Must-see TV: Florida-LSU rivalry has featured upsets, dramatic finishes in recent years

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports
Florida quarterback Emory Jones (5) is tackled by LSU linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson (18) in the first quarter at Tiger Stadium in the Oct. 12, 2019 game.

Whether it’s a top-10 tilt or a matchup with an unranked team, the Florida-LSU rivalry is always must-see TV.

Six of the last seven meetings have been decided by one score, and the 42-28 contest in 2019 went back and forth until late in the fourth quarter. The lower or unranked team has won four of the last five games. 

On Saturday, the Tigers (3-3, 1-2 SEC) will try to upset No. 17 Florida (4-2, 2-2 SEC) for the third time in five years. 

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“We have an interesting rivalry with LSU,” Gators defensive end Zach Carter said. “I guess it’s just one of those games, you know. It’s Florida-LSU. Anything can happen. Out there, anything goes.”

At SEC Media Days in July, UF coach Dan Mullen said he would love to do away with permanent cross-division opponents and play Alabama and other SEC West teams more often. 

However, Mullen appreciates the significance of the Florida-LSU rivalry and the classic SEC games it has produced.

“Anytime you’re playing your permanent (crossover) opponent it’s a big game because it’s like playing anybody in the East. You’re going to play them every single year. Obviously, Florida-LSU has been a big game throughout the years,” Mullen said. “I think it’s a great rivalry. Things that go into it: One, we play every year. Two, it’s two great programs that have won national championships.

“And you look at the games, and not all of them, but a lot of them coming right down to the wire. And being these tough battles, I think that’s what makes it a great rivalry game. It makes it must-see TV, you know, to go watch great players, great teams that are championship-level teams that go in and play a game that comes right down to the wire.” 

The Gators haven’t won at LSU since the 2016 game, which was moved to Baton Rouge due to Hurricane Matthew. Florida's defense made a goal-line stand on the last play and UF held on for a 16-10 victory that clinched the SEC East title. 

“That was the first (Florida-LSU) game I watched,” Gators starting quarterback Emory Jones said. “That was an exciting game. And I feel like that’s when I really found out how big the rivalry was. 

“Because that was a back-and-forth game the entire time, and I just saw the effort that the guys played with. Just seeing how big of a game it was to both teams, I realized how big (the rivalry) was then, honestly.”

Emory Jones had TD pass at LSU

Jones’ first time experiencing the rivalry as a player was the 2019 matchup between No. 5 LSU and No. 7 Florida. He rushed nine times for 36 yards and threw a one-yard touchdown to Lamical Perine. 

“Perine definitely helped me out with that,” Jones recalled. “I was supposed to pop back and just throw a corner route, but I faked the run and I guess one of their guys came free. He grabbed my arm, and I just tried to jump in the air and throw to the corner. But it actually didn’t make it there, so it was a tipped ball and landed in Perine’s hands, and he caught it. It was honestly one of my most exciting touchdowns though, I can say. 

“Me going there, honestly it was crazy because I got in earlier than I expected and I was not ready. And before the snap I was calling the play to the offensive line with my headband over my eyes, couldn’t really see (laughs). That was probably one of the things I do remember. Then I was a backup coming in for a couple of plays. … It’s different now. I just have to prepare and make sure we’re ready as a team to go in there and win.”

UF last beat the Tigers at home in 2018, which marked Mullen’s first win over a top-five opponent. Last year’s upset in The Swamp by 3-5 LSU, a 22-point underdog, was one of the worst losses of Mullen’s tenure, ruining an undefeated season at home and eliminating the sixth-ranked Gators from College Football Playoff contention. 

“I wouldn’t say we were looking ahead, but honestly, we were thinking we had everything in the bag, and that came back to bite us,” Jones said. “That was a tough game for us. We had a lot of mistakes, that’s all I remember. … It was just so unfortunate for us that that happened. 

“But we’re going to prepare this week and make sure that none of that will happen. That’s our main focus, just trying to eliminate all the penalties that we have and make sure that we don’t beat ourselves. … Everyone on the team now knows the mistakes that we made then, and that definitely won’t happen anymore.”

Up next

Who: No. 17 Florida (4-2, 2-2 SEC) vs. LSU (3-3, 1-2)

When: 12 p.m. Saturday

Where: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, La.


Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850