BATON ROUGE, La. — Revenge only happens in works of fiction, usually, which is why movies like “Taken” are so popular. Nobody ever gets to experience that emotion in real life.
Both sides will have the opportunity to feel it Saturday afternoon at Tiger Stadium, though. It’s on a personal level for LSU quarterback Danny Etling, who was once supplanted as Purdue’s starter by current Florida starter Austin Appleby.
Etling won’t come out and say it, but it’s clear it still gnaws at him a little even if the two ex-teammates still remain on cordial terms.
“Well … I’m not really going to answer that one,” Etling said when asked if he’s motivated to beat Appleby this week. “I’m playing against their defense; not their quarterback.”
For Florida, there is a sense this game was stolen from it.
Even if much of the blame for the rescheduling problem lies at the feet of recently retired Florida AD Jeremy Foley, you’re not going to convince any Gators this game shouldn’t be in Gainesville. Yes, Florida gets the next two meetings in the series at home, but that’s a pretty moot point for the seniors.
Everyone has something to prove. Something they feel was taken from them. This will be fun.
LSU: The people who benched Etling for Appleby are no longer employed by Purdue University. Etling never will have a better opportunity to demonstrate why they have pink slips.
Florida: Appleby has backed up Luke Del Rio most of the season, but even if Del Rio wasn’t injured, that likely wouldn’t be the case this week. Appleby is a more accurate passer (65.6 percent to 56.7 percent) who also hasn’t thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns.
LSU: Leonard Fournette’s ankle is balky, but that’s how it has been all season. He’s not missing what likely will be his final home game at Tiger Stadium. And if he gets banged up, Derrius Guice only turned in the second-best rushing performance in LSU history last week.
Florida: Jordan Scarlett is explosive, but behind a banged-up offensive line, he averaged under 4 yards per carry against Georgia and Arkansas.
LSU: With this game considered a referendum on the real “DBU,” it’s going to take one of the better efforts of the season from the Tiger receiving corps for LSU to move the ball through the air.
Florida: The biggest playmaker in the game not named Fournette or Guice is Florida’s Antonio Callaway. He’s capable of going deep even against the best.
LSU: Any doubt about the legitimacy of this unit was erased with 390 rushing yards against Arkansas. However, Florida’s defense marks a significant upgrade from the Hogs.
Florida: Last week, the Gators were down to their third-string center. Not a bad unit when it is healthy — Florida has allowed the second-fewest sacks in the SEC — but the O-line has been up against the wall as of late.
LSU: No one has succeeded in pushing this unit around this season. One would think a beat-up Gators offensive line wouldn’t be the group to change that.
Florida: A big reason why the Gators are one of two SEC teams better against the run than LSU — though the linebacking corps also has a lot to do with that.
LSU: Arden Key got back into the groove with a sack and a crucial goal-line pass breakup against Arkansas. Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley are always in the groove, it seems.
Florida: One of the few linebacking groups in the country that can match the Tigers — when healthy. The losses of Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis are too much for any team to overcome.
LSU: Tre’Davious White is surely eager to bounce back from his only rough game this season. The 44-yard touchdown pass he allowed to Arkansas was the first reception against him of more than 10 yards this year.
Florida: The Gators are the No. 1 pass defense in the league and also have intercepted the third-most passes. LSU has faced tougher quarterbacks, but on paper, you have to give it to the Gators.
LSU: Ed Orgeron has mentioned that LSU needs to improve on special teams at least one time in each week since he took over for Les Miles. We continue to wait for the leap to happen.
Florida: The Gators get burned by the Tigers on a special teams play seemingly every year. This has to be a massive point of emphasis this week, and using the ever-dangerous Callaway as a returner is certainly an advantage for any team.
LSU: Ed Orgeron is on the cusp of earning this job. Though there is plenty of noise about other candidates this week — hey, their agents need to earn paychecks too — two more wins should seal the deal.
Florida: There’s no question Jim McElwain has done a great job with the Gators and is the best active coach in the SEC East. This team likely shouldn’t be in the title hunt, but will clinch the division with a win against LSU.
There’s no reason LSU should drop this game — other than the weirdness of it all. LSU-Florida always finds a way to fit that bill. Throw in a 1 p.m. ET kickoff at Tiger Stadium, the stakes for both teams, and the animosity that has built up over what happened in October … the ingredients are all there to expect the unexpected. I cannot see LSU covering a two-touchdown point spread.
Hickey’s Pick: LSU 17, Florida 11