The Gators will face their toughest test of the Jim McElwain era to date with a road trip to Death Valley, home of the LSU Tigers. You may remember them as being a huge thorn in the Gators’ side throughout the past five years. Can Florida finally get some payback?
1) Leonard Fournette rushes for less than 100 yards. This isn’t to say Florida won’t struggle to stop him at times, as Fournette is always a threat to break off the big one. But the Gators’ run defense has been outstanding all season long, and in fact may be the toughest Fournette and his LSU offensive line has had to face this year. He’ll go for 70, 80-something, maybe in the 90’s at most. But I don’t think he hits triple digits on the ground.
2) Florida’s defense will not force a turnover. The Gators’ tremendous secondary will make LSU think twice about throwing the ball, and so we can expect to see a lot of Leonard Fournette and a very carefully scripted game plan from the Bayou Bengals. LSU has turned it over just once so far this season, which is an excellent reason to believe the Florida defense won’t create a turnover for the first time in Jim McElwain’s tenure.
3) Treon Harris will throw for more yards than Brandon Harris. The Tigers’ offense has talent other than Fournette, but it’s mainly unproven. This is a direct reference to LSU’s aerial attack. QB Brandon Harris (known as the other Harris in this game) has two promising receivers in Malachi Dupree and Travin Dural, but this passing game just hasn’t been able to put all the pieces together for an overall good performance. Meanwhile, Treon figures to struggle a little bit in his first real action since the ECU game, but he’ll pick up where he left off late last year and have himself a nice day.
4) Kelvin Taylor will rush for at least 75 yards. Fresh off of three consecutive 80+ yard performances, Taylor will probably be called upon even more often than he’s used to as Treon finds his rhythm. This offensive line is getting better with each passing week, and they’ll have their best performance yet as a unit in the run blocking game as Taylor goes off.
5) Florida tight ends will account for more yards than their wide receivers. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For the first time since I can remember, the Gators have three, count ’em, three tight ends capable of inflicting damage to a defense: C’yontai Lewis, Jake McGee and DeAndre Goolsby. Getting Lewis back this weeks a huge help, and once Treon finds his groove, watch for him to take advantage of the mismatches that all three present.
6) Florida will turn it over at least twice. There’s always that one game of the year where the Gators self destruct. Even the best teams in Florida history have done it. So I’m pretty sure it’ll happen to this team, too. And even though the Gators have looked good so far this year in terms of not beating themselves, a new starting quarterback in a road game at LSU at night appears to be as predictable a recipe for disaster as possible.
7) LSU fans will do an en masse Gator Chomp after a touchdown. Because they always do.
8) Treon Harris will hit a deep throw (25 yards downfield or more). Brandon Powell and DeMarcus Robinson have been responsible for burning teams deep multiple times in their careers, and with nothing to lose on the road, McElwain figures to open up the playbook and give them the chance to do it some more. Treon’s deep ball is hit or miss, but he’ll hit one against the Tigers.
9) This game will be ugly as hell. You thought Missouri was a boring game, wait until you see this one. The main reason LSU is undefeated is because of Fournette, and Florida has the defense to at least slow him down. Without him, the Tigers’ offense will crumble, and so we’ll see a sloppy game with a ton of punts flying back and forth.
10) Florida will lose, but it’s OK. They’re leagues better as a football team than they ever were under Will Muschamp. Plus, a cross division loss in the SEC means precisely zero on its own. The Gators could lose this game and would still control their own destiny to the College Football Playoff; winning out would mean winning the SEC East, thanks to the two game lead they’ve built, and then winning the SEC Championship. So while I’m expecting the Gators to lose, and quite possibly in a particularly frustrating manner, it won’t hurt their chances at a national championship a bit if they do.
Projection: LSU 17, Florida 7