Through the years, LSU and Florida have used each other as launching pads for the rest of their seasons.
This has rung especially true during the Ed Orgeron era. Through hot starts, rocky beginnings and everything in between, LSU and Florida have met every year since 1971. This a game that will either confirm or lock each team’s status for the rest of the season, ruin whatever they have going, or maybe give them a breath of fresh air and hope for brighter times ahead.
"Great challenge. Florida-LSU is game big game every year," Florida Head Coach Dan Mullen said. "Always seems to be a battle right to the end. It should be fun."
Both teams have losses to Kentucky on their resumé. Florida has dropped to No. 20 in the AP rankings and No. 17 in the Student Media Poll with two total losses on the year. The Tigers are close to hitting rock bottom–they’ve suffered many injuries, and have about twenty elephants in the room when it comes to their future. For LSU, this game is as important as any in the last two years. Many feel the decision to move on from Orgeron has already been made, and while a win this weekend wouldn’t change anything on that front, the future of this team reaches beyond what Orgeron brings. Another embarrassing loss will likely seal the deal on a sub-.500 record, a season with few high points and a sour taste in the mouths of incoming recruits.
The Tigers don't have a favorable road ahead. While the game against UL-Monroe shouldn’t be too much of an issue, LSU will face four teams that are currently in the top 25. This is eerily similar to some situations LSU has found themselves in the past few years.
Last December, LSU travelled to Gainesville the week before Florida was set to play Alabama in the SEC Championship for a shot in the playoffs. LSU, however, was struggling. Just 3-5 at the time, the Tigers were a lost cause. They were coming off of an embarrassing loss and were not expected to win either of their remaining SEC games. Then, Florida defensive back Marco Wilson threw a shoe. Cade York trotted out into the thick fog and nailed a 57-yard field goal to go ahead. Florida’s kicker couldn’t hit his try. LSU had won and revitalized the team.
LSU rode the momentum back home, where they beat Ole Miss in a 53-48 classic to finish with a .500 record in the SEC and avoid an embarrassing sub–.500 record for the first time since 1999. Conversely, this game largely ended Florida’s season. They were about to face a buzzsaw of an Alabama team, to whom they could perhaps survive a loss and head to the playoff. Instead, they only lost to the Crimson Tide by eight points, but couldn’t be justified as a playoff team with three losses.
2019 was truly a blissful time for LSU Tiger fans. However, as you may recall, the nation was not yet convinced the team was a real national championship contender when the Florida game rolled around. The October 12 match–up was between two top 10 SEC teams searching for validation. That Saturday night in Death Valley was one of the most electric environments in LSU history. It felt like the entire city of Baton Rouge was in that stadium, ready to explode at the slightest movement from either team. It was either tied or a one–touchdown game until about five minutes left. Two talented teams gave the performance of their lifetimes to that point, and the Tigers came out on top.
They catapulted from the fifth-ranked team to the No. 2 team, behind Alabama of course. This is when LSU truly became a team ready for what was to come. It was the first true test of a huge and crazy atmosphere for that team. Joe Burrow, Ty Davis-Price and many others have stated how important that game was to them individually and the team as a whole. It also proved that Florida was ready to play that year, as it was a largely competitive game until the end. Florida would go on to finish the season as a top-10 team, with their only other loss being to a Georgia team that LSU ended up handling easily in the SEC Championship.
In 2017, Orgeron and his LSU Tigers were unranked and coming off a loss to Troy the week before and a loss to Mississippi State earlier in the season. LSU beat Florida and renewed hope for the team. Their only other loss that season came in a 24–10 game against Alabama. A lot of people thought that season was over, but LSU rode the excitement of that Florida upset into beating a top–10 Auburn team a week later. Florida ended up crashing and burning the rest of that year and finished with a 4-7 record.
The Tigers are going into Saturday morning with ESPN giving them a 27% chance of victory, up from last season’s 13.4%. Could we see Orgeron get the players ready to use Florida as an opportunity to give hope to the fanbase and reinvigorate the players who have seemed checked out as of late, yet again?
Florida certainly can’t lose to this free-falling LSU team, if they want to have any hopes of a favorable draw come bowl season.
"I understand we're not living up to [LSU] expectations," Orgeron said on Thursday during the SEC teleconference. "We just try to go in every day and give it the best shot we can."