Let’s try to have a little optimism out there, people.
This is not the Bataan Death March that awaits the Florida football team as it plays its final three games of the season (likely) against teams ranked in the top 20 of the Coaches Poll and will do so as double-digit underdogs in each game.
Strange things happen in college football. Keep telling yourself that.
The Florida-LSU game has become a rivalry because the cross-division split made LSU the permanent opponent for UF. They will play next year, and then we’ll just see where the SEC goes with eight or nine conference games.
The Dooley’s Dozen takes a look at the Tigers, who are coming off a loss to Alabama and are 6-3 and 4-2 in the SEC.
They own recent history
Hey, I just report the facts, ma’am. LSU’s lead in the series went away when Steve Spurrier dominated the Tigers (11-1). But since Urban Meyer left Florida, the Gators are 3-9 against LSU. OK, there was a shoe involved, but LSU has found ways to win this game in the last decade-plus.
Overall, LSU leads 34-32-3.
Red Stick can get crazy
Some of the most memorable games in this series were played in Baton Rouge and that includes a game postponed because of a hurricane when Steve Spurrier was a sophomore. Florida won that game and the OTHER hurricane game in 2016, Florida’s last win at Death Valley.
And there were those Tebow games
Every time he took the field against LSU, Tim Tebow was always jacked. The time the LSU students got his cell phone number and kept calling him or the time he fired up the crowd during the Gator Walk.
Of course, there was also the game after he was put into concussion protocol that Florida won 13-3 and Tebow confessed in his book he was still not all there.
And now, it’s the other quarterback
Jayden Daniels has put up incredible numbers this year and is under consideration on my Heisman ballot. But he had to leave the Alabama game in the fourth quarter after a vicious hit from Dallas Turner. He came back for one play, then was ruled out of the game.
He is day-to-day for Florida.
And here are those numbers
They are pretty amazing. Daniels is fifth in the country in passing yards per game, has thrown 18 touchdown passes with only three interceptions and only three interceptions. And he ranks fifth in the SEC in rushing with 684 yards.
If only he had a defense
LSU was supposed to be much better this year defensively with Harold Perkins moving around to make better use of his elite talent. But it has been a struggle as LSU ranks 97th in total defense allowing 407.4 yards a game. One of the reasons – the Tigers rank 122nd in the country in third-down defense.
So, let’s go back to the offense
We have seen some very good groups of receivers this year and this might be the best one yet, which is not good news for a Florida secondary that has been struggling of late. Malik Nabers leads the SEC with 1,152 yards and 11 touchdowns. Brian Thomas leads the SEC in touchdown catches. And Kyren Lacy already has four TDS as the third receiver.
Which means is going to be rough
It always is difficult to play in Baton Rouge at night and especially against an offense like this one. Especially when you have looked like a fatigued defense allowed 477.3 yards per game in your last three.
Oh yeah, and there is a running back in Logan Diggs who is averaging 5.6 yards a carry and has scored six touchdowns. Sheesh.
These teams are close in one area
Florida has committed 56 penalties. LSU has committed 55. So, there’s that. Also, LSU has only been able to register 16 sacks this year. By comparison, last week’s opponent Arkansas allowed 36.
Princely Umanmielen leads Florida with five sacks.
They have recorded some turnovers
LSU has nine interceptions with safety Andre’ Sam leading the way with three. LSU has a turnover differential of plus-5 compared to Florida’s minus-2. And LSU is second in the country in allowing the fewest tackles for loss, mainly because of Daniels’ running ability.
The Gators have seen Brian Kelly
But only once. He was the coach at Cincinnati but opted out before Tim Tebow’s final game as a Gator in the Sugar Bowl. Kelly went to Notre Dame, where he had double-figure wins for five straight years before leaving for LSU.
Last year was his first game against Florida. His overall record at five schools is 278-102-2.
It’s a matter of want-to
Neither of these teams thought they would be in this game with a combined 11-7 record. LSU was supposed to contend for a national title and go to the SEC title game for a second straight year. Florida was supposed to exceed Vegas’ expectations of 5.5 wins.
The mood of both teams has to be a little subdued, but it won’t stop the LSU fans from eatin’ some gator.