brossette and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but the offensive line is thin and injury-prone. The wide receiver corps is young and talented Burrow was finally able to get them the ball consistently against Ole Miss. But that was Ole Miss’ defense, and Ed Orgeron has said that he thinks Florida’s defense is the biggest challenge the Tigers have faced.
Florida is in a similar situation. The defense has been excellent, especially at creating turnovers. The offense has produced, but there is still uncertainty. Quarterback Feleipe Franks has improved significantly from last season, but LSU’s defense has a secondary unlike anything the Gators have faced this season. The skill positions are loaded, but the offensive line is the weakest link and head coach Dan Mullen has had to scheme around it so far this season. Mullen was one of the only teams to schematically break down LSU’s defense last year when he was at Mississippi State, but this is a different team with different personnel.
The key to the game for LSU lies in Joe Burrow’s ability to handle pressure and produce under it. Burrow hasn’t posted excellent stats for most of the season. Florida's defensive identity under coordinator Todd Grantham is based entirely around creating pressure, so they will look to exploit that against Burrow. Florida has also sold out this game, so the atmoshpere will play a hand as well. Burrow’s ability to adjust will decide if LSU can move the ball.
Florida, meanwhile, needs to establish the run so that LSU’s defense cannot tee off against Feleipe Franks. Simplifying things for him has worked so far, but Dave Aranda knows how to create some chaos. Florida has to set the tone and not be forced to react to LSU’s defense, or else the offense will never move the ball.
LSU has the superior resume, but there’s something about the atmosphere that will give Florida an edge. LSU’s offense will not be able to consistently move the ball in that environment and against a defense that thrives on chaos. Florida’s offense will not be great, but it will do just enough with the help of the defense.
Prediciton: Florida 20, LSU 17