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LSU VS FLORIDA PREVIEW


By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

@LonnPhillips


Brian Kelly vs Billy Napier....live on national television....winner take all.

The battle for the soul of LSU's future didn't completely end when Napier went to Florida & Kelly accepted the Tigers' position: this fight now continues on the field when Brian Kelly's Tigers travel to Gainesville to face Billy Napier's Gators.

With their reputations now interminably intertwined, intense loyalists on both sides, it'll be strange to see two men who've never met nor held a conversation shake hands awkwardly in the middle of the field....perhaps Kelly takes a stab at a coaching search joke (???), but for all the talk surrounding their parallel destinies, these two men will likely have little to say to each other.
The manner in which their respective squads perform will do all the talking necessary.

Yes, it could be funny:

The younger Napier looking on at his elder Brian Kelly, the man who beat him out for LSU's coaching hire sweepstakes with a major $100,000,000 powerball....though many still maintain AD Scott Woodward wouldn't hire Napier, we may never really know the truth to that question.

You have to feel Saban's favored apprentice definitely earned at least some precursor consideration, at least before LSU's coaching search zeroed in on Notre Dame's winningest head coach.


In some ways, LSU and Florida are a lot alike at this juncture:

The 2022 Tigers & Gators both start with new head coaches and an overhauled staff, both are 4-2, succumbed to Tennessee, deploy run-first quarterbacks and share a history concerning CBs Coach Corey Raymond.

So....with these Kelly vs Napier "checkbook rivalry" talking points made abundantly clear heading into Saturday's much anticipated kickoff, each head coach has far more to worry about than secret scowls or tooth-pulling small talk.

Brian Kelly's LSU Tigers were left reeling after a nightmare weekend:

First, freshman offensive line starter Will Campbell suffered a seizure during a team walk through on Friday, versatile sophomore guard Garrett Dellinger (only just returning from surgery on his broken hand) left the field by the 2nd quarter with an MCL injury, while under-fire special teams coordinator Brian Polian's errors created disorganized, haphazard situations which sabotaged the Tigers' kick return coverage & supplied top WR Jack Bech his first error after nearly 500 snaps for LSU....all as Josh Heupel's Tennessee ran Kelly's Tigers out of their own building.

On the opposite side of the coin, Napier's Gators are "fresh" off an ugly 24-17 win over Missouri and a 52-17 thrashing of Eastern Washington, yet they are also a battle scarred / tested team.

Much like LSU's fortunes against high profile opponents, Florida have mixed results; Already facing a trio of ranked squads, Napier's team are 1-2 vs top 25 programs over that span:


Opening the Napier era in pulmonary overload, #20 Utah threw the game away at the one yard line, #22 Kentucky smashed the Gators 26-16 as Napier endured a Jayden Daniels-esque performance from QB Anthony Richardson (under 150 yards passing, 0 TDs and 2 INTs), before losing 38-33 at the hands of top 10 Tennessee...a scoreline that flatters to deceive.

"Dual threat QB" Anthony Richardson may have uncorked an unforeseen 450 yard outing vs Tennessee's porous secondary, however that showing has turned into his season high by far. Most recently, Richardson hit a serious low this past weekend vs Missouri: 8/14 for 66 yards, 1 interception and 1 TD.

Where have we seen that kind of performance before?

Richardson also tossed an alarming 7 INTs through 6 games, although his extra dimension athleticism added 5 more rushing scores to bridge the gap.

As a team, Florida are rushing for 16 touchdowns on the ground compared to just 6 through the air, but you can never discount an athletic specimen like Richardson, let alone his strong running back duo:

Joining their QB in excess of 282 rushing yards, 44 carries and 6 yards per rush, freshman Louisiana talent (with a recognizable surname) Trevor Etienne, leading rusher Montrell Johnson or QB Richardson continue to boost the Gators' one dimensional offense, piling on 213.2 each game as a unit.

