LSU hopes to bounce back from tough, embarrassing week
GAINESVILLE, Florida - Part of me wants to think that LSU will play very well Saturday and have a chance to beat Florida. That would be just like the Southeastern Conference. Just when you think a team is done, it recovers from a devastating loss a week later and wins.
Such was the case right here three years ago on Oct. 11, 2014. Lafayette's Colby Delahoussaye booted a 50-yard field goal with three seconds to go to give the Tigers, who had just been embarrassed, 41-7, at No. 5 Auburn a week prior, a 30-27 victory in The Swamp.
The Tigers entered that game with two losses, having previously lost to Mississippi State, 34-29, in Tiger Stadium. LSU also entered that Florida game having just held - you guessed it - the proverbial "players-only meeting" after the Auburn game. LSU (4-2, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) was also not ranked. Neither was Florida (3-1, 2-1 SEC) going in.
Unranked LSU (3-2, 0-1 SEC) plays at No. 20 Florida (3-1, 3-0 SEC) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS after a bevy of players-only and other meetings in light of an embarrassing, 24-21, loss to 20-point underdog Troy at home. It has been raining Tigers, coaches, athletic directors and coordinators ever since. It was not quite as bad in 2014, but it was bad.
A victory would give LSU a season again, just like in 2014. Merely playing well in a close loss would give it hope. The Tigers will be healthier and closer to full strength with tailback Derrius Guice and defensive end Rashard Lawrence back after missing the Troy terror. It could happen.
It should be noted, though, that the 2014 Tigers bounced back from their loss to Mississippi State with a 63-7 win over New Mexico State, tying for the most points in the Coach Les Miles era. It also won three straight after that Auburn loss and had Alabama beat before falling, 20-13, in overtime.
This team does not look capable of that at the moment. And Florida, which finished 7-5 and 4-4 in 2014 with Coach Will Muschamp getting fired, looks much better this season. It hasn't looked great, but it knows how to win. This LSU team has not played a decent game since the opener and has looked soft. If Florida plays at its best and LSU does not, this one could get ugly. Then you could be looking at a very long season without a coaching change. So, you're going have to just live with it or find some new hobbies for now.
Here are five items to keep your eyes on before possibly having to shut them.
1. THE LSU OFFENSE: New offensive coordinator Matt Canada told his unit last week, "We're going to get back to us," according to center Will Clapp.
Back to us? Does that mean LSU will score only seven points, which was its total when Canada was running all his motion and shifts? Does it mean more pre-snap penalties?
"I enjoy when we shift," Clapp continued. "It gets the defense, makes it a little hectic."
For which team?
"They don't know where to line up and are worried about what they should do. I really enjoy that," Clapp said.
Mississippi State and Troy enjoyed it, too, as they tended to just stay put and stop the Tigers as did Syracuse at times. This is one reason why LSU is only seventh in the SEC in rushing with 192 yards a game.
True, LSU's offense did perform better in the second half against Troy as it returned to Canada's motion attack after Coach Ed Orgeron had it simplified and in the first half. But let's not get carried away. Canada's offense was not exactly setting the world on fire before Orgeron tinkered. So far, neither the old offense or the new offense is working very well. Maybe Saturday will be the day as Florida struggled with Vanderbilt's motion and shifts in a 38-24 win last week.
2. LSU TAILBACK DERRIUS GUICE: If he can return to his 2016 form, the Tigers will have a chance. But Canada needs to finesse Florida's defensive line with some well designed runs out of the spread and with some misdirection and play action passing.
3. THE QUARTERBACKS: LSU senior Danny Etling is expected to play the entire game, which he should have last week since he has continued to play well. The continuity should help everyone involved with LSU's offense. At the moment, it may be best for true freshman Myles Brennan to watch. Florida true freshman Feleipe Franks has played well in spots this season, and now the job appears to be all his with junior Luke Del Rio out for the season with a shoulder injury after taking the starting job from Franks entering that game. While we're on the topic of 2014, Florida senior graduate transfer quarterback Malik Zaire has played little this year, but he did rush 22 times for 96 yards with a touchdown, and completed 12 of 15 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown in Notre Dame's 31-28 win over LSU in the Music City Bowl that year.
4.LSU DEFENSIVE END RASHARD LAWRENCE: The sophomore from Neville High is the Tigers' best defensive lineman and a team leader. LSU desperately needs both.
5.CONNOR CULP: He is this week's LSU placekicker, and so far LSU has more special teams coaches than made field goals.
PREDICTION: LSU will play better, but Florida will play much better and win 27-10.