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Florida wide receiver Josh Hammond (10) celebrates with running back Lamical Perine (2) after catching a touchdown pass against Auburn during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Florida relishes the underdog role

The Florida Gators are still undefeated – and they’re still the underdog. The team upset then No. 7 Auburn Tigers in The Swamp on Saturday, in what was arguably one of the loudest games on record. They’re on a 10-game win streak, with the last loss dating back to last season against Missouri. The defense has allowed just 16 points in the last three games. Now, they sit at seventh in the country in both the AP and the Coaches poll.

And yet, there’s nearly a 14-point spread for this Saturday’s game against LSU – and the spread isn’t in Florida’s favor. Just like last week against the Auburn Tigers, analysts are seeing the Gators as the underdogs in this weekend’s game against No. 5 LSU. But right now, Florida players are relishing that underdog mentality.

Defense handling Burrow

There’s a reason LSU is ranked fifth in the country. Currently, the Tigers have the highest scoring offense in the nation, averaging nearly 55 points a game. They’re led by senior quarterback Joe Burrow, who already has 22 touchdowns and nearly 1,900 on the season thus far.

But that’s combatted with Florida’s defense. The Gators have the best scoring defense in the SEC, allowing an average of under ten points a game. That’s fifth best in the country.

https://twitter.com/Gators247_/status/1180897655741915136

Some leaders on this Florida team are Shawn Davis, who has three interceptions on the season, and David Reese. Reese already tallied 49 tackles – a conference high. Another leader is junior safety Donovan Stiner.  He had a key interception in the win against Auburn. It’s his first trip to Death Valley, but he says he has confidence in what the defense can bring.

Steiner isn’t surprised by the 14-point spread. He said that he feels as if the team has been underrated for much of the season. This is just another week. Stiner did say it’s critical the team focuses on the task at hand: get another upset win, and prove people wrong.

Handling Death Valley

While the defense has shown an outstanding performance at Auburn last weekend (and throughout the season as a whole), the offense has been a bit of a different story. Backup quarterback Kyle Trask came out in the second quarter against Auburn with a leg injury, but quickly returned. But, that left third-string Emory Jones to take the field, with Nick Sproles behind him. While Trask was able to come back and is healthy, there is no question the Florida quarterback situation is very different from LSU’s.  And, the team is averaging around 32 points a game

That’s combined with the atmosphere that is Death Valley. Here’s just a few of the things LSU players have said – and it’s only Tuesday.

The Gators will need to be able to shut out all that noise. Wide receiver Josh Hammond says this is critically important for this weekend, as there will be distractions before the game even starts.

The senior agrees that there has been a lack of respect for the Gators. He also says that week in and week out, he hopes people change their minds about the Gators.

But right now, the undefeated Gators still have a 14-point spread against them, just days before College GameDay in Death Valley. Last year, the Gators beat the Tigers 27-19 at home. This weekend’s away game will be Florida’s second top-10 matchup in two weeks.

It seems the players understand their underdog perception, and it will be interesting to see how that manifests on the field at LSU. Kickoff for the game is Saturday at 8 p.m.

About Cassandra Amunndson

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