Position-by-position edge: No. 8 Florida at No. 6 LSU
Taking a position-by-position look at Florida vs. LSU, here’s what to watch for in Saturday’s showdown between the Gators and the Tigers:
QUARTERBACK — Even: With Will Grier being suspended for a year for violating the NCAA’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, the Gators have turned back to Treon Harris to start against LSU. Harris, a sophomore, has been serviceable, completing 53.6% of his passes for 1,288 yards, 11 touchdowns and 4 interceptions for his career. His counterpart, Brandon Harris, is coming off a career-high 228-yard passing performance in last week’s win over South Carolina. He has completed 56.7% of his passes for his career for 1,062 yards, 10 TDs and 2 INTs. These Harrises aren’t related, but Treon is the younger brother of a Tennessee Titans cornerback who goes by the name of — you guessed it — Brandon Harris.
RUNNING BACKS — LSU: When he hasn’t been yelled at by his coach Jim McElwain, Kelvin Taylor has rushed for 438 yards and 7 touchdowns on 114 carries — only 3.8 yards per attempt. That average matches what freshman Jordan Cronkrite has compiled this year, while he’s added 28 carries for 106 yards and 2 TDs for the Gators. All that pales in comparison to what Heisman Trophy favorite Leonard Fournette has done in 2015. The super sophomore leads the country in rushing yards (1,022) and rushing yards per game (204.4), while sharing the national lead for rushing touchdowns (12). He is also the first running back in SEC history to rush for 200 or more yards in three straight games. This matchup is clearly no contest.
WIDE RECEIVERS, TIGHT END — Florida: Demarcus Robinson has caught 2 TD passes while leading the Gators with 34 receptions for 330 yards. Brandon Powell leads Florida with 3 touchdown receptions, part of his 16 catches for 252 yards, and freshman Antonio Callaway has added 13 grabs for 208 yards and 2 scores. Florida also has solid tight ends in DeAndre Goolsby (12 catches, 184 yards and a touchdown) and Jake McGee (18 receptions, 157 yards and 1 TD). Meanwhile, LSU’s Malachi Dupre has made 14 catches for 196 yards and a team-high 2 TDs, while teammate Travin Dural also has 14 receptions for a Tiger-best 229 yards and a score. No other LSU wideout or tight end cracks the SEC’s top 50 in terms of receiving stats. The Tigers obviously use a run-heavy offensive system, but for comparison’s sake, Robinson is averaging 5.7 catches per game, while no one on LSU is averaging more than 2.8.
OFFENSIVE LINE — LSU: In just five games, the Tigers lead the SEC in the following categories: rushing yards (1,732), rushing yards per game (346.4), rushing TDs (18) and yards per attempt (7.2). Florida is no higher than 6th in any of those aforementioned categories. LSU has also allowed 7 sacks to rank 6th the SEC in sacks allowed per game, while Florida is next-to-last in the conference in sacks allowed, having yielded 15 over its first six contests.
DEFENSIVE LINE — Florida: The Gators lead the SEC with 21 sacks and they are allowing 99.2 rushing yards per game to rank 2nd the SEC while the Tigers are right behind them at 3rd (99.6). Jonathan Bullard (28 total tackles) leads Florida with 4.5 sacks, while teammates Alex McCalister (6.5 tackles for loss) and Joey Ivie have added 4.0 and 3.5, respectively. Caleb Brantley (2 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss) and Cece Jefferson (1.5) have chipped in as well for the Gators. Meanwhile, Lewis Neal leads LSU with 4.0 sacks, and teammate Davon Godchaux (5 tackles for loss) has added 3.
LINEBACKERS — Even: Kendell Beckwith leads LSU with 33 total tackles and has broken up a pass this season, while teammate Deion Jones (2 interceptions) is right behind with 31 total tackles, and one of his 2 interceptions is a pick-six. Antonio Morrison leads the Gators with 46 total tackles (including 6.5 for loss), while teammate Jarrad Davis also has 6.5 tackles for loss among his 41 total tackles.
SECONDARY — Florida: The Tigers are 4th in the SEC in passing defense (191.8 yards allowed per game), while the Gators rank 7th (197.2). Meanwhile, Florida ranks 2nd in the conference in opponents’ passer rating (104.9) while LSU is 7th (115.91). Junior Vernon Hargreaves, arguably the best defensive back in the SEC, is tied for 2nd in the conference with 3 interceptions and has added 19 total tackles and a pass breakup. Teammate Jalen Tabor, whose average of 1.6 passes defended per game leads the SEC, has also added two pick-sixes to share the conference lead. Marcus Maye, who leads Florida’s secondary with 37 total tackles, has also forced 3 fumbles, broken up 2 passes and has 1 interception and 1 QB hurry. LSU’s Jamal Adams (21 total tackles) has 2 interceptions, and teammates Kevin Toliver II (14 total tackles) and John Battle have 1.