Florida football: 5 things that concern me most about LSU
Florida chomped past No. 7 Auburn Saturday in The Swamp, extending the SEC’s longest active winning streak to 10 games.
The Gators beat a favored Auburn team by riding a dominant performance from their championship-caliber defense and creating just enough explosive plays on offense to grind out 24 points against an excellent Auburn defense.
Florida’s win gave the Gators a big-time victory over an Auburn team that arrived in Gainesville a media darling, boasting what was believed to be the best résumé (wins over Oregon and at Texas A&M) in college football over the season’s first month.
As noted above, Florida wasn’t given much of a chance to win — but won by double digits, which you’d think would have earned the Gators a bit of national respect as a legitimate threat to upend Georgia in the SEC East. Instead, the Gators continue to face doubters and cynics — even among those who were in love with Auburn before they were suffocated by the Gators Saturday.
Florida is still not a top 10 team. Great defense but turnover prone, penalty-ridden, bad OL teams are not top 10.
Great win for UF though. I was dead wrong for thinking Bo Nix was good enough as a freshman to be even decent in The Swamp.
— George Wrighster III (@georgewrighster) October 5, 2019
Florida’s reward for its victory over No. 7 Auburn?
How about a second consecutive week with College GameDay on the scene and a night game in Baton Rouge against No. 5 LSU?
That’s life in the SEC, and a big reason the Gators’ strength of schedule (including future opponents) ranks No. 1 in the country.
Fan being short for “fanatic,” most LSU and Florida fans will dismiss each other’s strengths and accomplishments, making bold claims about the superiority of their team.
This article seeks to douse those hot takes with a bit of perspective and statistical reality, suggesting that both teams are good and have strengths worthy of caution and respect.
But it isn’t just media and opposing fans who still doubt the Gators.
The oddsmakers don’t like the Gators, having installed LSU as a double-digit favorite Saturday night. That line seems a bit extreme, especially given the fact that that these storied programs haven’t played a game decided by more than a touchdown since 2013.
That said, LSU will without question be Florida’s biggest challenge yet.
Here are 5 things that should concern the Gators about LSU.
Joe Burrow is good at football
Yes, Florida is 1-0 against Joe Burrow. You can bet Joe Burrow knows that as well. He’s been waiting for this game for a year.
Burrow will be, by some distance, the best quarterback the Gators have faced this season. The transfer has put up video game numbers in his senior season, deservedly catapulting himself into the Heisman discussion. Through 5 games, Burrow’s completion percentage is an astounding 78.4%. He has thrown for 1,864 yards, averaged 10.3 yards per attempt (7th in the country) and thrown 22 touchdown passes (4+ a game).
Burrow isn’t just an outstanding quarterback. He’s also the heart and soul of LSU’s program renaissance under Ed Orgeron.
Whether he’s wearing Road Runner socks to SEC Media Days, dropping a dime a drive after taking a bone-crunching hit in the Fiesta Bowl …
Joe Burrow with an absolute DIME 🎯 pic.twitter.com/CU7IHCbApb
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 1, 2019
or outdueling Texas All-American candidate Sam Ehlinger in Austin — Burrow has swag, and is the type of leader any program in college football would want.
Have you seen those LSU wide receivers?
Florida’s receivers and tight ends have rightly received acclaim and attention this season, and they were a huge reason Florida piled up 400 yards of offense against an outstanding Auburn defense.
But LSU has some frisbee-catching dogs in their own right, with 3 receivers (Justin Jefferson, Terrace Marshall and Ja’Marr Chase) all collecting 20 receptions or more through only 5 games.
Of this trio, Chase, a longtime Florida commit who flipped to LSU, has been an absolute terror, averaging 19.2 yards a catch and looking so dominant he has received shoutouts from Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss on his weekly “You’ve got Mossed” NFL Countdown segment.
The Tigers have the talent and speed to spread the ball around and will pose a big challenge to a Florida secondary that will enter Baton Rouge leading the nation in interceptions.
LSU’s elite secondary can negate Florida’s greatest strength
OK, OK. The LSU secondary hasn’t looked great this season. The Tigers don’t rank in the top 30 in America in pass efficiency defense and are in the bottom-half of the SEC in passing yards allowed per attempt. Nevertheless, they had a big game Saturday against Utah State’s talented quarterback Jordan Love, intercepting him 3 times and limiting a good Aggies offense to 130 yards through the air. This was progress just in time for the Gators, who boast the best set of wide receivers LSU will play outside of the Alabama game.
The smart money remains on LSU’s talent evening the poor early season statistical returns out anyway — this is just too talented a group to fail. Grant Delpit might be the most versatile defensive back in America and he’s joined by true freshman Derek Stingley, whose 8 pass breakups, 10 pass deflections and 42% opponent completion rate lead the SEC.
Florida’s strength offensively is the passing game and its wideouts and tight ends: LSU has the Jimmies and Joes to cover them and limit what the Gators do best.
Tiger Stadium will be a madhouse
Florida knows all about a big time environment and homefield advantage.
Gus Malzahn acknowledged The Swamp impacted his team Saturday, with freshman quarterback Bo Nix very clearly rattled by the constant roar of the Gators faithful. Likewise, Joe Burrow said The Swamp was “the most fierce road environment” he played in last season.
Now it is LSU’s turn.
The Tigers will have College GameDay in town and Florida gets a night kick in Baton Rouge for the first time since an epic game between unbeaten teams in 2015.
Starting Friday night, Tigers fans will work themselves into a frenzy and the Gators will certainly face an adverse environment unlike any they’ve seen this season.
Tiger Stadium at night is one of those special places in college football, a tall order for a visiting team under any circumstance. It will be even more difficult given it will be Kyle Trask’s first road game as Florida’s starting quarterback.
Florida can’t turn the ball over at LSU
The Gators have been far too generous giving the ball away this season, committing 13 turnovers, including 4 fumbles against Auburn on Saturday. Thanks to their tremendous defense, the Gators have limited the damage that’s come from their generosity — holding opponents to only 16 points off turnovers. That’s all well and good, but Florida is less likely to get away with it playing an elite offense on the road.
LSU’s defense has only produced 7 turnovers, but the Tigers always boast one of the nation’s best secondaries and the Gators will need to protect the ball to have a chance. Thus far, there’s zero evidence the Gators can play a clean football game on offense.
That could spell big trouble in Baton Rouge.