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UF vs LSU preview: No. 21 Florida Gators, No. 16 Tigers will finally meet

By Les East, The Sports Xchange
LSU Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron looks up at the scoreboard at Tiger Stadium on November 5, 2016. The Tigers are 4-1 since Orgeron was named interim head coach after Les Miles was fired in the wake of a 2-2 start. Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI
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So LSU and Florida will meet after all.
They will play 42 days later than originally scheduled and about 600 miles west of the original site.
But the No. 16 Tigers will host the No. 21 Gators on Saturday afternoon in Tiger Stadium in a game postponed from Oct. 8 in Gainesville, Fla., due to Hurricane Matthew.
The new date and location came after several days of contentious negotiations involving the two schools and the SEC.
"Look, anything that comes up that really is out of your control, I mean, you can sit and cry about it or you can just move on," Florida coach Jim McElwain said. "That's what we've got to do. It is what it is. We're going there to play and that's the way it is."
These teams' seasons have come much more clearly into focus than they were when the postponement took place.
LSU (6-3, 4-2 in the SEC) is 4-1 since Ed Orgeron was named interim head coach after Les Miles was fired in the wake of a 2-2 start.
Florida (7-2, 5-2) has put itself on the cusp of a second consecutive SEC East Division title, though it enters the game with at least seven starters sidelined by injury. If the Gators win, they go back to Atlanta to play West Division champion and No. 1 Alabama on Dec. 3. If they lose, they can still win the East if Tennessee loses either at home to Missouri this week or at Vanderbilt next week.
Had this game been played Oct. 8, Florida likely would have avoided Tigers All-America running back Leonard Fournette, who was sidelined by an ankle injury. Fournette aggravated the injury for the third time this season in a win against Arkansas last week but he's more likely to play than he would have been six weeks ago.
Derrius Guice has established himself as one of the top running backs in the SEC while getting expanded playing time due to Fournette's limited playing time.
Florida has the No. 2 rush defense in the SEC (111.7 yards per game), but its top three tacklers -- linebackers Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone and safety Marcus Maye -- won't play because of injury.
The Gators also could be without as many as three starters on the offensive line.
"They were injured when we were about to play and then I guess they got a couple guys back and now they lost multiple guys," LSU outside linebacker Arden Key said. "I know they're scared to come up here because they don't have all their stars or whatnot."
Both teams have starting quarterbacks who transferred from Purdue and weren't starters at the beginning of the season. Danny Etling replaced a struggling Brandon Harris after two games for LSU.
Austin Appleby will be making his fourth start of the season and second in a row because of injuries to Luke Del Rio.
LSU, which concludes the regular season at Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night, will honor its departing seniors before a home game it wasn't supposed to have. A week ago, the Gators bid farewell to their departing seniors a week earlier than originally planned.
Had this game been played as originally scheduled, LSU would be hosting South Alabama on Saturday and Florida would be hosting Presbyterian College in a tune-up for its regular-season finale at Florida State next Saturday.
Gators players remember October speculation that suggested they weren't eager to play the game then or now.
"I think the LSU game is one of the biggest games for us every season just like FSU, just like Georgia," safety Nick Washington said. "I mean we're going to go into it with a little more of a chip on our shoulder because of what's been said in the media and what not. I know we're ready to go."
So instead of playing a non-conference breather, LSU and Florida are meeting in a Top 25 matchup with important implications. In addition to the Gators trying to wrap up a division title and strengthen their long-shot of making the College Football Playoff, the Tigers are trying to enhance their attractiveness to bowls and strengthen Orgeron's case to be the full-time head coach when these teams finally meet in The Swamp next season.
"We didn't have success in one game. We're 4-1," Oregeron said in reference to what's happened since he took over. "There's a lot of good things we've done. I really feel like we have a good football team, and I like that they're having fun."
UF vs LSU preview: No. 21 Florida Gators, No. 16 Tigers will finally meet Reviewed by Chidinma C Amadi on 9:17 PM Rating: 5

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