No. 5 LSU at No. 22 Florida
When and Where: Saturday, Oct. 6, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla., 3:30 p.m. EDT.
Coming off their most complete win of the season, fifth-ranked LSU begins a challenging three-game gauntlet Saturday when they face No. 22 Florida in “The Swamp” in a cross-division clash of SEC teams.
The Tigers (5-0, 2-0 SEC West) are looking for their first 6-0 start since opening the 2015 season with seven victories. They throttled Mississippi 45-16 last Saturday when quarterback Joe Burrow accounted for 388 yards of total offense to go with four touchdowns.
Tigers last team standing vs. Tide in SEC West
Despite being only two games into SEC play, LSU and No. 1 Alabama are the only teams in the West Division without a loss in conference action. While their showdown in Baton Rouge is not until Nov. 3, the Tigers have plenty of work to do as they host No. 2 Georgia next week and play Mississippi State on Oct. 20.
That is why LSU fans were heartened by Burrow‘s play last Saturday, giving the kind of performance they have long been clamoring for. He completed 18 of 25 passes for 292 yards and three scores while adding 96 and a touchdown on the ground.
Burrow’s best play may have been his 65-yard hook-up with Justin Jefferson two plays after LSU’s defense forced a three-and-out as the Tigers grabbed a 28-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
The Burrow to Jefferson connection TO THE HOUSE! pic.twitter.com/ZPSzP4CQMK
— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) September 30, 2018
“Whenever there’s a new quarterback and so many new people on offense, we were figuring out who we were as an offense early in the season,” Burrow told the school’s official website after leading a well-balanced offense that rang up a season-high 573 yards. “Once you get through those growing pains in practice and games, we’re starting to really click. You’d like to be one mind as an offense – coaches and players – and I think we’re getting there.
“I’ve always been confident in myself, but comfortability is key. I’m starting to get really comfortable with these guys.”
Burrow has completed more than 50 percent of his passes in his last two games, but he is still at only 53.4 percent on the season. The Ohio State transfer, though, has yet to throw an interception in 131 pass attempts and been sacked only eight times.
Jefferson had the best game of his career, finishing with five catches for 99 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The sophomore has emerged as Burrow’s favorite target, pacing LSU with 18 receptions for 294 yards. On the ground, senior Nick Brossette contributed 72 yards on 20 carries, and while he has not topped 100 yards in his last three contests, he still leads the Tigers with 481.
LSU has already beaten a pair of AP Top 10 opponents in Miami and Auburn and looking for two road wins over ranked opponents in the same season for the first time since victories at Mississippi State, West Virginia and Alabama in 2011.
Gators out to build on “Mullen Bowl” victory
No. 22 Florida (4-1, 2-1 SEC East) showed it can get the job done defensively by grinding out a 13-6 victory at then-No. 23 Mississippi State last Saturday as current Gators coach Dan Mullen defeated his former team in Starkville.
Running back Kadarius Toney accounted for the game’s lone touchdown with a 20-yard scoring pass to Moral Stephens in the third quarter after taking a lateral from Feleipe Franks to give the Gators a 10-6 lead. Evan McPherson extended the lead to seven with a field goal with 5:22 to play, and Florida’s defense came up with a stand at midfield, capped by Donovan Stiner‘s sack of Nick Fitzgerald on 4th-and-10.
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) September 30, 2018
‘We came in here and we found a way to win a different style game,” Mullen told the school’s official website, referring to last week’s 47-21 blowout of Tennessee. “This week, we won by grinding it out. That’s cool. It was a great win for us. As I’ve always said, in this league, you win two really tough road games, and one against a rival. Then, you play a top-15 team the next week, and then you head home and play a top-five team the next week.”
Florida’s defense held Mississippi State to 202 total yards, the fewest it allowed to an opponent since holding UAB to 180 last season and the fewest yielded to an SEC rival since limiting Georgia to 164 in 2016.
Franks was held without a touchdown pass for the first time this season but still completed 22 of 31 passes for 219 yards. Like Burrow, his completion percentage leaves a little to be desired at 57.1 percent, but Franks has 12 touchdown passes to only three interceptions while throwing for 961 yards.
