Florida Gators football faces a must-win situation on Saturday as it looks to maintain its SEC East lead and advance to the SEC Championship Game for the second straight season. The Gators will have to accomplish that on the road against a cross-division foe in a game that was originally supposed to be played in Gainesville, Florida.
Here’s what you need to know and how you can watch Florida-LSU.
Location: Tiger Stadium – Baton Rouge, Louisiana [Capacity: 102,321]
Weather: 62°F (feels like 60°F), 0 percent chance of rain, winds N at 16 mph
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST
TV: SEC Network (Brent Musburger, Jesse Palmer, Kaylee Hartung)
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter
Tale of the tape
|No. 23 Florida Gators||No. 16 LSU Tigers|
|Head Coach||Jim McElwain||Ed Orgeron (interim)|
|Record||7-2 (5-2 SEC)||6-3 (4-2 SEC)|
Four things to know
1. It’s all on the line: The regular-season finale against Florida State is a rivalry game and obviously important, but Saturday’s showdown with LSU is the key to Florida’s season. Despite two hiccups, the Gators can still win the SEC East and advance to the SEC Championship Game for the second straight season if they can find a way to defeat the Tigers on the road. Florida should also be plenty motivated for this contest considering how insulted the program has been — in an absurd manner, mind you — for postponing a game due to a natural disaster. LSU’s administration, players and fans have all talked smack, and the Gators should truly feel like it’s us-against-the-world when they head into Death Valley on Saturday. If Florida can’t get up for this game, then McElwain has a motivation problem.
2. The Gators are the walking wounded: It is not an excuse, it’s a fact: Florida is in bad shape entering this game. The Gators will be without their three leading tacklers (including both starting linebackers and a star safety), as well as a starting defensive lineman, center and quarterback. There are also a number of complimentary players set to miss the game. Simply put, Florida will be short-handed against LSU, which is certainly a problem on defense when it goes up against two of the best running backs in college football.
3. The Tigers are motivated, too: Even though there’s no division or conference crown on the line for LSU, the team is playing for Orgeron to get the full-time job and has done a fantastic job so far, going 4-1 under its interim coach with the lone loss to No. 1 Alabama. LSU has scored at least 38 points in its four wins while not allowing any team (including Alabama) to score more than 21. A New Year’s Six bowl game is possible for the Tigers, and a victory over the Gators on Saturday is the first step.
4. Be creative and take chances: In recent series history it has been LSU getting creative on offense and pulling out trick plays. When you consider that Florida will likely either be playing from behind or looking to build momentum in the game, it should be the Gators continuing to reach into the deep pages of their playbook just as they did against South Carolina last week. Florida has not faked a kick or punt all season. It has not sold out for blocks on special teams either. And the Gators just started getting a bit creative with some run-pass options a week ago. Florida can beat LSU if it can keep the hosts on edge, a tough task considering its opponent’s defensive talent but not necessarily and impossible one.
Pick and analysis
Spread: Florida +15 | O/U: 38
It’s been a rough year picking the Gators as you truly do not know what you’re going to get from them on a week-to-week basis. The same goes for this week in Baton Rouge. On one hand, you would expect this to be a defensive battle and therefore a low-scoring affair, especially considering Florida’s offensive issues and the fact that LSU has not allowed a team to score more than 21 points against it this season. On the other, the Gators have shown they can be run on — particularly on the road by a talented back, and the Tigers just so happen to have two such rushers in Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice.
Simpy put, 15 is way too many points for Florida to be getting on the road. Sure, it lost by 21 to Arkansas, but that was more of an aberration than anything else. While I do ultimately expect LSU to win, expecting the Tigers to win by more than two touchdowns when they’re 0-3 against defenses that allow less than 25 points per game this season is concerning. And yes, the Gators could win outright, they’re just so depleted by injures that it’s tough to predict that. Take the points and the under.
2016 records: ATS picks 3-6 | O/U picks 3-6
Injuries and absences
Active (1): OT David Sharpe (foot)
Probable/questionable (2): DE CeCe Jefferson (ankle), C/G Tyler Jordan (ankle)
Out (7): LB Jarrad Davis (ankle), DE Bryan Cox Jr. (ankle), C Cam Dillard (knee), QB Luke Del Rio (shoulder), DL Justus Reed (undisclosed), WR C.J. Worton (undisclosed), RB Mark Herndon (undisclosed)
Out for the season (5): LB Alex Anzalone (arm), S Marcus Maye (arm), WR Dre Massey (knee), OL Antonio Riles (knee), DB C.J. McWilliams (undisclosed)
» Florida is 31-28-3 all-time against LSU, though the teams are an even 16-16 in games played in Baton Rouge. The Tigers have won three straight and five of the last six games in the series with their last three victories coming by an average of seven points. UF went 4-7 against LSU when Les Miles coached the team, though he was fired earlier this season.
» Saturday’s game was originally scheduled to be played in Gainesville but postponed due to Hurricane Matthew. Florida compromised to play the game at LSU, meaning the Gators will host the Tigers in back-to-back seasons (2017-18). This is the first time since 2001 that a Florida game has been postponed.
» The Gators and Tigers will start at 1 p.m., marking the earliest kickoff in the Florida-LSU rivalry since 2000. It will also be the first time the game will air on SEC Network. ESPN held rights to the game this week as it originally had them when the game was scheduled for 12 p.m. back on Oct. 8.
» UF’s defense has been a hallmark of the program; the Gators are 211-11 since 1990 when an opponent scores 21 points or fewer in a contest, including 16-0 under McElwain.
» Also under McElwain, Florida is 16-1 against unranked opponents and 1-5 against ranked opponents. UF is 14-0 when outrushing an opponent, 16-2 when scoring first and 14-1 when leading at half.
» The Gators own the nation’s longest streak of returning either a kickoff or punt for a touchdown, doing so in 12 straight seasons.
» Florida has the second-most wins in the nation since 1990 (256).
Florida will wear all orange — jerseys, pants and helmets — on Saturday. The team captains, which change weekly, are responsible for choosing the uniforms ahead of each game.