The road continues to get tougher for the No. 22 Florida Gators (4-1, 2-1) as they host undefeated No. 5 LSU (5-0, 2-0) this weekend.
Coming off back-to-back thrilling wins over arch-rival Tennessee (2-3, 0-2) and Mississippi State (3-2, 0-2) in Dan Mullen’s return, the Gators are preparing for another slugfest in the trenches this weekend.
Gators starting left guard Tyler Jordan discussed the upcoming battle.
“Every SEC game's like a dogfight. Like last week we knew going in to Starkville, we knew it was going to be a dogfight, we knew we were going to have to grind it out and we're going to have to do the same time, same thing this week. We got a good team coming here and we're going to have to give it our all. Got to be physical in practice all week and we got to be ready for it."
Like any other SEC game on Saturday, the team who wins the rushing battle and turnover battle usually leaves victorious. This weekend should be no different, featuring two teams who rely heavily on the ground game and forcing turnovers on defense.
In terms of pounding the football, Ed Orgeron is an impressive 13-0 when one of his tailbacks eclipses the 100-yard mark while at LSU. Featured tailback Nick Brossette is fourth in the league with 481-yards on the ground, crossing the goal line six times.
Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, sees the tendencies of the Tiger run game and discussed their physical nature on Monday.
“They're one of the more powerful teams that you'll see from a standpoint of their traditional in that they're playing with multiple tight ends, multiple tight end-fullback kind of stuff. They like to run the ball downhill. They've got a physical offensive line. They've got tight ends and fullbacks that block and try to knock you off, and I think they're playing to the temperament of their head coach and the way he wants to play.”
The defensive side of the ball has improved tremendously following the loss to the Kentucky Wildcats. After the 303-yard thrashing on the ground from the Cats’, Florida’s defense has only allowed 300 combined yards the past three weekends.
However, this is their toughest and fastest opponent they will play to date.
“They like to run a lot of zone and we are getting ready for it. I mean like you said, they are physical so it's going to be physical versus physical, our D-line versus their O-line, like I said the best of the best,” defensive lineman Kyree Campbell said Monday.
On offense, Florida’s beginning to develop their own physical nature, helping propel Dan Mullen and his Gators the last two games. Creating running lanes and hitting their blocking assignments has allowed the Gators to average 181 yards per game the previous three Saturday’s. Against a ferocious Tiger defense, Florida will need their big guys moving down field and opening holes.
Jordan believes the Mississippi State win created confidence for his unit. He talked about the importance of establishing the run game early and often against LSU.
"I think it will be extremely important. You know, we got to be able to run the ball to get them to start respecting the run. Having the linebackers suck in so we can spread the ball out in the perimeter when they're playing run."
Last year's one-point loss remains bitter to these players. On Saturday afternoon, the Gators are looking to avenge the loss.
“I can speak for the older guys and I can say, yeah. It is kind of hurting a little bit. To lose by one point when you know you could have won the game. We’re just going to come out and have a better scheme this time. Hopefully we have a great game,” running back Lamical Perine said this week
Dating back to 2002, only once (Florida 2016) has the winning team in the SEC rivalry showdown won while losing the rushing attack. History speaks for itself, win the rushing battle and you’ll win the game.