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Sunday, November 28, 2021
A Florida player touches his helmet during warmups before a game against Florida Atlantic on Sept. 4.
A Florida player touches his helmet during warmups before a game against Florida Atlantic on Sept. 4.

The Florida Gators head to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to take on the Louisiana State Tigers in Death Valley at noon Saturday after demolishing Vanderbilt last Saturday 42-0

Coach Dan Mullen and his team look to win a second straight game heading into their showdown with No. 1 Georgia on Oct. 30 in Jacksonville. Here’s what The Alligator’s football writers expect from this weekend’s Bayou battle.

Ryan: The last time Florida and LSU played in Death Valley two years ago, future Heisman winner Joe Burrow and future Heisman finalist Kyle Trask dueled under the lights in an offensive explosion before the Tigers emerged victorious, 42-28.

This time around might not bear much resemblance.

The once-mighty Tigers now appear meek through the season’s first six games, a program headed the wrong direction. Two straight conference losses left LSU 3-3 and seemingly destined for divorce with head coach Ed Orgeron. The team ranks 11th in the Southeastern Conference in offensive yards per game (379.33), 10th in scoring offense (29.67 points per game), and 13th in rushing yards per game (83.17). 

The Tigers aren’t only coming off a brutal 42-21 loss to Kentucky in Lexington a week ago, they must play Florida without star cornerback Derek Stingley, standout wide receiver Kayshon Boutte, cornerback Elias Ricks and defensive end Ali Gaye, among others. 

Quarterback Max Johnson, who Gators fans might remember from his sterling three-touchdown performance in The Swamp a season ago, offers moxie to make Mullen worry. The sophomore southpaw has thrown for 1,730 yards and 17 touchdowns through six games, but he’ll need a new weapon of choice with Boutte unavailable.

The Gators need more momentum before their big showdown with the Bulldogs in two weeks, and though they have questions left to answer themselves, a weak and wounded LSU squad shouldn’t slow them down too far. 38-17, Florida.

Zachary: Orgeron, who won a title two years ago, is well on his way to becoming the fastest or second-fastest coach to be fired after winning a national championship (former Auburn coach Gene Chizik was fired in 2012 after hoisting the trophy in 2010). 

LSU and Orgeron sit at 3-3 and 1-2 in the SEC, and their remaining schedule is BRUTAL — five opponents currently ranked within the top 25, including No. 20 Florida. The Tigers are also missing a host of their best players, including Stingley, Boutte and quarterback Myles Brennan. 

With that being said, Florida has a lot of factors in its favor, but it still has to execute. The last time the Gators played in a hostile environment, they incurred eight false starts versus Kentucky. 

It’s not just the offensive line plaguing the orange and blue. Florida hasn’t been penalized for less than 45 yards in any games this season. UF sits 120th out of all Football Bowl Subdivision teams in penalty yards. 

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Besides injuries, LSU’s defense has more holes than Swiss cheese. It ranks 77th in rushing yards allowed per game (154.2) and 74th in total defense. This gives me enough confidence to pick Florida to bowl over the Tigers to win 35-17.  

Michael: This isn’t even your older brother’s version of the Tigers. LSU’s injuries depleted a team which doesn’t have the offense to overcome its defensive struggles. The Tigers rank 74th in the country in both total defense and scoring defense. 

My biggest concern for Florida in this game is the penalties. As Zach mentioned, the Gators haven’t been whistled for less than 45 yards in a game this season, including 115 yards against Kentucky and 80 against Vanderbilt the past two weeks. I was initially worried about the game being in Death Valley, but an 11 a.m. local kick with nothing to root for and a coach with one foot in the grave might lessen the impact of one of the most intimidating stadiums in the sport. After my conversation with Jared Brodtmann from The Reveille, I’m not as concerned about the away atmosphere. 

Florida will rebound and come out strong. Mullen opened up the offense last week with seven plays of 25 yards or more, and I expect that trend to continue against the Tigers.

LSU won’t outplay the Gators with who they’re missing. The only way Florida doesn’t cover the spread is if the Gators beat themselves. Florida 35-20.

Contact Ryan Haley at Follow him on Twitter @ryan_dhaley.

Contact Zachary Huber at Follow him on Twitter @zacharyahuber. 

Contact Michael Hull at Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Hull33.

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Michael Hull

Michael Hull is a third-year journalism major with a specialization in sports & media. He has a minor in business and leadership and is a struggling Jacksonville Jaguars fan.

Ryan Haley

Ryan Haley is a second-year journalism major with a sports & media specialization from Jacksonville, Florida. He grew up playing a bunch of different sports before settling on golf, following Rory McIlroy and all Philadelphia sports teams. He also loves all things fiction, reading, watching shows and movies and talking about whatever current story or character is in his head.

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