Backing up their running game, Florida's X factor on Saturday will be Ricky Pearsall, a versatile playmaker in both the passing game (254 yards, 2 TDs) or rushing attack (only run on the season went for 76 yards and a score).

Jay Ward or Mekhi Garner should become the favored matchup vs Pearsall, though he'll require some stopping.

If recent history is anything to judge, LSU's defense are more than up to the task:

Jay Ward picked off a pass in each of his last two appearances vs Florida, BJ Ojulari produced 1 sack, 2 TFLs and 9 tackles last season in a dominant showcase, adding a timely fumble recovery as a freshman in 2020; Micah Baskerville also picked off his first collegiate pass in 2021 alongside a strong performance.

Also, the Tigers' 2021 defense, led by plenty of 2022 starters (Ward, Ojulari, Roy, Baskerville etc), shut down the nation's #1 rushing attack with Richardson again at the helm.

On that strange, crooked morning, Daronte Jones' defense held Florida well below their prior average, also limiting every rusher under 40 total yards....narrowly over 138 combined.

Simultaneously, current 49ers RB Ty Davis-Price exploded for an LSU program record 287 yards, giving the Tigers' a crazy 49-42 early morning win.

Why would LSU and Florida's 2021 meeting have any bearing on what's ahead???

Because stopping the run and running the ball with intensity equate Kelly and Co's strongest path to controlling proceedings.....still, it is up to Jayden Daniels' decision-making to deliver victory.


PREDICTION


We will likely see a chess match between Kelly and Napier, these two "masters of the process" going blow for blow deep into the 4th quarter.

On the field, I can almost guarantee some form of quarterback duel between Jayden Daniels & Anthony Richardson, a game of athletic oneupsmanship where neither competitor will back down....which could make for either one of two outcomes:

1. An enthralling, end to end showdown with both using their arms in addition to their legs.

Or 2. A frustrating, stop-start showcase for each signal caller's deficiencies, each offense suffering as a result.

When you look at the matchups, this is also a game for Jack Bech to shine, a perfect opponent for #80 to get back where he belongs at the top of Cortez Hankton's lineup. Since Florida's true defensive weakness lies over the middle & in their ability to consistently bring players to the ground, it would once again be a cardinal sin if Daniels is incapable of delivering the football to receivers.

For LSU's offense, hone in on a solid starting three receiving tandem of Boutte, Nabers and Bech and feed your best three guys....we know Boutte, Nabers and Bech are a triumvirate any defense would have trouble covering.

When it comes to defenses, Matt House's group will have the upper hand, angry after allowing 40 points to Tennessee (despite a solid start) and determined to equalize the scales.

Watch for a monstrous game from freshman linebacker Harold Perkins, most likely utilized to spy Anthony Richardson....in much the same way he should've been deployed last Saturday vs Hendon Hooker.

In the end, we should see a grindhouse affair on Saturday....


Throughout what should turn into another lower-scoring seesaw battle, each side will equally make plays & shoot themselves in the foot before leaving it up to ultimate chance.

As for LSU's coaching staff, a group who let their players down last week, watch for Brian Kelly & his assistants to leave everything on the sidelines.

LSU's first year head coach understands how critical this game is regarding optics......if Brian Kelly is out-coached by the younger, sleeker Billy Napier, the man who could've coached LSU....right or wrong, it'll be another full 12 months until the Irish Tiger is able to bury that narrative.

LSU 27

FLORIDA 21

By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

@LonnPhillips

©️ Uninterrupted Writings Inc


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3 Comments


We will know as soon as they take the field if our team is energized. I’m a little concerned that some malaise is setting in after the fight we saw from them early on. Unless we change the offense considerably expect more of the same result Fla. 31 LSU 24 I hate my prediction, but I need to see a game where the offense changes considerably to believe we can win.

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Lonn Phillips Sullivan
Lonn Phillips Sullivan
Oct 14, 2022
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I love your prediction brotha

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