Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:56 PM
Florida at LSU
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No. 7 Florida Gators at No. 5 LSU Tigers
Venue/Location: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, LA
Time/TV: Saturday, Oct. 12, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: LSU -14, Total 55.5
When you think about college football, it doesn’t get much better than a pair of unbeaten teams battling it out in Redstick at Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night in October.
That’s exactly what’s on the menu in Week 7 when Louisiana State (5-0 straight up, 4-1 against the spread) plays host to Florida in an SEC showdown at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
As of late Friday afternoon, most betting shops had LSU installed as a 13.5-point favorite with a total of 56. The Gators were +425 on the money line at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas.
This is the annual crossover game for both schools against a team from the other SEC division. It’s always been a great rivalry, but certainly one in which each program saves more vitriol for other bigger rivals. For instance, LSU’s biggest rival is Alabama, followed by Texas A&M, Auburn and maybe even Ole Miss ahead of UF. On the flip side, FSU, Georgia and Tennessee are the Gators’ biggest rivals.
However, all of that changed in a matter of days three years ago, when former LSU Athletics Director Joe Alleva made an unabashed fool of himself by pushing a ridiculously false narrative about Florida.
Hurricane Matthew was closing in on the Sunshine State in October of 2016. The forecasts on Monday and Tuesday predicted that the storm, one that had 110 mph winds and left one million Florida residents without power, would move up the Florida coast through Friday. In these situations, the Governor declares a state of emergency and politicians make decisions about cancelling events like football games.
LSU was – by far – the biggest home game for UF in 2016. Therefore, nearly all of Florida’s top recruiting targets were taking their official visits to Gainesville that weekend. And, as we all know, these forecasts for hurricanes can change by the hour, so the Gators didn’t want to move or postpone the game until it became clear that there was no other choice.
Tuesday wasn’t the time to make that decision. Alleva had just fired Les Miles when LSU dropped an 18-13 decision at Auburn. Nevertheless, with a win over Florida, the Tigers’ path to get to a home game vs. Alabama with only one SEC loss – and thus, the ability to control their own destiny to win the SEC West if they beat ‘Bama – was relatively easy with just two SEC home games vs. Missouri and Ole Miss prior to the Crimson Tide’s trip to Baton Rouge.
Sensing the opportunity to get the UF game moved to Tiger Stadium, Alleva started a campaign to get that done at whatever cost necessary. In a watered-down SEC East, Florida had a great chance to get back to Atlanta by winning the division for a second straight season. The school was considering all sorts of options for the game, including moving it to other venues or playing it Sunday. Obviously, Baton Rouge was understandably the last place where UF wanted the game to be played.
As conversations between Florida, LSU and the SEC offices were taking place, Alleva issued a deadline to the Gators and the conference. If the game was going to be moved to Baton Rouge, Alleva had to know by early Wednesday evening in order to get the stadium ready and ensure that security and concessions, etc. were in order.
Florida and the SEC weren't going to take mandates and deadlines from Alleva and rightfully so. The game ended up getting postponed but since its result was going to impact the division races, it had to be played. Since the schools didn't share an open date but did have a weekend in common whend both were playing non-conference games, LSU bought out of its game with South Alabama and UF did the same with a home date vs. Presbyterian.
The SEC decided to play the game in Baton Rouge but in doing so, forced the Tigers to go to Gainesville in both 2017 and '18. Neither side was really happy with the outcome at that time, and it cranked up the animosity between these adversaries about 10-15 notches. (We'll get into the '16 result and the rivalry since then down below...)
LSU has captured wins vs. Georgia Southern (55-3), at Texas (45-38), vs. Northwestern State (65-14), at Vanderbilt (66-38) and vs. Utah State (42-6). The only non-cover came by one-half point when the Tigers beat the Demons by 51 as 51.5-point home ‘chalk.’
Ed Orgeron’s team thumped the Aggies 42-6 as a 27.5-point home favorite last week. The 48 combined points dipped ‘under’ the 73-point total. After Joe Burrow connected with Derrick Dillon for a seven-yard touchdown pass early in the first quarter, Utah State answered with a pair of field goal and cashed tickets for first-quarter bets.
However, Burrow added a TD run and a 25-yard TD pass to Ja’Marr Chase to give the Tigers a 21-6 halftime advantage. Burrow added three more TD passes in the second half, including a pair to Justin Jefferson. LSU held Utah State to 28 rushing yards on 21 attempts (1.3 yards per carry), and it enjoyed huge leads in first downs (32-10) and total offense (601-168 yards).
Burrow completed 27-of-38 passes for 344 yards and five TDs with one interception. He also ran for 42 yards and one score on 10 carries. Jefferson had nine receptions for 155 yards and two TDs, while Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for a team-high 72 yards on 14 totes.
