Fast forward to 2014 and both teams find themselves unranked heading into this match up for the first time in 25 years.
The Gators and Tigers are meeting for the 61st time and tonight marks their 30th meeting at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The last time UF and LSU met in The Swamp was in 2012 where the Orange and Blue came out on top 14-6. Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel was the starting quarterback for that game, and he will be for this one as well. Throughout the week Florida head coach Will Muschamp has tried to boost Driskel’s confidence by reminding him of his success.
“I think we’ve taken a lot of the positive things we’ve done within his career here at the University of Florida, which there’s been a lot,” Muschamp said. “He’s played in some big games. Played in a big game against LSU here two years ago and won and made some plays in that game that helped us. Those are all things that we’ve tried to accentuate at this time, and that’s what we’re doing.”
The Gator offense couldn’t produce any points with Driskel in the game against Tennessee. That prompted Muschanp to bench the red shirt junior in favor of true freshman Treon Harris. The youngster from Booker T. Washington High School helped the Gators score 10 unanswered points to come back and beat the Vols 10-9.
Harris was suspended earlier in the week after being accused of sexual assault, but on Friday, he was reinstated to school after his accuser withdrew her complaint. Despite being reinstated to the team, Harris will not play tonight against the Tigers.
Speaking of the Tigers, they still haven’t decided whether sophomore Anthony Jennings or true freshman Brandon Harris will get the start at quarterback. It doesn’t matter to Gator defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin who plays because he says his team will be prepared for both of them.
“Both guys can scramble really well. Both guys have very strong arms, they’ve made a lot of big plays down the field. Those are things we have to be cognizant of and aware of. I think they’re probably making their determination on who they feel can run their offense the best. I don’t where all those decisions are, but both those guys are very dangerous and we have to be prepared for both.”
LSU ranks fifth in the SEC in rushing with 1269 yards. 364 of those yards come from running back Leonard Fournette. The passing attack for the Tigers is good for seventh in the SEC, thanks in large part to wide receivers Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre. Dural has close to 600 yards receiving on the year while Dupre has 249 yards through the air.
“Those guys are big and athletic, they’re very talented players,” Durkin added. “They’ve turned a couple curl routes into big gains and also down the field. They’re going to take some shots down the field, play-action pass and hit it up top.”
However, on defense LSU isn’t as dominant as they have been in years past. The Tigers are dead last in the SEC in run defense, which should work in Florida’s favor according to offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.
“Right now, what we do well is run the ball pretty well,” Roper added. “We’re a pretty physical football team. Those guys up front are playing good football. I think that’s really our identity right now.”
As far as injuries go, Florida running back Brandon Powell and wide out C.J. Worton will return to the playing field tonight. Senior linebacker Michael Taylor will also be back in action. Defensive tackle Leon Orr is a game time decision, but slot receiver Valdez Showers will miss this weekend’s game due to a high ankle sprain.
If there’s one thing LSU head Les Miles knows it’s that the 90,000 fans inside The Swamp will be rocking tonight. However, he thinks his team will be up for the challenge.
“I think this football team is going to play hard. We’re looking forward to playing in another SEC venue that’s going to be exciting and be the kind of place that we all play in in this league. We’d like to get on board with an SEC victory.”
It’s been four years since LSU last beat Florida in Gainesville.
And the Gators will look to keep it that way.
Kickoff is set for 7:30, but you can catch live coverage starting with the pregame festivities at 3:00 on ESPN 850 WRUF.
For audio of the above quotes, click below: