This Saturday night, the LSU Tigers (5-0) will play host to the Florida Gators (6-0) in one of the most anticipated meetings of the 2015 college football season thus far. Both teams will enter the game undefeated in Southeastern Conference play and ranked in the top-10 of the AP national poll – Florida at No. 8 and LSU at No. 6 – which means that this matchup will not only have serious implications within the SEC, but it will also have a significant bearing on both teams’ chances at landing one of the four coveted spots in the College Football Playoff at the end of the season. Unfortunately for Florida and first-year head coach Jim McElwain, the Gators will be without starting quarterback Will Grier after the team announced on Monday that the freshman signal caller was suspended for one year after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. To make matters worse, the Gators will also be dealing with another off field distraction after freshman defensive back Deiondre Porter was suspended indefinitely following his arrest for allegedly firing a gun at his pregnant girlfriend. While losing players to suspension is never a good thing, dealing with the loss of Porter will be much easier than dealing with the loss of Grier.
Based on the fact that LSU is currently a 9.5-point favorite in Las Vegas, it appears as though not many people are giving Florida a chance in this game. The reality of the situation is that Florida likely would have been viewed as underdogs entering this game even if they were going to be at full strength. After all, LSU has arguably the best player in all of college football in running back Leonard Fournette and Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana is one of the toughest places to play in the country. But at the same time, Florida is one of the hottest teams in college football and has one of the top defenses in the country and a balanced, yet explosive offensive attack that is scoring an average of 32.2 points per game. But that was with Grier in the lineup. In a game where there will be little room for error, do the Florida Gators have a chance at winning without their starting quarterback?
Grier’s replacement will be the player he beat out for the position, sophomore Treon Harris (pictured above). While the two quarterbacks were in a close competition all offseason and throughout the first couple weeks of the year, their physical skillsets are quite different. Grier is more of a pure passer who has the ability to make plays with his feet, whereas Harris is a true dual-threat quarterback. Harris’ running ability is going to add a new dimension to the Gators’ offense, but it’s hard for us to believe that the Florida offense will be as effective through the air with Harris running the show. With that being said, we believe this game will be decided by the matchup between the LSU offense and the Florida defense.
Harris will undoubtedly need to play well for the Gators to have a chance on Saturday night. We aren’t arguing that fact. Where Florida has the best chance to win this game, though, is on the defensive side of the ball. Shutting down Fournette for an entire game is a near impossible task, but not letting him run wild is a must for Florida to keep this game close. If they are able to limit Fournette’s impact and force the game into the hands of LSU quarterback Brandon Harris, who has been erratic all season, then the Gators could have a realistic shot at pulling off the upset in Death Valley.
All said, the play of Florida quarterback Treon Harris will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game. However, if his teammates cannot contain Leonard Fournette, he could play like the second coming of 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, and Florida could still lose this game. In the end, we see Harris turning in a solid performance, but it won’t be enough for Florida to escape Death Valley with a win.