For the season, Burrow has produced incredible numbers. The senior signal caller leads the nation in completion percentage, is second in TD passes and passing yards and third in QB rating (216.16). He has connected on 78.4 percent of his throws for 1,864 yards with a 22/3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Burrow, who transferred to LSU after failing to win the QB job from Dwayne Haskins at Ohio State prior to the 2018 campaign, also has a pair of rushing scores and a 15-3 record in 18 career starts.
Jefferson leads the SEC in receiving yards (547), is second in TD catches (seven) and fifth in receptions with 30. Chase has 23 catches for 451 yards and six TDs, while Terrace Marshall has 20 receptions for 304 yards and six TDs. However, Marshall broke his foot in the Sept. 21 win at Vandy. He returned to non-contact practice on Monday but was downgraded to ‘doubtful’ vs. UF when he didn’t participate in Tuesday’s practice in pads.
Edwards-Helaire has 360 rushing yards, five TDs and a 5.5 yards-per-carry average. John Emery Jr, the true freshman who was a five-star recruit, has 114 rushing yards and two TDs with a 4.4 YPC average.
LSU is ranked second in the country in total offense and passing yards, but its 54.6 points-per-game average is No. 1 in the nation. As for the LSU defense led by one of America’s trop defensive coordinators, Dave Aranda, it is ranked 19th nationally in total defense, No. 52 versus the pass, No. 9 against the run and 30th in scoring ‘D’ (19.8 PPG).
Three starters on LSU’s defense – senior DE Rashard Lawrence, senior LB Michael Divinity and junior DE Glen Logan – have each missed three games in a row due to injuries, but Lawrence (ankle) and Divinity (knee) have been upgraded to ‘probable’ against the Gators. Logan remains ‘questionable’ with a foot injury. This trio for 154 tackles, 13 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, 15 QB hurries, six passes broken up and one interception in 2018.
Florida (6-0 SU, 4-2 ATS) opened the season with a non-covering 24-20 win over Miami in Orlando as a seven-point favorite. After thumping UT-Martin 45-0 in Week 2, Dan Mullen’s team went to Lexington to face Kentucky. The Gators hadn’t lost at UK since 1986, but they went into the fourth quarter trailing 21-10. Also, starting QB Feleipe Franks had been carted off the field in the third after dislocating his ankle.
Nevertheless, with junior back-up QB Kyle Trask under center, the Texas native sparked UF to a 29-21 win by leading three TD drives in the final stanza. Trask’s four-yard TD run on a QB draw with 4:11 remaining put Florida in front 22-21.
When UK missed a short field goal on its next drive, Florida put the game away on Josh Hammond’s 76-yard TD run on a third-and-six play with 33 ticks left. The 29-21 triumph wasn’t enough to cover the number with the Gators closing as 9.5-point road favorites.
In Week 4 vs. Tennessee, Trask was given his first starting nod since he was a freshman in high school. He had played his entire prep career as a second-stringer behind Houston star D’Eriq King. Trask responded by leading UF to a 34-3 win over Tennessee as a 12.5-point home favorite. He threw for 293 yards, more than Franks had passed for in any of the 16 games he started for Mullen.
After a 38-0 win over Towson, UF hosted previously-undefeated Auburn at The Swamp last Saturday. It was the toughest ticket in Gainesville since the Tim Tebow Era ended in 2009, as the Tigers came to Gainesville as 2.5-point road favorites.
Despite fumbling away three turnovers in the first quarter alone, UF never trailed and won 24-13 in front of a raucous crowd that was on its feet from start to finish. The Gators enjoyed advantages in first downs (19-12), total offense (398-269) and time of possession (33:41-26:19). They overcame four lost fumbles and two failed fourth-down attempts, including a fake punt that gave Auburn a short field that it turned into its only TD of the game.
Other than the three lost fumbles that were partly on him and partly due to poor pass protection, Trask played well. He completed 19-of-31 throws for 234 yards and two TDs without an interception. Senior WR Freddie Swain had six receptions for 146 yard and one TD, a 64-yard scoring grab that opened the scoring less than two minutes into the game.
With 9:04 remaining and Auburn trailing 17-13, Florida senior RB Lamical Perine broke a tackle, put a slick move on a defender and raced 88 yards into the end zone for the game-sealing score. UF’s defense did the rest, with Marco Wilson’s interception putting the game on ice. The Gators intercepted Auburn true freshman QB Bo Nix three times to bring its season total to 12, which leads the nation.
