The next level

During the first few weeks of his tenure as interim coach at LSU, Ed Orgeron opened Monday practice to reporters.

Monday practice under Orgeron is a 40-minute walk-through, and there usually isn’t much to see. Players stretch, do some sprints and run about 15 to 20 plays.

But Orgeron closed Monday practice to reporters over the past couple of weeks. Why?

“Putting in secret plays. I don't want you all to know about them,” he said Monday, eliciting laughter.

Orgeron wasn’t kidding. Offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and his staff install new plays on Monday. Last week leading up to the game at Arkansas, Orgeron twice said the Tigers had put in a few new wrinkles.

We saw at least two of them during the 38-10 win in Fayetteville: the wildcat with running back Leonard Fournette taking direct snaps, and a “power pistol” formation with quarterback Danny Etling, two tight ends and a running back in the backfield.

LSU twice ran the wildcat with Fournette and once lined up in that power pistol formation. All three plays were snapped in the red zone. They were short-yardage plays: Fournette gained 5 yards on each of his wildcat runs, and Etling kept the ball out of the power pistol, gaining 1 yard.

These are examples of LSU running similar plays out of different formations, which Orgeron preached the Tigers would do after he took over. There’s not enough time to overhaul the offense midseason, he said, but there is enough time to tinker with it.

On the two wildcat plays, Fournette ran behind lead blocks from fullback J.D. Moore and a pulling guard, Will Clapp — just like he would do on a power run out of the I-formation. Etling kept the ball out of that power pistol formation, following left behind lead blocks from tight ends Colin Jeter and Foster Moreau. Darrel Williams, aligned just behind and to the left of Etling, was a decoy, running a sweep right.

Matchups to watch

LSU's running backs vs. Florida's linebackers

The Tigers will get a Florida team without injured starting linebackers Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone, who have combined for more than 100 tackles this season. The Tigers’ tag team of running backs Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice — “thunder and lightning,” as Florida coach Jim McElwain called them — is averaging 7.7 yards per carry.

LSU's defensive line vs. Florida's offensive line

This is another matchup where the injury bug has bitten Florida deeply. The Gators will be without two starting offensive linemen, and a third is questionable. The situation is so dire that McElwain needed to play his third-string center last week in a win over South Carolina. LSU's Arden Key is eighth nationally with nine sacks.

LSU: Keep an eye on No. 33, Jamal Adams

Adams, a junior safety, nearly signed with Florida. He tends to play with more fire against a Florida team that claims to be "Defensive Back University," a title the programs clamor over. This could be the last home game for Adams, a projected first-round NFL draft pick.

Florida: Keep an eye on No. 31, Teez Tabor

Of course it's a defensive back. Tabor, a first-team All-SEC pick last season, has four interceptions this season. He has 11 tackles for loss, too. He is Florida’s version of Adams — a speedy, physical athlete who can play the pass and the run.

Scott Rabalais' Four Downs


The Gators lead the nation in third-down conversions allowed, passing yards allowed and passing efficiency defense. LSU leads the nation by having allowed just 10 touchdowns in nine games, remarkable by modern college football standards. If one of these defenses can produce a score or a short field, it could tilt the game in its favor.


Devotees of ex-Purdue quarterback showdowns will be delighted. Danny Etling starts for LSU, while Austin Appleby, who once upon a time beat out Etling for the starting job with the Boilermakers, directs the Florida offense. Etling gives LSU a steadier hand than did Brandon Harris, while Appleby gives the Gators more pop as a thrower and runner.


When these teams were scheduled to meet Oct. 8, Florida led the SEC with a plus-1.00 turnover margin, while LSU languished in 11th at even. Since then, the Tigers have gotten slightly better (plus-0.11), while Florida has dropped into a tie for eighth with LSU. The Gators probably can’t hope to lose the turnover battle and win in Tiger Stadium.


Florida is the Sunshine State, but playing in sunshine historically isn't good for LSU. Since 1960, the Tigers have won 79 percent of their night home games but just 57 percent of their day games. These day games have usually been against tougher televised foes, but LSU must overcome the lack of extra energy that home night games provide.

Numbers worth knowing

0 — Previous LSU home games vs. SEC East in November

3 — LSU’s win streak vs. Florida, its longest since 1977-80

12 of 20 — Scoreless quarters for LSU's defense under Ed Orgeron

15-0 — Florida under Jim McElwain when allowing 21 points or fewer

LSU’s Week 12 bowl projections

Colin Becht,

Belk vs. North Carolina

Bill Bender, The Sporting News

Sugar vs. Oklahoma

Pete Fiutak,

Sugar vs. Oklahoma

Stewart Mandel,

Sugar vs. Oklahoma

Brett McMurphy,

Sugar vs. Oklahoma

Greg Ostendorf and Mitch Sherman,

Sugar vs. Oklahoma

Jerry Palm,

Liberty vs. Baylor

Mark Schlabach,

Sugar vs. Oklahoma

Alex Shirkey,

Sugar vs. West Virginia

Erick Smith, USA Today

Outback vs. Nebraska


Belk Bowl: Dec. 29, Charlotte, N.C.

Liberty Bowl: Dec. 30, Memphis, Tenn.

Outback Bowl: Jan. 2, Tampa, Fla.

Sugar Bowl: Jan. 2, Mercedes-Benz Superdome

Five memorable games: LSU vs. Florida

For the first time since Hurricane Hilda hit Louisiana in 1964, LSU and Florida will play a weather-delayed game. Here's a look at five games in this rivalry that stand out among the rest:

Oct. 25, 1958: LSU 10, Florida 7

Tommy Davis calmly boots a 36-yard field goal through the uprights in the final three minutes to lift the Tigers to a tense victory over the Gators. LSU moves from No. 3 to No. 1 in the AP poll, a spot the Tigers hold the rest of the season.

Oct. 2, 1982: LSU 24, Florida 13

The Tigers are a two-touchdown underdog to the No. 4 Gators in Gainesville — until Dalton Hilliard takes over. The freshman tailback tallies 207 yards of total offense and all three LSU touchdowns as the Tigers beat their highest-ranked opponent in 16 years.

Oct. 11, 1997: LSU 28, Florida 21

The Tigers are 0-7-1 against No. 1 teams coming in, including a 56-13 loss in Gainsville a year earlier. This time LSU bolts to a 14-0 lead and hangs on thanks to Cedric Donaldson’s late 31-yard interception return. “Now,” one LSU fan says afterward, “I can die happy.”

Oct. 6, 2007: LSU 28, Florida 24

A record Tiger Stadium crowd of 92,910 watches the drama unfold between the reigning (Florida) and future BCS champion (LSU). The Tigers twice rally from 10-point deficits, converting five fourth downs before Jacob Hester scores the winning touchdown on a 2-yard plunge with 1:09 remaining.

Oct. 9, 2010: LSU 33, Florida 29

Facing fourth-and-3 at the Florida 36, the Tigers fake a field goal as holder Derek Helton flips a pass over his shoulder — on a bounce — to kicker Josh Jasper. Jasper runs for a first down, setting up a 3-yard Jarrett Lee-to-Terrence Toliver touchdown pass three plays later.