Florida-No. 18 LSU Breakdown & Prediction

by Inside the Gators Staff
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Inside the Gators‘ Zack Weiss and Mark Wheeler take a closer look at Saturday’s match-up between Florida and No. 18 LSU including thoughts on if this is Florida’s best shot at becoming bowl eligible, the Gators’ biggest advantage and disadvantage, and offer up a score prediction.

Is this Florida’s best chance the rest of the season to make a bowl game?

Weiss: Simply put: Yes. But a lot of that rides on the status of LSU QB Jayden Daniels, who’s currently listed as questionable with a ‘head injury.’ Without him, the Tigers’ dominant offense, which gets all the credit for LSU’s No. 18 ranking, is affected enough to change this game drastically. Even if he’s inhibited at all, Florida’s questionable defense would fare much better against a Daniels not at his best — because he’s one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country. Considering all that, knowing what’s in store for the rest of the Gators’ season is No. 16 Missouri on the road and then No. 4 FSU, this weekend is — despite whatever the odds may be — Florida’s best chance the rest of the way to win that coveted sixth game.

Wheeler: No, not if you ask me (which you did). Even though Florida State is the best team of the three remaining regular-season opponents, I would still like Florida’s chances of pulling an upset against the Seminoles at home more than I do the Gators’ chances of beating a ranked team away from the Swamp. The games are played on the field rather than on paper, but until he proves me wrong, it’s hard to pick a Billy Napier led team to pull an upset against a quality road opponent. Add in that it is a night game in Death Valley, and really, UF’s best chance is if the Tigers are sleeping on the Gators.

What is each team’s biggest advantage and disadvantage?

Weiss: The Tigers’ biggest advantage is that, with Jayden Daniels, their offense is too proficient for Florida to stop. They’re going to score points if he’s healthy. It’s what they do. They average 544 yards and 45 points per game — both good for first in the SEC. Their biggest disadvantage, though, is that the Gators’ offense isn’t too shabby itself, and LSU’s defense can, to put it lightly, get got. Florida’s sixth in the SEC in yards per game at 409, while LSU’s defense gives up an average of 418. Florida’s biggest advantage is just that: the Tigers’ defense is not good. If Graham Mertz can keep the ball out of Daniels’ hands and the Gators’ can get the run game going, they may just give themselves a good chance.

Wheeler: This is simple, Florida’s biggest disadvantage is attempting to contain Jayden Daniels in the air and on the ground. The Gators’ biggest advantage is getting to face the Tigers’ terrible pass defense.

What is Florida’s path to winning this game?

Weiss: As just mentioned, the formula is simple in a game like this. LSU’s best unit is its offense. By far. Similarly, its worst unit is the defense. Therefore, which one should Billy Napier and the Gators try their best to keep on the field as often as possible? And the way to make sure the Tigers’ defense spends a lot of time out there is to play the time-of-possession game. How to win that game? Simple: Run the ball well, and don’t turn it over. Keep Jayden Daniels, or whoever may be at the helm come Saturday, on the sidelines. Feed Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne the ball. Make short throws. Take advantage of Eugene Wilson’s speed behind the line of scrimmage. Now, that’s not to say don’t go deep if the opportunity is there. Because, yes, LSU’s secondary is questionable at best. And, of course, the ultimate goal is to end each offensive possession in six points. But a long drive that ends in six, in a game like this, is so much more valuable than a short drive ending in six. Rule the time-of-possession. Make the most of each drive. Win the game. That’s the path.

Wheeler: Florida can’t afford to get behind early on the road. Don’t mistake this for South Carolina. The Gators need to come out and try to neutralize the crowd. Assuming UF isn’t able to stop LSU, the best way to do that would be to hit a couple of chunk yardage plays. Completion percentage be damned, go vertical. Normally you would think it would be to Florida’s advantage to shorten the game by running the ball. However, even as bad as LSU’s defense is, it’s hard to imagine UF putting together long, drawn-out drives in such a hostile atmosphere. A false start here, an illegal procedure there, and all of a sudden you are off schedule with down and distance. UF will likely need to mix in some explosive plays rather than attempt the dink-and-dunk 10-12 play drives.


Weiss: I believe that Daniels will play, and, therefore, this Tigers offense will be elite, as per usual. I think Florida’s defense struggles mightily on the road against it. That said, however, the Gators’ offense moves up and down the field well. I’d expect it to against a weak LSU defense. This should be a high-scoring affair; if the Orange & Blue can finish drives well and be efficient in the red zone, they absolutely have a shot in Death Valley. I’m picking the Tigers because, like I said, I do think Daniels plays. But it’ll be close. 38-35 LSU.

Wheeler: I have the advantage of writing this after it has already been reported that Jayden Daniels is expected to start this evening. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Florida contains him, much less shuts him down. The Gators’ best bet here is if the Tigers take this game for granted and are caught sleepwalking early on. Coming off a loss to Alabama, that probably won’t be the case. UF’s defense has given up 39 points or more in three straight games. There’s no reason to expect that streak to end. LSU 51-24.

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