SEC football, the gift that keeps on giving. After being tasked with a Top-10 matchup just a week ago, it doesn’t get any easier this week for the No. 7 Florida Gators (6-0, 3-0), as they travel to Death Valley to play the No. 5 LSU Tigers (5-0, 1-0).
For the second straight week, the Gators enter as underdogs. This time, they are favored to lose by two touchdowns. They were biggest game of last week and made a statement, and are given the same opportunity this week with all eyes on them.
It’s no secret that these two teams have no love-lost for one another. They simply don’t like each other. That should make for an all-out battle for four quarters.
Here are the five Gators on the spot to perform this week should they pull off another upset of the Tigers.
- Tommy Townsend, Punter
A punter on the spot to perform in a highly anticipated Top-7 showdown? You got that right. The Gators need Tommy Townsend to lace his cleats up tight on Saturday. A game like this can often times come down to field position, so Florida will rely on Townsend to get off a couple of booming punts. And if we’ve learned anything in the past from when Florida and LSU get together, it’s to expect the unexpected. Dan Mullen seems to have a lot of trust in Townsend when he’s back to punt. The Gators have called two fake punts this year, a successful attempt after Townsend showed off his wheels against Miami, and a terribly executed one last week against Auburn. In a game like this, it will be interesting to see if Mullen has something up his sleeve. Regardless, Townsend is more than just a specialist for the Gators, he’s become a weapon.
- Josh Hammond, Wide Receiver
He’s become the Gators Mr. Reliable. There’s no way around it, Josh Hammond has the clutch gene. Time and time again, he’s shown up for Florida in big games down the stretch. Whether it was LSU last year, his big game to start the season against Miami, silencing Kentucky on the jet sweep or finding the end zone last week against Auburn, Hammond shows up for big games. He’s become a security blanket for whoever is behind center for Florida, throw the ball in Hammond’s area, he’s likely going to come down with it. Last week, he had an actual drop, something that didn’t happen all of 2018. I’m so that probably drove him crazy and he’s chomping at the bit to make up for it. It’s become hard to predict which Gator receiver is going to have the big game, but that’s no bad thing at all. The receiver corps is more than fine with that, they want everyone to eat. With the absence of Kadarius Toney, the Gators have used Hammond in his role to some extent with jet sweeps. He should be given the chance to make some plays with the ball in his hands and show out on the big stage once again.
- C.J Henderson, Defensive Back
Another edition of Florida-LSU means another chapter to long going DBU debate. With LSU’s air attack the best it’s been in years, the Gators have a chance to support their side of the debate. With that, C.J Henderson has a chance to make a statement and boost his stock. Joe Burrow has been throwing the ball all over defenses to his playmaking receivers, Justin Jefferson and Ja’marr Chase. The duo has combined for 13 touchdown receptions and have shown they are capable of taking a game over. The Gators need Henderson to lockdown whoever he lines up across. He may also get the opportunity to make a play on the ball with the amount the Tigers have been throwing the football. If he can lock down his side of the field, that should only increase Florida’s chances.
- Jon Greenard, BUCK
At the half way point of the season, Jon Greenard has arguably been the Gators MVP. With four sacks, one interception, a forced fumble and three pass deflections, the grad transfer has shown he can dominate in all areas. On another big stage, the Gators need Greenard to show out again. Earlier this week, he was recognized for his fantastic start, being named to the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list. A big factor in this game figures to be if the Gators can get after Burrow. He’s been sacked nine times this year, but with given time, he’s been picking defenses apart. The Gators pass rush has been a key to their defenses early success, with Greenard playing a key role in that. On Saturday, Florida needs him to be disruptive upfront and rattle Burrow as much as possible.
Kyle Trask, Quarterback
Another big time SEC showdown means another new challenge for Kyle Trask. He will now be asked to lead the Gators in one of the toughest road environments in the nation. Let’s not forget to mention under the lights in primetime. And that this also marks Trask’s first career road start. Another thing to keep an eye on his is health. He should no doubt be good to go, but if Trask is still hobbled from the MCL sprain last week it could spell bad news for Florida. Since becoming the guy for the Gators, the only real knack has been the turnovers, in specific fumbles. Trask has to do a better job of getting rid of the ball and not holding onto to it. Games like this often times come down to the turnover battle, and if Trask can take care of the ball, it should help Florida’s chances. LSU’s defense has been suspect compared to years past. They’re giving up 206 passing yards a game and if Trask if given time to throw, it could result in a good day for the Gators passing attack. Mullen has said that a ‘game-manager’ quarterback is not a bad thing at all. That’s what the Gators need from him Saturday. Take care of the football, make smart decisions, get the ball into playmakers hands. His legend continues to grow by the week and he has another chance to prove the naysayers wrong once again, this time in Death Valley.