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Florida has leg up on LSU in rematch of ‘shoe game’

Updated October 15, 2021 - 2:24 pm

Florida lost to Louisiana State last season in one of the most surprising Southeastern Conference results in a game forever known as “the shoe game.”

The Gators made a third-down stop in the final minutes of a 34-34 tie. But Florida’s Marco Wilson picked up LSU’s Kole Taylor’s cleat and threw it downfield. That drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for what the referee announced as “throwing the LSU player’s shoe 20 yards down the field.”

Tigers kicker Cade York capped the drive by booting a winning 57-yard field goal through the fog with 23 seconds left.

The Gators are poised for major revenge in Baton Rouge.

LSU’s defense will be missing at least five starters, including three in the secondary. Florida’s offense ranks fourth in ESPN’s SP+ and ninth in Expected Points Added per play. It’s capable of exploiting a defense that gets bullied in the trenches and misses assignments on the back end.

LSU’s rush offense is 96th in EPA, and Tigers receiver Kayshon Boutte, easily LSU’s best offensive player, is out for the season.

Florida played poorly on defense in a 42-0 win over Vanderbilt last week, if you can believe it. But LSU might not challenge the Gators all that much.

The Tigers, who lost 42-21 at Kentucky last week, are headed toward a coaching search at the end of this season. There are signs that the team is quitting on the coaching staff.

Take Florida -11½.

Four more plays (home team in CAPS):

Texas A&M (-9½) over MISSOURI: The Tigers’ rush defense is 129th in EPA per snap. Missouri just allowed North Texas to gain 493 total yards. Now Missouri must contain explosive running backs Isaiah Spiller (5.8 yards per carry) and Devon Achane (6.6). Texas A&M’s offensive line played better in its 41-38 upset win over Alabama. The Aggies also got quarterback Zach Calzada rolling outside the pocket. Texas A&M’s pass defense is good because of a menacing pass rush, and Missouri doesn’t have the receivers to do much.

TENNESSEE (+2½) over Mississippi: The Rebels’ new 3-2-6 base defense caught Louisville off guard for one half in the season opener. Since then, teams have picked on Ole Miss, especially in the running game. The Rebels are too light up front to contain SEC running games. Tennessee’s rush offense is seventh in EPA per snap. Add in coach Josh Heupel’s no-huddle, up-tempo offense and you have a recipe for disaster for an Ole Miss defense that played 93 snaps last week. Ole Miss also defended 108 running plays in the last two weeks.

Alabama-Birmingham (-16) over SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI: Jake Lange, a fourth-string walk-on freshman, is playing quarterback for Southern Miss after a string of injuries. The Blazers are second in defensive EPA per snap against the run. UAB coach Bill Clark is 33-16-2 ATS against non-Power Five opponents and has covered by a combined 36.5 points in two games as a double-digit favorite this season.

Ball State-EASTERN MICHIGAN O55: The Eastern Michigan offense has played much better since turning to Ben Bryant at quarterback. The Eagles can’t run the ball and should pass often. Ball State QB Drew Plitt started the season poorly, but has had better results in each of the past three games, including passing for 310 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s 45-20 win at Western Michigan.

Last week: 2-3

Season: 17-13

Christopher Smith of AL.com is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Follow @CFBlocksmith on Twitter.

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