Tonight’s storylines: No. 7 Florida at No. 5 LSU

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Florida defensive end Jabari Zuniga (92) and linebacker David Reese II (33). [Cyndi Chambers/Gainesville Sun Correspondent]

Today

Who: No. 7 Florida (6-0, 3-0 SEC) vs. No. 5 LSU (5-0, 1-0)

When: 8 p.m.

Where: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, La.

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

Line: LSU by 13.

Series record: Florida leads 33-29-3.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Both teams are in position to contend for their respective division titles in the SEC and a College Football Playoff berth. While a first loss in a top-10 clash won’t necessarily eliminate either team from contention, it’ll leave little to no margin for error going forward.

Are the Tigers unstoppable?

That has been the case in their first five games. No one has stopped — or even slowed down — what has appeared to be the best offense in college football. LSU is putting up ridiculous numbers: 416 passing yards a game, 571 total yards, 54.6 points. But the Tigers — and everybody else — will have a better gauge for how good this offense is tonight. For the first time this season, LSU is facing a legit defense, one that is coming off a dominant performance in a win over Auburn. While the Tigers are first in the SEC in scoring offense, the Gators are the same in scoring defense. LSU is first in the league in total offense, the Gators are second in total defense. So, something’s got to give tonight.

History making QB

Joe Burrow, the Ohio State grad transfer, has gone from functional quarterback to elite in his one year in Baton Rouge. Serviceable last season, he’s emerging as a Heisman Trophy candidate this season. He’s completed 127 passes for 1,864 yards and 22 touchdowns. It’s the most completions, passing yards and TDs through five games than any player in LSU history. The Gators will find out at least one thing about him tonight: he’s not the same quarterback that struggled in The Swamp last season, throwing two interceptions, including the one Brad Stewart returned for a touchdown in the closing minutes.

Trask on the road

This will be Florida quarterback Kyle Trask’s first start on the road, a fact that has many wondering how he will hold up in the insanely loud and hostile environment. The reality is he’s already dealt with a difficult situation on the road, coming off the bench at Kentucky in the second half to lead the Gators to a come-from-behind victory. He was calm and composed in that situation. But will it be different with him being the starter and playing in Tiger Stadium in a night game? Gator Nation is about to find out.

KEY MATCHUP

Florida’s secondary vs. the LSU wide receivers:

With starting cornerback CJ Henderson and safety Jeawon Taylor returning from injuries last week, the UF secondary was healthy for the first time since the third game of the season, and the Gators played well on the back end. Take away one bust, which resulted in a 46-yard pass play, and the Auburn receivers pretty much did nothing against the secondary. But the Gators will be facing a much more difficult and dangerous challenge tonight. The LSU wide receivers have been getting open and producing explosive plays at an amazing clip. They are led by the big three of Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall Jr. They have combined for 73 receptions for 1,302 yards and 19 touchdowns in just five games. And the Gators will have to contend with much more than just those three. Quarterback Joe Burrow spreads the ball all over the place. Nineteen different receivers have caught passes this season. The Gators will attempt to do what no other defense has been able to do this season: slow down these playmaking LSU receivers.

LSU’s high-scoring spread offense, averaging 571 yards and 54.6 points per game, against a Florida pass defense that has a nation’s best 12 interceptions, with 11 in its past four games.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Florida: S Shawn Davis has three interceptions, including a one-handed snag in a victory over Auburn last week. His other two interceptions helped fuel a comeback victory at Kentucky.

LSU: QB Joe Burrow continues to make a case for Heisman Trophy consideration, averaging an SEC-best 372.8 yards passing per game to go with 22 touchdowns passing, which ranks second in the SEC.

DEFENSIVE REINFORCEMENTS

The Gators are expected to be at full strength on defense, while LSU’s health also appears to be improving on that side of the ball.

Florida defensive end Jabari Zuniga is scheduled to return after missing the last three games with a sprained left ankle. Zuniga suited up last week, but didn’t play against Auburn. Mullen said they preferred to give him another week to heal. The senior has 18 1/2 sacks in 39 games.

LSU expects to have defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence and pass-rushing linebacker Michael Divinity back.

RUNNING GATORS

While Florida quarterback Kyle Trask could be affected by a left knee injury that he played through last weekend, LSU’s Ed Orgeron said he remains focused on containing a Gators ground game led by Lamical Perine, who has rushed for 327 yards and four touchdowns and had an 88-yard TD against Auburn.

“Florida has run the ball on us the last two years very, very well,” Orgeron said. “My biggest concern right now is stopping the run.”

FACTS & FIGURES

The last time each team was ranked in the top 10 when they played one another was in 2015, when then-No. 6 LSU beat No. 8 Florida 35-28 in Tiger Stadium. … Florida is 4-1 against ranked opponents under second-year coach Dan Mullen, 3-1 against top-10 teams. … After beating then-No. 7 Auburn last week, the Gators are seeking a second-straight victory over a top 10 opponent for the first time since 2012. … Florida has won 10 straight including the end of last season. … Gators QB Kyle Trask is 66 of 92 (71.7 percent) for 841 yards and six touchdowns to go with two TDs rushing since taking over for injured season-opening starter Feleipe Franks. … LSU has won five of its past six against a top 10 opponent. … The Tigers have scored more than 40 points in each of their first five games for the first time in school history. … The SEC’s top two in yards receiving per game are LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase (112.8) and Justin Jefferson (109.4). … LSU has driven for a touchdown in less than three minutes 26 times this season.

Today’s game questions

• LSU quarterback Joe Burrow has thrown for 300-plus yards in each of the last four games. Does he make it five in a row tonight?

• In the loud, hostile environment, will the Gators start slow or fast?

• How will Kyle Trask and the Florida offense respond to adversity?

• Can the UF secondary, which is healthy now, prevent a bunch of explosive plays in the passing game?

• Can the Gators produce enough of a running game to take some of the pressure off Trask and the passing game?

Click back Monday for Andreu’s answers

Andreu’s pick

LSU 35, Florida 28

(Season record: 5-1)


The Associated Press contributed to this report

3 COMMENTS

  1. The fact that Vandy scored 38 pts on LSU (31 before the 4th qrtr) me wonder how good LSU is on defense. Find it hard to believe that their DBs are all that good. If Trask has protection and the crowd noise doesn’t lead to mistakes, he should shine.

    • That’s the big “if” — the protection. The fact pattern isn’t encouraging though, referring to all those fumbles in the pocket. Trask’s pocket awareness is a work in progress. Still, I’m leading with my heart on this one, and calling for a Gator win in Louisiana. Go Gators!