The SEC's two coaches in their first seasons will meet in The Swamp on Saturday when Florida plays host to LSU in a cross-division SEC showdown that always seems to feature intense drama. Both teams are 4-2 after soldiering through ups and downs in the first half of the season while adapting to new regimes.
Florida coach Billy Napier picked up his first conference victory last week as the Gators beat Missouri 24-17, and the LSU game marks a final tune-up before UF takes on No. 1 Georgia on Oct. 29. LSU enters limping after a 40-13 home loss to No. 8 Tennessee, but the Tigers started 2-0 in SEC play under coach Brian Kelly with wins over Mississippi State and Auburn.
Neither team is ranked in this week's AP poll, but both landed in the "others receiving votes" category; the winner — sporting a 5-2 record — is likely to surge back into the polls on Sunday with some wind in their sails for the season's second half. Given the similarities between these two rebooting SEC powers and their propensity for playing thrilling games, the Gators and Tigers could produce one of Week 7's most entertaining games.
How to watch Florida vs. LSU live
Date: Saturday, Oct. 15 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium -- Gainesville, Florida
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Florida vs. LSU: Need to know
Redemption story: One of this season's top stories of perseverance is playing out at Florida with Jaydon Hill. The redshirt sophomore cornerback earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance against Missouri in just his second game of the season after rehabilitating the latest in a series of career-hampering knee injuries. Hill pulled down two interceptions against the Tigers, running one back 49 yards for a critical second-quarter touchdown. His second pick came during the second half in the red zone to preserve the Gators lead. At a point in the season when many teams are dealing with injury-related attrition, Hill's return is a much-needed boost, both on and off the field.
LSU's offensive line: The Tigers struggled to protect quarterback Jayden Daniels and failed to generate much of a rushing attack in their loss to Tennessee last week amid a couple of key absences on the left side of their offensive line. Starting left tackle Will Campbell missed the game due to a dehydration bout that led to his hospitalization. Then, in the first half, left guard Garrett Dellinger went down with a knee injury. Campbell returned to practice this week and is expected to play against the Gators, but Dellinger is expected to miss at least two games, which could leave the Tigers vulnerable up front.
Last year's battle: LSU hastened the demise of Dan Mullen's tenure as Florida's coach last season when the Tigers won a 49-42 thriller over the Gators behind 287 yards rushing and three touchdowns from Tyrion Davis-Price. The outcome suggested for a moment that perhaps LSU coach Ed Oregon could rally his squad and save his job, though a subsequent three-game losing streak quickly squashed that notion. It was the first of a three-game losing streak for Florida that culminated with a 40-17 defeat at South Carolina on Nov. 6. Last year's win was LSU's third straight in the series, and the Tigers can even the all-time record between the schools at 33-33-3 with a win Saturday.
Florida vs. LSU prediction, picks
Florida and LSU bear similarities as both teams are 4-2 in their first seasons under new head coaches. Both are reliant on mobile quarterbacks who have been inconsistent throwing the football, and both endured some intense highs and lows over the season's first half. LSU's defense looks better on paper, ranking 29th nationally in total defense, as opposed to Florida's No. 99 ranking. But that's misleading as the Tigers surrendered 438 yards against lowly Auburn two weeks ago before giving up 502 yards at home against Tennessee last week. With such a narrow spread in this game and little seeming to differentiate the teams, Florida gets the nod due to home field advantage. The Swamp should be rocking for a night game against a SEC rival. Prediction: Florida (-2.5)
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