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Preview: Tigers Set to Host Florida for Saturday Night in Death Valley

by Harrison Valentine | Digital Media Graduate Assistant
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Preview: Tigers Set to Host Florida for Saturday Night in Death Valley

LSU returns to host Florida on Saturday night in Death Valley, the first of three home games to close the regular season.

Kickoff is set for 6:39 p.m. CT on the SEC Network and the LSU Sports Radio Network.

The all-time series between the Tigers and Gators sits at 33-33-3. Chapter 70 of this always-entertaining rivalry is set to be written on Saturday night in Baton Rouge.

Last week, LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels continued to look like a Heisman frontrunner, finishing 15-of-24 for 219 yards and two touchdown passes along with 163 yards rushing and a score on 11 carries against a stout Alabama defense.

Daniels left the game in the fourth quarter and did not return due to a head injury. On Thursday, Coach Kelly listed Daniels as “probable” to play against Florida after being evaluated throughout the week.

“He practiced again today, so he will most likely pass the protocol,” head coach Brian Kelly said on Thursday. “He’s been able to prepare in a manner that he feels comfortable and we feel comfortable, or else we wouldn’t put him out there.”

Malik Nabers became the second player in LSU history with two 1,000 yard receiving seasons, joining Josh Reed (2000, 2001). It’s the 11th time an LSU player has eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in a single season. 

Daniels and Nabers are currently listed as Pro Football Focus’ highest graded quarterback (93.0) and receiver (92.4) this season.

The message from Coach Kelly has been consistent: in order to go on the road and beat a top-10 team, elite play is required to beat elite competition. On Saturday, the Tigers posted a valiant effort against the Crimson Tide, but that is not enough to leave Tuscaloosa victorious.

“We did some really good things, but you have to be elite on the road,” Kelly said on Monday. “We’re certainly not there yet, but we’re closing the gap. We’re going to get to elite.”

The Gators are led by quarterback Graham Mertz, who has accounted for 2,409 yards passing and a whopping 73.9 completion percentage. The junior has thrown 17 touchdowns and two interceptions this season.

The Florida rushing attack is led by Montrell Johnson Jr. and Trevor Etienne, who have recorded 555 yards on 106 carries for four touchdowns and 529 yards on 88 carries and four touchdowns, respectively. Rickey Pearsall leads the team in receiving with 773 yards on 55 catches for four scores.

Defensively, linebacker Shemar James leads the group with 55 tackles and a sack, while safety Jordan Castell is second on the team with 50 tackles.

“The things that stand out to me, in terms of Florida, are they have some great wins,” Kelly said of Florida. “The offensive production by Graham Mertz this year. The running game is as good as there is in the SEC. This is a really good offense. It’s built on the running game and the play-action.”

LSU has won four straight and 5 of the last 6 meetings with Florida, including last year’s 45-35 win in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The Tigers also lead the series 18-17 in Baton Rouge and have won 5 of the last 6 against the Gators in Death Valley.