Florida vs. LSU known to produce memorable days


The Florida-LSU rivalry doesn't quite have the same level of hatred that many do, but both sides know it's a big game every time.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer/FILE
Published: Friday, October 11, 2013 at 6:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 11, 2013 at 6:41 p.m.

BATON ROUGE, La. — Some games are bigger than others, no matter how many times a coach tells you they all count for one. This one doesn't. It's worth at least 1.4. It's Florida-LSU, Tigers vs. Gators, Albert vs. Mike, corn dogs vs. jorts, Cajuns vs. Crackers.

Facts

Who: No. 17 Florida (4-1) at No. 10 LSU (5-1)
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
TV: CBS
Radio: WRUF

It's big no matter how you slice it, and if you do slice it, serve it with red beans and rice because we are in Baton Rouge.

The sights and sounds of the parking lot are as good as it gets, a combination of country music, Zydeco and shrimp boils, all attacking the senses.

Florida-LSU has always been special to me because of the great memories this game has produced.

Heck, I can remember sitting in my living room in the Carol Estates subdivision of northeast Gainesville listening to Florida pull off a huge upset over LSU in 1964.

The game had been postponed to the end of the season because of a hurricane. For some reason, I remember it being cold in Gainesville that night. Or maybe I just had too much ice cream.

Earlier this season, I questioned whether Florida-Tennessee was truly a rivalry game for the Gators anymore. At the same time, I would submit that Florida-LSU is a rivalry game.

In fact, I think it's the most underrated rivalry game in college football.

When bloggers or hacks or talking heads are putting together their lists of the best rivalries in college football, they don't even consider this one.

They don't think outside the box, in part because the two schools have so many other games that could be considered rivalries.

But I would make the argument that it doesn't get much better or bigger than Florida-LSU.

Now, Steve Spurrier almost ruined it by winning 11 of 12 games against the Tigers. But even that was filled with acrimony and intensity.

Remember when LSU beat Florida in 1997 and the Tiger assistants were making fun of Spurrier by referring to him as “Shiny Pants” because of the pants he wore in the USFL?

Spurrier got his revenge by winning the next four times against LSU by a combined score of 138-44. But it was after he departed that the rivalry really got cranked up.

And for Generation LOL, all that matters is what has happened in the last decade or since Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California.

For me, a rivalry game has to have certain elements.

It has to have history and this one is teeming with it. If you have 20 minutes, I'll tell you where I was sitting during the downpour in the '72 game and why it ended in a 3-3 tie. It'd take an hour to explain the Tigers getting five fourth-down plays in 2007. The 1989 game? That's an all-day sucker.

Les Miles' call for the fake field goal. Tim Tebow's jump pass. Percy Harvin's catch and run.

To be a legitimate rivalry, the visiting team has to win sometimes. Over the last 12 years, the home team is 6-6. From 1980-86, the home team never won. That's what I call a rivalry.

Maybe this rivalry doesn't have the hatred that some others do. It has been my experience that the losing team rarely complains to talk shows about the winning team. Instead, they usually pound their own coach for his shortcomings.

But is there a rivalry game with as much talent on the field?

In the last 12 years, there have been 144 NFL Draft picks playing for the two teams. Last year's game alone saw 17 draftees battling it out.

Maybe you had to be growing up in the 1970s to appreciate this as a rivalry. Maybe it's not one. Maybe it's just another big game. This is the SEC where every week matters.

But I do know this — only once in my life have I ever walked into a stadium knowing that Florida could not win.

That was two years ago at LSU. The score was simply a sidebar. During the following week, an assistant at LSU called Will Muschamp and told him that he had let the LSU staff know that they'd better enjoy the win because Muschamp would get the Gators back to where they needed to be.

A year later, Florida won a tough, physical game that turned on an instant replay review.

The rivalry was back.

And it will be there today.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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