Five things that would help LSU get much-needed upset of No. 20 Florida
LSU is a 10.5 point underdog against No. 20 Florida on Saturday morning in Tiger Stadium.
That’s right – double-digit underdog in Tiger Stadium.
That’s right – a Saturday morning kickoff, 11 a.m. to be exact.
These two perennial heavyweights are meeting on the SEC under-card because the Tigers (3-3 and 1-2 in the SEC) aren’t currently main-event material, though the Gators (4-2, 2-2) are closer to it.
LSU hasn’t been this big an underdog since, well, the last time they played the Gators.
It was the penultimate game of LSU’s 5-5 season 10 months ago. The site was the Swamp in Gainesville. No. 6 and East Division champion was more than a three-touchdown favorite over the reeling and seriously short-handed Tigers.
Then they played the game.
LSU prevailed 37-34 in one of the biggest upsets of the season, the highlight of the Tigers’ season, a performance that coupled with a 53-48 victory a week later against Ole Miss enabled LSU to avoid a losing record.
Another win over the Gators would salvage some respect for this Tigers team and maybe lead to a second half of this season that is more respectable than the first half of this season has been.
But it won’t be easy.
Florida quarterback Emory Jones admitted this week that the Gators took last season’s game for granted and vowed that they won’t repeat that mistake.
LSU undoubtedly is tired of hearing about head coach Ed Orgeron possibly being fired and will be motivated to play its best in order to change the conversation – on top of getting a much-needed win.
It seems highly unlikely, just like last year’s upset did, but if these five things happen the Tigers might be able to win:
1. Turn the clock ahead
Tiger Stadium ain’t the same as Tiger Stadium at 7 p.m.
But this team needs as big a home-field advantage as it can get – regardless of the early kickoff.
So, Tiger fans, ignore the clock and treat this game as though it were a night game. Fill the joint, get loud and stay until the end.
2. Channel that performance in The Swamp
The fans can help, but they can only do so much.
This is mostly on the players.
This season is trending in the wrong direction with a few more games against ranked teams looming after this one.
But this season isn’t a lost cause.
It will be a challenge to salvage respectability – especially with Kayshon Boutte, Derek Stingley Jr., Eli Ricks, Ali Gaye, Myles Brennan and others sidelined – but it can still happen.
Orgeron’s future is the hottest topic around this program and the only thing that can change that is a performance that demonstrates that Orgeron and his staff can still prepare and motivate the Tigers to be their best on a Saturday.
Maybe the players aren’t playing for Orgeron’s job, but they should be playing for their own pride.
3. Run it and throw it
LSU had its best running game of the season last week.
A lot of the yards came after Kentucky had control of what became a 42-21 Wildcats victory, but there were actual holes to run through and Ty Davis-Price especially ran as hard as he could.
Now the passing part of this equation is going to be more challenging without Boutte, but several other receivers have shown that they can be productive as well.
The Tigers can pass the ball effectively even without Boutte and they finally showed last week that they can run the ball effectively.
Now it’s time to do both well in the same game for the first time this season against an SEC opponent.
4. Slow down the Gators
Kentucky ran all over LSU.
The Wildcats blocked the Tigers, they confused the Tigers and they made them miss. The result was an embarrassing 330 yards yielded on the ground.
The Gators have the potential to block the Tigers better, confuse them more and make them miss even more frequently.
The LSU defense needs to rise up, slow down the Florida run and get after Jones.
5. Get some help from the Gators
As well as LSU played and as poorly as Florida played for most of last year’s game, it was trending in the Gators’ favor with the score tied late in the fourth quarter.
On a third-and-10 from the Tigers’ 29, Florida tackled tight end Kole Taylor well short of a first down, apparently setting up a punt.
But Marco Wilson inexplicably chose to celebrate by throwing Taylor’s shoe, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
That resuscitated the possession and LSU drove to Cade York’s game-winning 57-yard field in heavy fog.
It was bizarre. It was unpredictable. It was really unexpected.
But the outcome helped to at least marginally improve the mood around the Tigers program coming out of last season.
LSU and Orgeron badly need something similar Saturday.
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Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…