Perine rushed for 130 yards on 14 attempts and had four catches for 15 yards. Sophomore Kyle Pitts continued to show that he’s one of UF’s most improved players and one of the SEC’s top tight ends, hauling in eight receptions for 65 yards. Hammond had two catches for 23 yards and one TD. Wilson, Donovan Stiner and Shawn Davis had interceptions.
Trask has completed 72.2 percent of his passes for 881 yards with a 7/2 TD-INT ratio. He's also run for a pair of TDs. Perine has 328 rushing yards, four TDs and a 4.8 YPC average. He also has 18 receptions for 93 yards and one TD.
Sophomore RB Dameon Pierce has 161 rushing yards and two TDs on 28 attempts for a 5.8 YPC average. However, he got popped on his only carry last week against Auburn, losing a fumble and leaving the game with a head injury. Pierce is 'questionable' at LSU.
UF has one of the deepest sets of WRs in the nation even without Kadarius Toney, who suffered a wrist injury in Week 2 that's expected to keep him out until the Nov. 2 showdown vs. Georgia in Jacksonville.
Swain has 14 receptions for 280 yards and three TDs, while Van Jefferson has 19 catches for 258 yards and one TD. Pitts has 25 grabs for 254 yards and three TDs. Trevon Grimes (16 catches, 235 yards, 0 TDs), Hammond (16-199-1), Tyrie Cleveland (12-166-1) and Jacob Copeland (7-67-1) are also factors in UF's aerial attack.
UF’s defense is ranked No. 13 in the nation in total defense, No. 19 in both pass and run defense and No. 5 in scoring ‘D’ (9.5 PPG). This unit is led by senior MLB David Reese, who leads the SEC in tackles (49), has one TFL and one sack.
The Gators lead the SEC and rank in a third-place tie nationally in sacks with 26. Seven different UF defenders have at least two sacks, with Louisville transfer Jonathan Greenard leading the way with four. Greenard has recorded 28 tackles, 2.5 TFL’s, seven QB hurries, three PBU, one forced fumble and one interception.
Florida senior DE Jabari Zuniga was a preseason All-American who had three sacks in UF’s first three games. However, he left the win at Kentucky with a sprained ankle in the third quarter and has missed three games in a row. Zuniga was expected to play against Auburn and did dress out, but he never touched the field. All indications are that he’ll start at LSU.
The ‘over’ is 4-1 overall for the Tigers, 2-1 in their home games. Their games are averaging combined scores of 74.4 PPG. This is the second-lowest total of the season for LSU, as its tally was 51 in the opener vs. Ga. Southern.
The ‘under’ is 5-1 for UF overall, but the ‘over’ hit in its lone road contest. The Gators’ games have averaged combined scores of 41.8 PPG.
Florida is 4-1 both SU and ATS in five games as an underdog since Mullen took over. Meanwhile, LSU is 9-8 ATS in 17 contests as a home favorite on Orgeron's watch.
When the 2016 game was moved to Baton Rouge, Florida came to Tiger Stadium needing a win to clinch the SEC East. The Gators, who were 14-point underdogs, captured a 16-10 win thanks to an epic goal-line stand in the game's final minute. Austin Appleby hit Cleveland, a true freshman at the time, with a 98-yard scoring strike for UF's lone TD of the game midway through the third quarter.
The rematch in Gainesville in '17 went to LSU by a 17-16 count, with UF kicker Eddy Pineiro missing an extra point late in the third quarter. The Gators still covered the number, though, as 1.5-point home underdogs.
When they collided at The Swamp on Oct. 6 of last season, Brad Stewart's interception of Joe Burrow that he returned 25 yards for a TD put a wrap on a 27-19 UF win as a one-point home underdog. Perine rushed 17 times for 85 yards and two TDs, while Hammond had three catches for 85 yards.
Burrow completed 19-of-34 throws for 192 yards, but he didn't throw a TD pass and was intercepted twice. He was limited to 22 rushing yards on 10 attempts. Jefferson had three receptions for 51 yards, while Edwards-Helaire had 55 rushing yards on 13 carries.
B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets
-- In the last 10 UF-LSU head-to-head meetings, the highest total has been 49.5 points. The second-highest was 45.5 in 2009. The Tigers and Gators have played five consecutive one-possession games that have been decided by 25 combined points.
-- LSU has beaten Florida by double digits just twice since 2003. The Tigers won 17-6 in 2013 and 41-11 in '11 when UF had to start its third-string QB who had never taken a collegiate snap until walking on the field in Tiger Stadium against top-ranked LSU as a true freshman.
-- Florida junior safety Shawn Davis has a team-best three interceptions for 111 return yards.