The redshirt sophomore had a tough go of it in last season’s 17-16 home loss to LSU, completing 10 of 16 passes for only 108 yards while getting sacked five times. That loss started a death spiral for the Gators, who lost the next four games after that defeat en route to a 4-7 finish.
Florida will need senior tailback Jordan Scarlett to get untracked quickly — he was held to 21 yards on 10 carries by the Bulldogs and has only 203 on the season. Scarlett had 108 yards on 22 rushes in a 2016 victory at LSU.
- 1-5 ATS in its last six games as a home underdog.
- 4-10 ATS in its last 14 games following a straight up win.
- 2-5 ATS in its last seven games vs. SEC opponents.
- The under is 5-2 in its last seven games after scoring fewer than 20 points in its previous game.
- The under is 7-3 in its last 10 home games vs. LSU.
- The under is 8-2 in its last 10 games after an ATS win.
- 8-0 ATS in its last eight games vs. SEC teams.
- 6-2 ATS in its last eight games as a road favorite.
- 4-0 ATS in its last four road games vs. teams with a winning home record.
- The under is 7-1 in its last eight road games.
- The under is 15-6-1 in its last 22 games vs. SEC teams.
- The under is 15-7 in its last 22 games vs. Florida.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
LSU has the look of a team that can do special things, though perhaps slightly more along the straight and narrow under Ed Orgeron than under predecessor Les Miles. Burrow’s breakout performance could not have been better timed, and the goal for the Tigers quarterback is to follow that up with another strong effort.
While the defense is not a spectacular unit, the one thing it does well is force turnovers. LSU has recorded 10 takeaways after getting one against Ole Miss last weekend and has a plus-7 margin on the season. Another thing the Tigers are good at defensively is getting off the field. They have limited opponents to a 35 percent conversion rate on third downs, with only one team surpassing 40 percent thus far.
Florida has shown an ability to win shootouts or defensive tests, coming through impressively in the latter last weekend. Franks will be a key factor in this game for the Gators — he has thrown an interception in three of the last four games — and he can ill-afford to make multiple mistakes given LSU has scored five TDs off the 10 takeaways it has recorded.
The last four games between the teams have been decided by seven or fewer points, and that trend will likely continue given how the teams mirror each other offensively. The difference may come down to the running games — whichever one gets going first could wind up being victorious. The hedge here is Burrow and LSU get the job done.
Prediction: Pick: LSU -3
Full-Game Total Pick
The last two games between these teams have been defensive struggles, with LSU winning 17-16 in “The Swamp” last year and Florida posting a 16-10 victory the season before. Four of the last six games between the teams have resulted in outcomes with 33 or fewer points and while LSU showed a more versatile offensive attack last weekend against Ole Miss, Florida’s defense has shown enough talent to potentially hold down the Tigers.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 44 points
Full-Game Prop Bet
LSU has yet to allow more than 21 points in any game and it also has held Florida to 16 or less in five of the last seven matchups between the teams. If the Tigers stifle the Gators’ ground game, it can make Florida one-dimensional and exploit Franks’ occasional wayward throwing.
Prediction: Pick: Florida UNDER 21.5 points (-125)
Half-Time Side Pick
LSU gets the nod here because Florida’s offense has yet to distinguish itself against better defenses. The Tigers have also scored 52 points in the first half of their last two games, and being in sync at that level gives them the edge over the Gators.
Prediction: Pick: LSU -1 (-110)
Half-Time Total Bet
Even with LSU’s offense in sync, points are going to be at a premium in this game given their history. That, along with the fact five of the last six meetings have been decided eight or fewer points lends to a defense-first game that stays tight.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 22.5 points (-110)
Half-Time Prop Prediction
Both teams are capable of creating big plays, with nine touchdowns of 40 or more yards between them. Florida has also allowed a pair of scoring plays longer than 40 yards, making the over a better play than the under in this instance.
Prediction: Pick: Longest TD OVER 40.5 yards (-110)