In the football program’s 113 seasons, the Florida Gators have counted just a handful of opponents as rivals.
Yet it’s UF’s most recent rivalry match-up that seems to be the most hostile as of late.
When it comes to the University of Florida and Louisiana State University, there is no love lost.
The Tigers made that known Monday night.
“I don’t like them very much, I know they don’t like us very much,” Tigers starting quarterback Joe Burrow said. “That’s kind of been the talk around here. You just have to keep your emotions in check with a game like this.”
Burrow, considered a Heisman Trophy frontrunner midway through the season, is far from the only Tiger who harbors some resentment toward the Gators — especially with the way Florida emerged victorious last season in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
And the post-game celebration? The Tigers didn’t take too kindly to that, too.
“After last year’s game, I forgot that quarterback’s name, whatever, I don’t know his name, he was celebrating and running around like he won the Super Bowl,” Tigers defensive lineman Breiden Fehoko said of Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks, who is out for the season after having surgery on his dislocated ankle. “I don’t know if he’s playing this week. I hope he does. I look forward to getting after him.”
Needless to say, the Tigers may have forgotten, or weren’t aware of what happened to Franks, but they haven’t misremembered the rivalry, the previous insults or the never-ending “Defensive Back University” argument.
“We don’t like each other, I’m not even going to sugarcoat it,” LSU linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson said, noting the ill will didn’t just emerge last season. “It just something that goes with the history of the program. Just two great teams, just bad blood colliding, and very passionate programs. It’s something that’s going to be exposed Saturday night.”
Much of what fueled the hate as of late is well-documented: the Hurricane Matthew debacle in 2016 altered the team’s schedules, resulting in an in-flux week of preparation. As a result, the game moved from Gainesville to Baton Rouge, and the Gators escaped in dramatic fashion with a 16-10 victory, clinching the SEC Eastern division in the process. And after a win last season, much of that initial resentment has dissipated in the minds of the current Gators.
So, while the Gators have taken their fair share of shots on social media and in the media, most stopped short of saying there was “bad blood” between the programs.
After LSU took the first shot, some Gators opted for respect.
“Respect for them, they’re a great organization, team over there,” said wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland, “but at the end of the day, we want to get the ‘W’.”
And Gators starting center Nick Buchanan, possibly looking to avoid presenting the opposition with any bulletin-board material, said the intensity on the field is simply the result of two evenly matched opponents.
“I’d say probably in terms of intensity, in terms of, like, evenness, that’s probably been the most even rivalry that I’ve experienced since I’ve been here. A lot of the other games have been lopsided, either in our favor or not, but I feel as though all the games that since I’ve been a part of this team against LSU have come down to a couple plays in the fourth quarter,” Buchanan said. ”I wouldn’t say bad blood — it’s big competition, because like I said before, it’s probably been the most even of the rivalry games that we have since I was a part of Florida. So it’s more good healthy competition than anything, I would think.”
While the Tigers may not share his sentiment, other Gators did acknowledge the rivalry has escalated as of late. There currently may not be as much animosity in Gainesville toward the Tigers, but there’s no escaping it: these teams don’t like each other.
“They’re playing with us right now,” linebacker Jeremiah Moon said with a smile. “But after the game, we’re going to see.”