GAINESVILLE — For the second week in a row, No. 7 Florida will be at the center of the biggest game of the weekend when the Gators play at No. 5 LSU in a primetime battle of unbeaten teams.
Here are four random thoughts on the matchup at Tiger Stadium:
1. It’s big but not monumental for UF.
The Gators’ first goal is to win the SEC East, and they can do that even with a loss to LSU (as long as they beat Georgia on Nov. 2). Beating the Bulldogs hasn’t been easy, and it won’t be easy this year, either. But UF will have a clear path to Atlanta even with a loss in Baton Rouge.
2. The teams’ strengths match up well against each other.
LSU leads the nation in scoring (54.6 points per game). UF ranks No. 5 nationally in scoring defense and has allowed only 57 points all season. LSU’s red-zone offense has scored on all 31 of its possessions. UF’s red-zone defense is the best in the country and has allowed points on only 5 of its opponents’ 14 trips inside the 20. UF’s biggest strength offensively is a deep receiving corps that features six different players with 166-280 yards. LSU counters that with the most talented secondary in the nation (led by future first-round pick Grant Delpit).
3. Because of the good-on-good matchups, I don’t have a read on how this game will go.
Could UF’s defense turn this into a low-scoring slugfest? Maybe. If that happens, UF can feel good about its chances; it won an ugly opener against Miami and churned out a 24-13 win over Auburn last week. But it’s also possible that LSU’s high-octane offense turns this into a shootout the Gators haven’t yet experienced. Can UF keep up with that? “We’ll find out,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “I mean, we’ll see. We have some good players, too.”
4. Florida’s rushing attack could decide the game.
Given LSU’s talented secondary and the fact that UF quarterback Kyle Trask is banged-up and starting in the toughest environment of his life, I’m not sure how well the Gators will be able to pass the ball. That means the run game is even more important. Aside from a few big plays, like Josh Hammond’s 76 yarder at Kentucky and Lamical Perine’s 88-yard breakaway last week, UF’s run game has struggled. And considering LSU’s top-10 run defense is allowing only 2.6 yards per attempt, the Gators will have a tough challenge to turn things around this weekend.