It’s about a month overdue, but No. 16 LSU and No. 23 Florida finally are set to take the same field Saturday afternoon.
While the timing is a shade off, some of the same storylines remain in play.
Leonard Fournette enters the 10th game of the season still banged up. Last week in Fayetteville, the junior running back exited the game twice due to ankle injuries, which have hobbled him since August.
A bum ankle hasn’t slowed Fournette down too much. No. 7 and backfield mate Derrius Guice combined for 350 yards and five touchdowns against Arkansas. The competition stiffens, however, with the SEC’s No. 2-ranked rushing defense (111.33 ypg) coming to town.
“It’s like thunder and lightning,” Florida’s Jim McElwain said of Fournette and Guice on the SEC coaches teleconference Wednesday.
“These guys are real. They’re SEC players and great SEC backs that’ll play this game well beyond this conference. They’re fun to watch. I enjoy watching football and good players play. That can be said about this whole team. You watch these guys playing enthused and excited. There’s a ton of talent there. They’ve got them playing at a high level, not only two guys but a lot of guys.”
Fournette’s ankle injury is a minor cause for concern. He did not practice Monday, but returned to the field Tuesday.
The Doak Walker Award semifinalist has battled the injury for the length of the season, but LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron doesn’t have any fears about his ability or effectiveness come Saturday.
“He’s a team player. He loves Louisiana. Unselfish player. Great example of one team, one heartbeat,” Orgeron said. “His one cut, ability to get up the field, how tough he was to tackle, team player … He’s one of the best football players I’ve ever been around.”
What makes Saturday’s challenge a bit easier on No. 7 will be Florida’s defensive personnel — or lack thereof.
The Gators are expected to have defensive end CeCe Jefferson back in the lineup, but will likely be short defensive end Bryan Cox Jr., linebackers Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis, and safety Marcus Maye. In other words, a lot of new faces could be thrust into key roles.
“I’ve been toying with the idea of … back in Montana, there’s a little eight-man league. I’ve been talking to Ed about playing eight-man football and go it at that way,” McElwain joked. “We’re going to put 11 guys out there and see what they can do. You come to schools like this to play in this environment.
“It’s a great opportunity for some of those guys. We’re going to see a lot of young guys get opportunities on the road and play in a great environment, and it should be a lot of fun.”
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted.
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