-- According to PFF College, Trask has completed 38-of-49 throws on non-play-action passes for 451 yards and four TDs. That ranks ninth in the nation among qualified QBs.
-- Illinois QB Brandon Peters is ‘questionable’ for Saturday’s home game against his former team, Michigan, which was favored by 22.5 points as of late Friday afternoon. Peters has a 10/4 TD-INT ratio. The Illini are 5-10 ATS as a home underdog during Lovie Smith’s tenure, while Michigan is 6-9 ATS as a road favorite under Jim Harbaugh.
-- Purdue, a 3.5-point home underdog vs. Maryland, probably won’t have star WR Rondale Moore. The first-team All-American as a true freshman in 2018 injured his leg in a 38-31 home loss to Minnesota two weeks ago. Moore practiced some this week, but he’s listed as ‘doubtful’ against the Terrapins. Maryland will start Tyrrell Pigrome at QB with Josh Jackson ‘out’ injured.
-- Auburn RB JaTarvious Whitlow is out for the next 4-6 weeks with a knee injury sustained at UF last weekend. Whitlow is second in the SEC in rushing yards (544) and leads the league in TD runs with seven.
-- South Carolina, a 23-point road underdog at Georgia, is 6-1 ATS in its past seven games as a road underdog. In 10 games as double-digit underdogs during Will Muschamp’s tenure, the Gamecocks are 6-4 ATS with one outright victory.
-- Less than a week shy of the four-year anniversary of when Will Grier was suspended by the NCAA for testing positive for a banned substance when he was QB at Florida and the Gators were 6-0 in Jim McElwain’s first season at the helm, McElwain’s Central Michigan QB David Moore was suspended Tuesday by the NCAA for testing positive for a banned substance. CMU is appealing the suspension, but Moore won’t play Saturday vs. New Mexico State.
-- In our first Wednesday game of the season earlier this week, Appalachian State beat Louisiana by a 17-7 count as a two-point road underdog. The Mountaineers have now beaten the Ragin’ Cajuns by double-digit margins in all seven games of the rivalry since entering the Sun Belt Conference in 2014. Eliah Drinkwitz’s Appalachian State squad remains undefeated. Louisiana was the last remaining unbeaten team ATS, but that’s over now.
-- USC, a 10.5-point underdog at Notre Dame, is 1-9 ATS in 10 games as a road underdog during Clay Helton’s tenure. Helton will start true freshman Kedon Slovis at QB in South Bend.
-- TCU junior WR Dylan Thomas had season-ending leg surgery on Monday. Thomas had eight catches for 121 yards and one TD this year.
-- Houston, a 7.5-point home underdog vs. Cincinnati, has had two weeks to prep for the Bearcats, who fall into a vintage letdown spot after last Friday’s huge home win over Central Florida. The Cougars are 3-0 ATS as home ‘dogs since 2013. If we count a pair of games as home ‘dogs played at NRG Stadium, the home of the Houston Texans, they’re 5-0 ATS with an outright win over Oklahoma and a spread cover in a 31-24 loss to Washington State. earlier this season. With King out for the rest of the season to take a redshirt, back-up UH signal caller Clayton Tune completed 16-of-20 passes for 124 yards and one TD without an interception in a 46-25 win at North Texas two weeks ago. Tune, who had an 8/2 TD-INT ratio in two starts last year, also rushed for 100 yards on nine carries against the Mean Green.
-- Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez and WR JD Spielman remain ‘questionable’ for Saturday’s Big Ten showdown at Minnesota. The unbeaten Gophers were favored by 7.5 points as of late Friday afternoon. During my appearance on Severe and Benning on 1620 The Zone in Omaha on Wednesday morning, Severe told me that Spielman, a two-time second-team All-Big-Ten selection, is “going to play.” Minnesota is 5-6 ATS as a home favorite during PJ Fleck’s three-year tenure, while the Cornhuskers are 4-1 ATS as road underdogs on Scott Frost’s watch. In fact, Nebraska is 13-5-1 ATS in 19 games as a road ‘dog since 2013.
-- Kentucky had failed to cover the spread in 10 straight games as a home favorite coming into this season. The Wildcats took the cash in their first two such spots this year, however, and they’re seven-point ‘chalk’ vs. Arkansas this week. Kentucky QB Sawyer Smith has been upgraded to ‘probable’ against the Razorbacks, who are 0-4 ATS as road underdogs since Chad Morris took over as head coach.
-- Duke, a 17 or 17.5-point home favorite vs. Georgia Tech, is 0-9 ATS in its last nine ACC games as a favorite.
-- The ‘under’ is 5-0 for the Old Dominion Monarchs, who are looking at a 47-point total for Saturday’s C-USA game at Marshall.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.