BATON ROUGE, La. — Sleep on Florida at your own risk.
Though Vegas has LSU as a two-touchdown favorite against the Gators, the series hasn’t had a game decided by double digits since the Tigers’ 41-11 win in 2011. So though LSU football is certainly deserving of its favorite status, it would be foolish to assume this game will be a cakewalk.
Here are five things the Tigers need to accomplish to make sure Florida doesn’t sneak back home with an upset in The Game That Was Already Supposed to Happen.
1. Establish the run, again
This will not be as easy to achieve as it was against Arkansas’ sieve-like defense, but it will be a deciding factor.
Florida is second to only Alabama against the run in the SEC, though the margin between the two defenses is a sizable 45 yards per game. Most of that domination has occurred against teams in the weaker SEC East. Arkansas showed the Gators can be overpowered, rushing for 223 yards on 49 carries in a 31-10 win in Fayetteville.
2. Protect Danny Etling
LSU’s offensive line was overpowered against Alabama, giving up 5 sacks. Florida is also capable of getting to the quarterback, rating third in the league with 27 sacks this year.
Forcing third-and-long is one of Florida’s specialties. The Gators have the league’s best third-down defense, only allowing opponents to convert on 29 percent of their opportunities. If LSU finds itself in that situation regularly, it will struggle to move the ball as much as it did against Alabama.
3. Don’t let the passing game beat you
Remember how bad the Arkansas run defense was? Pretty hard to forget considering it was a week ago and Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice combined for 350 yards against it.
Against that same defense, the Gators ran for 12 yards on 14 carries. So you can forget the Florida running game being a threat against LSU.
That means it is on backup quarterback Austin Appleby to give Florida’s offense a chance. After seeing Arkansas hit a deep ball for a score last week, expect the Gators to some shots to be taken with speed merchant Antonio Callaway.
4. No short-field freebies
Florida will not win this game without its defense making a significant play. Ball security is always a top priority, but that is exponentially more true against a stingy defense.
LSU was fortunate to only allow 3 points after giving the ball to Arkansas on its own side of the 50 twice last week. As good as LSU’s defense has been, that is not a position it can afford to be in regularly. Also, points were easy to get back against the Razorback defense. That’s not the case the with Gators.
5. Make something happen on special teams
Les Miles may be gone, but it feels like his spirit has to live on in some form against Florida.
LSU has sprung the occasional leak on special teams this season. Is it Florida’s turn to exact some form of revenge? Either way, it would be wise to stay tuned for all fourth-down situations.