On Oct. 14, the Florida Gators Football Team shut down all team activities due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the team.
Likewise, the Gators could not play their opponent that week: historic rival LSU Tigers. Now, eight weeks later, the game will finally be played.
Saturday brings the latest edition of this cross-division rivalry. In 2019, Florida entered this game as 14-point underdogs. Yet, the Gators put up arguably their most inspiring performance of the season, with then blossoming quarterback Kyle Trask went toe-to-toe with eventual Heisman trophy winner Joe Burrow. While Florida would lose 42-28, Kyle Trask finished with 310 yards and three touchdown’s in front of 102,000 fans at Death Valley.
It was the night Kyle Trask announced himself to the world. And now, as the betting odds favorite for the Heisman Trophy, the world can’t get enough of him. On senior night for the Gators, this rivalry is an encapsulating last game in the swamp. Trask discusses this experience below.
Tale of Two Seasons
In 2019, LSU ranked No.1 in total offense out of 128 FBS teams. In 2020, LSU ranks 46th.
For those who haven’t paid attention, it has been an uninspiring year for the Tigers. After losing 14 players from the National Championship roster, it has been a rebuilding year for the Bayou Bengals. Even further, LSU lost both offensive coordinator Joe Brady to the NFL and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to Baylor.
However, not even Ed Orgeron himself could have predicted the struggle of the 2020 season.
The Tigers are 3-4 and sit at fifth in the SEC West. LSU has lost to three ranked opponents by double digits. In 2019, LSU won by double digits in all three postseason games.
It truly is a tale of two seasons for the Tigers. LSU ranks 124th nationally in pass defense allowing 313.1 pass yards per game. In 2019, LSU allowed only 222.7 pass yards for game. Moreover, LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. opened the season as the overwhelming favorite for the Jim Thorpe Award(award given to the nations top defensive back). Yet, the Tigers are still struggling on defense Against Alabama’s high octane passing offense, the Crimson Tide racked up 650 yards in a 55-17 victory.
Florida looks to follow Alabama’s path, boasting the 11th ranked offense in the country.
Flip The Script
In 2019, Florida came into the LSU game as an underdog while LSU boasted a historically efficient offense.
In 2020, Florida enters the LSU game boasting one of the most prolific passing attacks in school history.
Gators quarterback Kyle Trask has thrown for 3,243 yards through nine games in 2020. Additionally, Trask has tossed 38 touchdowns, one away from Danny Wuerffel’s single season record of 39. Trask is on a historic pace, as his 360.3 pass yards per game put him on track to shatter Rex Grossman’s single season record of 3,896. The Gators QB appears to be in the drivers seat for the Heisman Trophy, but with Mac Jones’ continued success, the Manvel, Texas, native looks to make a statement Saturday.
On the flip-side, Florida’s defense has struggled at times this season. The Gators rank 48th nationally in total defense allowing 381.0 yards per game. LSU averages 416.0 yards per game, yet their offense has gone stagnant during the recent quarterback carousel(Note: LSU has not announced their starter as of 10 a.m. E.T.) This game presents a great opportunity to Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who can get momentum building for his defense. Grantham discussed the Tigers below.
LSU will be without a lieu of weapons due to opt-outs. Tuesday, five star tight end Arik Gilbert announced he will be opting-out the rest of the season due to fatigue. Tigers star receiver Terrance Marshall Jr. (731 yards 10 TD’s) opted out earlier in the season. Also, LSU announced this week they will be implementing a postseason ban due to NCAA rule violations earlier this week.
Gilbert has been homesick since he arrived, sources say, and LSU is currently fighting to keep him.
— Brody Miller (@BrodyAMiller) December 8, 2020
Florida is healthy for the most part. The Gators will be without senior defensive end Jerimiah Moon and safety Shawn Davis. Both players are expected to be back by the SEC Championship on Dec. 19.
Saturday will be the 66th meeting between the cross-division rivals. Florida leads the all-time series 33-30-3. Dan Mullen discusses this rivalry below.
While LSU has nothing to lose, they also have nothing to play for. Yes, it is a rivalry game, but the Gators should handle the dwindling Tigers handedly.
In the end, if Florida has won this game, it will be due to the high octane offense led by Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts. If LSU can pull off the upset, it’ll be due to solid quarterback play and the best defensive game they have had all season.
The Gators are 4-5 against the spread this season, and have never covered while being 20-plus point favorites. Look for LSU to cover the 23 point spread, but Florida to take the game. Trask should amass 300 yards and four touchdowns for the sixth time this season.
Final Score Prediction: Florida: 41 LSU: 21
How To Watch
Florida hosts LSU Saturday at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Tune into WRUF at 3 p.m. for live coverage from The Swamp.
To see statistics for the LSU Tigers, click here.