For any long-standing football fan, there are just a few college traditions that stand out above the rest and make even the most casual fan glued to their televisions on any given Saturday night in the fall.
One of those traditions is a top-10 matchup, especially one that takes place on a Saturday night in Death Valley. That’s exactly the kind of match up the college football world will get as No. 5 LSU and No. 7 Florida will go head to head for the 66th time in their histories.
Not playing much before the 1970s, the Florida-LSU rivalry has blossomed as a result of constant matchups, and one (or both) teams typically being in the national spotlight when they come face to face in inter-divisional SEC play.
This rivalry was elevated to another level last year after Dan Mullen’s Gators made a national statement when they took down the then-No. 5 Tigers at home by a score of 27-19. Now, the match up flips to Tiger Stadium in what will be a raucous atmosphere. And the Tigers are looking for revenge.
The Gators may have an even better team take the field for them this season— but the Tigers are without a doubt able to claim just the same. The new-look offense of the Tigers has been a proverbial offensive renaissance thanks to some key additions, and the Heisman-caliber play of quarterback Joe Burrow. They look likely to give Florida all they can handle and more.
The offense alone sets up the potential chance for a massive LSU statement win.
The biggest test for this late-night SEC battle in the bayou will come for both teams’ big men in the trenches. The Florida defensive front is one of the best in the nation and currently sits second in total sacks. They will be the best defense LSU has played, especially on the defensive line.
That being said, there’s plenty of strength versus strength in this upcoming matchup, as the Tigers’ new-found offensive prowess will also, by far, be the toughest that the Florida Gators have faced thus far this season.
With both sides of the ball packed with experience and firepower like defensive lineman K’Lavon Chaisson, who recently said at a press conference that the matchup is “bad blood colliding,” this LSU front and linebacker core is no weak link, it’s quickly grown to a strength.
Pair that with one of the top skill groups in the country, including nightmare match up safety Grant Delpit and freshman sensation Derek Stingley Jr., the Tigers boast a lot of top-tier talent that will look to fuel up from the energy in Tiger stadium, and make life tough for the Gators offensively.
Even the bookies in Vegas are betting on the Tigers to wipe the floor with the Gators, giving LSU a favoring of just over two touchdowns. There are plenty of reasons this game won’t be as close as it’s billed up to being, and plenty of reasons to believe that LSU will turn this Gators’ team into little more than angry salamanders.
Here’s three reasons this game is primed to be a blowout win for the Tigers.3. The big boys in the trenches
This LSU offensive line has been much better than what it was last year when it was one of the worst at keeping quarterback Joe Burrow safe. Compliment much of that to their new offensive scheme that requires a quick release of the ball, but also compliment it to the coming together of a fairly experienced group of big men. More on that offense comes later.
LSU Center Lloyd Cushenberry told The Advocate) that he has the statistics memorized from last year’s game against Florida, where the LSU offensive line let up an abysmal eleven tackles for loss, five sacks, and eight quarterback pressures in the loss.
Those numbers have been posted on the game-day lockers of each LSU offensive lineman since that game and will be found there as a motivator come Saturday night. Cushenberry made sure of that.
The LSU offensive line will finally have all of its key pieces back for Saturday night’s game, which gives them yet another strength heading into the contest. If the Tigers protect Joe Burrow and bell-cow back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, they’ll win this game. No secondary can hold coverage forever, at least, not seemingly against Joe Burrow.
Cushenberry, the first LSU offensive lineman to wear the much-heralded No. 18 jersey, is joined by starting guard Ed Ingram, left tackle Saahdiq Charles, and more depth than they can count with Chasen Hines, Donavaughn Campbell, and others.
They’ll have pretty much every lineman available, despite losing reserve man Badara Traore to injury, and will look to slow the roll of the likes of Florida’s Jabari Zuniga.
If anyone can do it, this LSU offensive line can.2. Delpit, Stingley and DBU
Potentially the biggest advantage that this LSU team has comes from a group of players who may not even have risen up to playing their best football yet this season. Grant Delpit, though always a difference, has been largely avoided so far this year, but has still managed to accumulate 19 tackles with his powerful downhill running.
However, in his place, his teammates have stepped up. Kristian Fulton Jr. (lots of “Jr.’s” on this team), Derek Stingley Jr. (seriously, is this a joke?) and Jacoby Stevens (finally), have stepped up in big ways for this Tigers secondary.
However, Grant Delpit looks primed to make an impact this Saturday against Florida, in that he matches up perfectly with the Gators’ dynamic, large and athletic tight end in Kyle Pitts. Delpit is virtually a tight-end eraser, however, which gives a HUGE boost to the Tigers’ defense against Florida.
Delpit’s ability to disrupt the timing of opposing offenses with his speed in coverage boom-delivering run support should allow him to handle the mismatch that Pitts would have against most, all by himself.
Backing him up in case of any error (or perhaps a lagging effect from his lasting concussion protocol), are potential x-factors in the aforementioned Stingley, Stevens and corner Kary Vincent Jr., who also just so happens to be coming off of his best game against Utah State.1. The 2 Joes: Burrow and Brady
Also on the offensive side of the ball for this point (which makes sense as the lack of an offense was, and has been for some time, the Achilles’ heel of the Tigers program), much of the Tigers renovated contender status comes from the rejuvenation of their offensive game plan.
Probably a largely unaccredited part of that newfound offensive prowess comes from the pairing of now-Heisman candidate Joe Burrow, and former New Orleans Saints offensive assistant coach Joe Brady. Brady has come in, along with offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr., and given renewed life to this LSU offense.
For so long, the Tigers’ biggest offensive threats were their consistently great running back stables, which have featured some of the premier running names in the NFL. That’s not to say they’ve completely gotten away from the running side of things, as Clyde Edwards-Helaire still does plenty for this offense, but the Tigers have now been able to find a consistent passing game by spreading the field.
Joe Burrow, armed with this new offensive scheme and weapons like Justin Jefferson and Terrace Marshall Jr. (who will return from injury against the Gators), has proven that the Tigers are ready for a shootout.
This LSU offense is on a hot streak and will be foaming at the mouth to keep that reputation heading into their biggest trend of the year. Can Florida stop them? It’s going to be tough, especially with a newly healthy Marshall Jr., and an offensive line that still has a bad taste in their mouth from last season’s loss to this Florida team.Honorable Mention: Death Valley. Saturday. Night.
“One does not simply walk into Tiger Stadium. The purple gates are guarded by more than just angry Cajuns. There are people there who simply do not sleep.” – Ed Orgeron, probably.
This game is played on Saturday night at Death Valley. That tells you all you need to know about LSU’s chances in this match up. The environment, backed by new-found excitement over the LSU offense, should be electric in Baton Rouge. The purple and gold faithful will be fully fueled after a full day of tailgating. This is going to be a big win for LSU.
Not only is LSU going to beat Florida but the Tigers will cover the 13-point spread.
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