It's going to be hard for LSU to overcome the sheer number of starters who are out for the season. The Tigers are missing eight defensive starters as well as star receiver Kayshon Boutte heading into Saturday's game against Florida.
There will be opportunity for players we have yet to see and the good news is the offensive line is healthy as ever according to Ed Orgeron. But this has all the makings of a team that will be looking for mulitple people to play above and beyond expectations. Here's a look at how we see the game playing out.
Score Prediction: Florida 37, LSU 20
There's no way around it, LSU faces its most daunting task to date and with many players on the defense and a critical offensive weapon out, the odds aren't in the Tigers' favor. Florida does many things well and will have the advantage heading into Saturday morning's matchup.
Starting with the Gators offense, the unit will rely heavily on quarterback Emory Jones, who is a dual threat quarterback that is quite possibly the most difficult signal caller the Tigers have faced thus far. When we asked AllGators publisher Zach Goodall earlier this week about Jones' development, he pointed to the strides he's made as a passer in short and intermediate routes.
"He's no Kyle Trask but Jones has consistently improved this season as a passer, anticipating reads better each week and making timely, accurate throws in the short-to-intermediate levels of the field. Deep passing has been a concern, but against Vanderbilt (although it's important to keep the opponent in mind), Jones completed 4-of-5 passes of 20+ yards for 191 yards and a touchdown, per PFF."
LSU will be down three starters in the secondary from its week one outing. All-American cornerback Derek Stingley and Elias Ricks as well as safety Major Burns , who have been battling through injuries all season. Ricks has been ruled out for the season and Stingley is likely gone for the year after having a foot procedure on an injury that's been bothering him since the start of fall camp.
It'll be up to Cordale Flott, Dwight McGlothern and Sage Ryan to pick up the slack with in the secondary though it's likely LSU also goes with some sort of rotation throughout the night with Cam Lewis and Jordan Toles also involved. Defensive end Ali Gaye will also miss this weekend though the Tigers do have some depth left in BJ Ojulari and Maason Smith.
This front seven is coming off a 331-yard performance allowed on the ground against Kentucky so slowing down Jones and the Gators rushing attack is going to be a point of emphasis.
As for the LSU offense, the focus could certainly shift to the running attack, especially after the 147-yard performance from Tyrion Davis-Price against Kentucky and the season ending injury to Kayshon Boutte. Much of this year the offense has had to rely on the arm of Max Johnson but some of the strides taken in the running attack are encouraging to lean on Davis-Price a little bit more.
Coach Ed Orgeron says for the first time the offensive line is as healthy as ever and was excited to see what this group can do at full strength.
This group will have to deal with the elite pass rushing duo of Zachary Carter and Brenton Cox but maybe some more depth will lead to this group staying fresh well into the day. Unfortunetly the loss of Boutte is just too much for this LSU offense to overcome.
He earned nearly 25 percent of Johnson's targets over the first six weeks and his nine touchdowns is currently tied for the most in the country. Watching which of Jack Bech, Brian Thomas, Malik Nabers and Deion Smith emerge over the next few weeks will be intriguing. Orgeron said Thursday that Smith, who had missed practice this week, would not be available.
All in all this game just has the feel of a team in LSU that can't catch a break and is in full free fall mode. Florida will capitalize with a much healthier and rejuvenized team after a big win over Vanderbilt and playing inspired walking in with a two game losing streak to the Tigers.
"I think there's a lot of fight left in this team,” Orgeron said. “I've been with them. I know we're 3-3, but we've got a lot of games left. And from what I've seen this week, what I've seen in the coaching staff, there's a lot of fight left in this team."