No. 5 LSU has dispatched two Top 10 teams this season – Miami and Auburn – and cruised through its first five games undefeated.
But on Saturday in The Swamp, the Tigers believe they will face their toughest opponent yet in No. 22 Florida (4-1). The Gators are coming off two SEC road wins and showing signs of life on offense.
“We had two straight road games (defeating Tennessee 47-21 and Mississippi State 13-6), and we win those two and get rewarded by playing a Top 5 team in the country at home,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “That’s playing in the Southeastern Conference.”
LSU has won four of the last five games against Florida, including two in a row in Gainesville, and the Tigers seem to be perfecting a passing offense that had many question marks entering the season.
In a 45-16 victory over Ole Miss last week, junior transfer quarterback Joe Burrow completed 18 of 25 passes for a career-high 292 yards and three touchdowns, and he ran for a team-high 96 yards and another score. He has thrown seven TD passes without an interception.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron said he is seeing a new dimension emerge in his passing game.
“We’ve finally got the receivers in the right spot,” Orgeron said, praising the play-calling of offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and the technique work of veteran receivers coach Jerry Sullivan. “We’re finally doing the right plays to get the receivers open, so I think that’s the biggest improvement we’re making.”
Burrow, who transferred to LSU in August from Ohio State, is a coach’s son who has picked up the nuances of the Tigers’ offense in stride. He has shown the ability to change plays at the line of scrimmage. He also has taken a leadership role and won admiration from his teammates for his hard-nosed running, something Orgeron would like to see kept to a minimum to protect him from injury.
Burrow played especially tough in the fourth quarter of his first SEC road game against Auburn three weeks ago, a 22-21 victory.
“It’s really good to get one under your belt in Auburn, and, obviously, this is going to be a really good game, too – ranked team, really good team, really passionate fan base,” Burrow said. “It’s going to be wild, it’s going to be tough, but we’re ready for it.”
Florida will use the occasion to honor its 2008 national championship team and add quarterback Tim Tebow to the Gators’ ring of honor.
“That’s a pretty special deal,” Mullen said. I expect there not to be an open seat anywhere. I would expect to see people on their feet. It should be fun for our student body. The student body sets the tempo and the attitude for everybody else.”
Orgeron remembers the Gators playing Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” at the start of the fourth quarter last year.
“I thought it was a tremendous time for our football team because we were singing it, too,” Orgeron said. “It’s going to be a war.”