5 reasons LSU will beat Florida (yes, moving game to Death Valley helps)
Before we start with reasons LSU will beat Florida Saturday, let’s start with something that definitely will not be a deciding factor in this game.
Sure, Florida (7-2, 5-2) is playing for an SEC East title and a shot at the conference championship. LSU (6-3, 4-2) is playing to remain the odds-on-favorite to get to the Sugar Bowl.
And, Ed Orgeron is coaching for a job.
But none of that really matters. Both teams are going to show up to play Saturday afternoon at Tiger Stadium with plenty of reason to lay it all on the line.
So, no, motivation won’t be the reason either team beats the other. These, however, are five reasons LSU will get to win No. 7:
1. The Valley and not The Swamp: Let’s make this clear — this game should have been played in Gainesville on the weekend of Oct. 8. Florida and the SEC dropped the ball in failing to set up contingencies that would have allowed the game to be played sometime that weekend, probably in Gainesville, possibly somewhere else.
But the bottom line, it wasn’t played and rescheduling the game for Baton Rouge this weekend was probably the best the SEC could do without putting the screws totally on LSU.
So a game originally scheduled for the Swamp is now in Death Valley. How much does home field advantage matter? Certainly it helps.
But make no mistake, LSU would rather have played this game in early October and, in its mind, it would be going for win No. 8 against South Alabama this weekend.
2. Fournette is playing but the linebackers aren’t: Leonard Fournette won’t miss Senior Day, which probably is the junior’s last home game. So, despite his gimpy ankle, expect him to get the start and expect him to run hard.
Just don’t expect starting linebackers Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone, Florida’s two leading tacklers, to get in his way. Anzalone (broken arm, pictured) is done for the season, David (ankle) is doubtful.
Florida’s third-leading tackler, safety Marcus Maye, is also out (broken arm). If David can’t go, that will be 159 tackles, including six sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss missing from the lineup.
Florida could still compete against the run if its defensive line — minus injured defensive end Bryan Cox, Jr. — can hold up. But that’s a lot of missing physicality from the Gators’ front seven.
3. Arden Key vs. backup LT: Another injured Gator, left tackle David Sharpe, would have had his hands full with Arden Key, the SEC leader in sacks per game (nine in nine games), even if he wasn’t hurt.
But Sharpe has a bad ankle and is listed as doubtful for this weekend. If he’s taped up and playing at less than 100 percent, he’ll need all kinds of help containing the ultra-quick Key.
If a backup starts? This could be a field day for Mr. Key.
4. Florida doesn’t score, LSU doesn’t allow points: Florida has the worst red-zone offense in the SEC, scoring on just 24 of 34 red zone trips with 19 touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the LSU defense is tied with Michigan nationally for fewest touchdowns allowed per game (nine in nine games) and, predictably, the Tigers are lights out in preventing teams from finishing drives with touchdowns, with only seven of 26 opposing trips to the red zone resulting in touchdowns.
Do the math. It looks like a day where field goals might be acceptable outcomes for Florida’s offense against one of the stingiest defenses in the game.
5. Flag football: Florida is the most penalized team in the SEC, getting flagged for 66.2 yards per game.
LSU is the third least penalized team in the conference, getting flagged for about 44 yards per game.
If LSU ends up plus-22 in penalty yards, that’s huge in a game where yardage figures to be low already, the game is in Baton Rouge and the Gators are battling injuries.