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Florida vs. LSU: Q&A with And The Valley Shook

Zach Junda of And The Valley Shook shares some insight on a difficult season in Baton Rouge

NCAA Football: Alabama at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

This is it. After all the twists and turns, the Florida Gators will play their last regular season game of 2020, a Senior Day night-time clash in the swamp with cross-conference rival LSU. Florida has already clinched its place in the SEC Championship Game, but needs to win, preferably by a lot, to keep its hopes as hale as possible in the Playoff hunt, while the Tigers are spiraling and now post-season ineligible by their own doing.

To learn more about this season’s LSU Tigers, I asked Zach Junda of And The Valley Shook about the 2020 season and what he expects to see on Saturday.

After the perfect season in 2019, it was expected that LSU would regress a little in 2020, but even with that in mind, it’s been a pretty disappointing season, with a mediocre 3-5 record. How disappointing has this season been and is this just a blip after losing so much talent or is it a sign of bigger problems?

It hasn’t just been disappointing, it’s been miserable.

There’s some LSU fans who have long maintained this season doesn’t matter, it’s an asterisk season and all that. It’s fine if you think that, but I think that’s wrong. If games are being played and scores are being kept that’s all that matters to me. Put it this way: Nobody that supports LSU would say it’s an asterisk season if LSU beat Alabama 55-17 and was gearing up to play in the SEC Championship.

As for is this a blip or not, I’m praying it is but there’s something going on inside the program that leads me to believe it’s eroding. If Terrace Marshall or Ja’Marr Chase want to opt out? That’s fine, they’re both draft bound. But now LSU has true freshman tight end Arik Gilbert opting out and Coach O’s chalking it up to “his body hurts”? I don’t know how you can look at that as anything but alarming.

Maybe Gilbert’s situation is an isolated case, but with all the bad publicity swirling around the program it feels more like a microcosm. This isn’t just an underclassmen opting out, this is the crown jewel of your top-five recruiting class, a potentially generational type of talent that LSU has never had and maybe the single biggest piece of LSU’s foundation moving forward. And he’s shutting it down and possibly leaving Baton Rouge for good.

It’s a season from hell for everyone sure, but no one will be more glad to reach the offseason than LSU.

At the beginning of the season, with quarterback Myles Brennan at the helm, the offense was putting up very solid numbers, but following his season-ending injury, things have taken a turn. Why has the offense dropped off recently, and how would you rate quarterbacks TJ Finley and Max Johnson?

I don’t think anyone within the football program would admit to this, but I don’t think they ever expected Max Johnson or TJ Finley to ever start for LSU. Not just this year, but for as long as they’re part of the program. Both are project pieces that would almost definitely get beat out by Garrett Nussmeier, LSU’s quarterback commit in its 2021 class, and Walker Howard, a 2022 commit when they got to campus.

Now all that said, it’s hard to be overly critical of either Johnson or Finley because the offensive line can’t pass block or run block, and they’ve lost their top two targets in Marshall and Gilbert (and three if you want to include Chase). No quarterback could succeed with that set of circumstances — Joe Burrow couldn’t, Kyle Trask couldn’t — so why should we expect a true freshman to?

The defense has struggled at times, especially early in the season. How would you rate the Tigers’ defense this season and how do they match up with a potent Florida offense?

They’re literally the worst defense in school history — that’s how I’d rate them. Like, what’s a lower grade than an F? Give them that. It’s a joke how bad it’s been.

LSU likes to pride itself on being DBU. I don’t want to argue about who the “real” DBU is, but even the biggest Florida homer could agree LSU has produced a bunch of really good defensive backs, yes? They still have future pros on the roster, on all three levels of the defense I might add ... and you’re giving up 600 yards to Mike Leach’s gimmicky offense? You’re letting a freshman quarterback at Missouri score 45 points? You didn’t get one stop in the first half against Alabama? ‘Bama could’ve easily hung 100 points on LSU if they wanted to.

Am I allowed to curse on Alligator Army? Because if I am, it is bullshit watching this group give up the barrage of big plays, week after week after week.

As previously stated, this has been a very challenging season for LSU. How big would a win on Saturday be for this program as a building block for the future?

Well, they’re not even going to a bowl game anymore! So, yeah, a win against the hated Gators would do wonders.

It’s the worst LSU team I can remember watching. I wasn’t around for the 2-9 season in 1992 and I’m not old enough to remember the losing seasons in ‘98 and ‘99, so for all intents and purposes it’s the worst team of my lifetime. A win Saturday would go a long ways.

Finally, how do you see this game going and do you have a prediction?

Oh, they’re going to get killed, are you kidding me? It’ll be a name-your-score kind of game for Florida: If the Gators wanted to score 100 points I’m sure they could. ‘Bama was well on its way before Saban called off the dogs.

I think I saw the line was Florida -24? That’s too low. Bet everything on Florida.

Thanks again to Zach for answering some questions for us. Head over to And The Valley Shook to so my answers to their Q&A and give them and Zach a follow on Twitter for more on LSU’s side of Saturday’s rivalry contest.