LSU football fans were brought back down to Earth last weekend by Tennessee. The Volunteers casually strolled into Death Valley and beat the Bayou Bengals by four touchdowns. It’s important to remember it’s a rebuilding year, but it’s also difficult to keep the Tigers’ fans in check. Brian Kelly and his team will be looking to avoid a second consecutive defeat to an SEC East team on Saturday when they head to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to take on Florida.
The Gators are in a similar spot as LSU right now. They’ve earned an impressive win (Utah) and also suffered a couple of disappointing defeats. Nevertheless, there will be no lack of intensity when these rivals get together this weekend. Let’s find out more about the 2022 Florida Gators ahead of Saturday evening’s marquee matchup.
LSU football looks to bounce back from a loss last Saturday at Florida. Site Expert Will Thomas from Hail Florida Hail joins us for a pre-kickoff Q&A!
Tigers fans have read a lot about their team at Death Valley Voice over the last few weeks. Now it’s time to get some insight from the other side of the aisle. In a recent discussion with Death Valley Voice’s Gabe Henderson, Hail Florida Hail Site Expert Will Thomas revealed his thoughts ahead of the Gators’ biggest rivalry game of the year thus far.
Here are all of the questions and answers from the chat with Thomas:
Death Valley Voice: It’s been a rollercoaster ride for LSU fans this season. A quick peek at the schedule will reveal it’s been a similar situation over in Gainesville. What have you made of Florida’s year thus far?
Hail Florida Hail: It’s been more or less what we expected, with maybe one too many losses. There weren’t many people who thought UF would be right back into contention with Billy Napier in charge, but there was definitely an expectation we would be more competitive. That’s more or less been the case with a win over Utah and a close game in Knoxville. It’s still frustrating to watch at times though, especially with the defense. Missed tackles, giving up third downs, etc. But overall, it’s been a good year to this point.
Death Valley Voice: Billy Napier was one of the names touted to get the LSU job after Ed Orgeron’s firing. Louisiana fans have a particular love for the former ULL frontman, but what have Gators fans made of the job he’s done thus far? Are you confident that Florida finally found the right man to lead this team to glory again?
Hail Florida Hail: We are. The changes he’s bringing aren’t showing up in all the box scores, but they’re easy to see. He came in preaching discipline and accountability, and the penalties we commit each game are way down. He’s also shown a much better dedication in recruiting, which has been a point of frustration the past few years. There are a few moments here and there when his offensive play calling is a little strange, but he’s already shown an ability and a willingness to make the changes needed to help the program.
Death Valley Voice: One thing LSU has been susceptible to this season is big plays in the passing game. Everyone knows about Anthony Richardson and his talent, but who are some of the Florida receivers to keep an eye on?
Hail Florida Hail: Our best overall wide receiver is probably Ricky Pearsall. He transferred into the program this season and has already made his name known. He’s a great route runner, has the best hands on the team and is one of AR’s favorite third-down targets. Another guy who is having a good season is Justin Shorter. He’s the biggest guy in the room and has quietly been having an awesome season. We also utilize Xvazier Henderson a lot in the screen game, but he’s yet to make a major impact.
Death Valley Voice: Similarly, can you tell us a little bit more about the playmakers on the Gators’ defense? Who do you think will be key to stopping LSU on Saturday?
Hail Florida Hail: Ventrell Miller is the anchor of the defense. He’s by far the best linebacker, the best tackler and the clear leader on that side of the ball. He can make any play needed. Our secondary has looked a little shaky at times, with some blown coverages and missed tackles. However, Jaydon Hill came back from injury two weeks ago and had a two-pick game against Mizzou. Up front, Gervon Dexter is a great talent but has had a quiet season to this point. Brenton Cox Jr. may be our most athletic guy up front and has great playmaking ability, but is prone to overcommitting on plays and getting beat outside.
Death Valley Voice: It goes without saying this rivalry means a lot to LSU fans. Those of us who grew up watching Tim Tebow take on the Tigers especially dislike Florida. Do Gators fans share the same feelings for LSU? Where do the Tigers rank on the hatred scale amongst Florida’s rivals?
Hail Florida Hail: You’d be hard-pressed to find a Gator fan with nice things to say about LSU. All the close games with high stakes have really made this a rivalry. In terms of where they rank on our list, Georgia and Florida State are the clear No. 1 and No. 2, and LSU probably hovers around with Tennessee and Kentucky. It depends on the year and the relevance of every team. But generally speaking, Gator fans don’t have lots of love for the Tigers. It always feels good when we take home a win.
Death Valley Voice: How much confidence do Florida fans have in their team ahead of Saturday’s game?
Hail Florida Hail: Everyone feels pretty good about where the team is. We obviously don’t have what it takes to go play with the big boys in the SEC, but there’s always optimism for home games. The offense is starting to click, and the run game is consistent enough that fans know we can put together a drive at any time. Defensively, it seems that everyone is starting to settle in a bit, especially with Jaydon Hill turning into Superman last week.
Death Valley Voice: Finally, what is your prediction for the game? Who wins and by how much?
Hail Florida Hail: This game is definitely going to be close, mainly because I don’t think either team has the ability to blow the other out. The big difference will be The Swamp. The fans always get up for the LSU game, and a 7:30 kickoff will have the place rocking. I like Florida by four or five.
A huge thank you goes out to Will for taking the time out of his day to talk with us about Florida. Be sure to check out Hail Florida Hail and read my responses to his questions before kickoff on Saturday night!