LSU-Florida not a rivalry, but is special
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 10:25 p.m.
It's not a rivalry, not as the term is defined, although nobody is sure who defined it. LSU is way over there both physically and culturally, and Florida has enough rivalries.
The Tigers are in a different division, but because they are Florida's dance partner in the SEC, it's an annual slam dance between the two teams. Familiarity has bred some contempt, but it never feels like FSU hate or Georgia venom.
Some Florida fans will tell you LSU fans smell like corndogs. LSU fans will point out the jorts worn by Gators. They don't like each other, but I've never sensed either side despises the other, which is usually a necessary ingredient in a rivalry.
But whatever you want to call it, Florida vs. LSU is special. LSU was Galen Hall's last game as a head coach at UF, Charley Pell's next-to-last and the last game of Steve Spurrier's sophomore year.
The Swamp vs. The Bayou. Or are they the same thing?
It has been different from any other annual game for as long as I've been watching Florida football. Even when LSU was down, it was still exciting to go to Tiger Stadium. Even in Florida's bad years, the Tiger fans were sure to cook plenty of alligator meat at their tailgate parties.
Maybe we should come up with a trophy to give to the winner.
Maybe an alligator purse filled with tabasco sauce. Or a cypress knot with Bill Arnsparger's face carved into it.
Florida and LSU both had a heavy dose of Arnsparger. He was one of the best coaches LSU ever had, and, as an athletic director at Florida, well, he fired a lot of people, but he did technically hire Spurrier.
There is also a common thread involving Spurrier with the two schools. LSU hired Mike Archer when Spurrier wanted the job in 1987. Instead, he waited two more years at Duke and changed Florida football forever.
And he then went on to humiliate the Tigers during his career at UF. LSU fans fondly remember the 1997 game when LSU upset No. 1 Florida, and Spurrier was taunted with “shiny pants” comments. But that was his only loss to LSU and he won by scores such as 58-3, 42-18, 56-13 and 41-9.
Florida and LSU aren't a rivalry (unless you believe Wikipedia), but during the five-game stretch from 2006-2010, there was no more interesting annual game.
Look at it this way — Saturday's game will be the fourth time that both schools are ranked in the top 10. The other three were '06, '07 and '09.
It was six years ago that Tim Tebow had his breakout game and threw the double-clutch jump pass that has become legend. A year later, LSU fans got his phone number, and when he scored a touchdown, he faked dialed the student section. But LSU converted on 5-of-5 fourth downs and won the game.
A year later, it was Florida winning on an electric night, opening the game with a bomb to Percy Harvin that sent LSU into a tailspin where it lost five of eight games and had Red Stick wondering if Les Miles was the right guy just a year after he won the national championship.
The following year was the Tebow concussion game, when he returned two weeks after a knee to the head and led UF to a huge win. And then there was 2010, the fake field goal that changed Urban Meyer's last season at UF (it was the first of three straight home losses for a coach who didn't lose at home).
The point of this history lesson is that LSU games seem to stand out, sometimes even more than the rivalry games. Tennessee is a rivalry game, but Florida has been playing the Tigers annually 21 years longer than the Vols. Maybe it's the location on the schedule, usually part of a gauntlet of some sort for the Gators. Maybe it's because they've never faced off in Atlanta.
But it just finds a way to make memories.
I'm sure it will be no different Saturday night. Last year's game was an aberration, a freshman quarterback thrown into the mix when he wasn't prepared against one of the best defenses in America. Never had a chance and it showed.
This should be different.
This should be memorable.
It may not be a rivalry game, but it has a chance to be a scrapbook game.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.