An innocent rivalry between conference foes heightened in 2016.
The controversy that followed Florida’s decision to postpone its game against the LSU Tigers because of Hurricane Matthew left both teams resentful.
That resentment increased the competitiveness between the teams, however. Their last two meetings have been decided by a combined seven points.
No. 22 Florida will look to take down a second ranked team on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. when it welcome No. 5 LSU to the Swamp.
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The Gators climbed into the rankings for the second time this season after defeating then-No. 23 Mississippi State 13-6 in Starkville, and they’ll hope to ride their three-game winning streak to victory on Saturday.
Florida coach Dan Mullen has embraced every challenge the team has faced this year and holds that same mentality heading into this weekend’s match up.
“[It’ll] be a big challenge for us, coming back home,” Mullen told reporters. “I’m excited. This is obviously a big game. Florida-LSU is always a big, big game.”
Florida enters the contest a two-and-a-half-point underdog against Ed Orgeron’s undefeated Tigers.
Mullen called on Florida fans to pack the stands of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to ensure that LSU’s perfect record does not survive the Swamp’s intimidating environment.
“I expect it to not be an open seat anywhere in the Swamp,” Mullen said. “I expect to see people on their feet. Great challenge. It should be fun for our student body. It’s a great challenge out there. If you look in college football, student bodies set the tempo and really set the atmosphere for everybody else out there.”
Florida will need to dominate more than the atmosphere to have success against this Tigers team.
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was named SEC Player of the Week after he picked apart Ole Miss’s defense in the Tigers’ 45-16 win. The Ohio State transfer has helped LSU score at least 30 points in four of its five games this season behind his eight touchdowns.
But Florida wideout and Ohio State transfer Trevon Grimes is not worried about how the Gators’ defense will fare against his former teammate.
“Yeah, most definitely. I guess you could say everyone has their games,” Grimes said about Burrow’s most recent performance. “I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do against our defense and if he can make those plays, but I’m sure he won’t be able to.”
Burrow will face a Gators defense that became the third this year among FBS teams to hold a ranked opponent to under 225 yards at Mississippi State.
Florida ranks second in the nation in pass defense, allowing just 140 passing yards per game, and junior defensive end Jachai Polite is in a seven-way tie for the national lead in forced fumbles (three).
But LSU has an impressive defense as well, which has complemented the production of the fourth-leading rusher in the SEC in running back Nick Brossette as well as the length, speed and athleticism of its receivers.
The Tigers haven’t surrendered more than 21 points all season, and linebacker Devin White is second in the SEC with 22 solo tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
But Florida could have the advantage up front as LSU’s offensive line has been banged up.
It’ll be a treat for Todd Grantham’s defense, which has lived by the blitz this year.
“I think we’ve been pretty consistent in what we’re doing,” Grantham said. “Kind of staying the course in what we do, believing in the system, and I think that’s given them some familiarity with how we play calls ... I think it’s honestly a cumulative effect of all of that that’s allowed us to play [better].”