It’s a game that will embody the SEC mentality “Football above all else.” A game that caused a logistical argument, a human rights upheaval and a national punchline will be played in “Death Valley” Saturday.
Rather ironic, considering the only reason Florida and LSU are playing in “Death Valley” is due to the path Hurricane Matthew carved out taking lives, uprooting families and causing massive devastation. But the game goes on, albeit a month and a half later than originally scheduled and not in Gainesville.
“Anything that comes up that is really is out of your control, you can sit and cry about it or you just got to move on and that’s what we have to do,” said coach Jim McElwain.
Yet, it also gives the Bayou Bengals a chance to wreak havoc to the Gators SEC Championship game hopes. A victory would give McElwain a unique distinction at Florida, as the first head coach to win the SEC East in each of his first two seasons. (Divisions weren’t created until Steve Spurrier’s second season)
It will be an uphill climb for the Gators to achieve that second consecutive SEC East title. Injuries have sidelined 7 starters, including leading tacklers LB Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis and S Marcus Maye.
“The ones that are able to get on the bus, we’ll load up and go play,” said McElwain. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, we got to answer the bell.”
QB Austin Appleby is expected to make his fourth start with Luke Del Rio still sidelined with a shoulder injury. Appleby served as a jolt in the arm for a struggling offense last week against South Carolina. But that was in The Swamp, not in a raucous road environment like Tiger Stadium.
“The thing that Austin did was he got the ball out of his hands, made decisions and he didn’t see a bunch of ghosts,” said McElwain.
LSU has also laid witness to an uptick in performance. Since Ed Orgeron has taken over for Les Miles as head coach. The Tigers have gone 4-1 with their lone loss coming in a grind out game with number one ranked Alabama.
The Tigers’ All-American RB Leonard Fournette was stifled against the Crimson Tide, but with Florida’s biggest defensive weapons out, reaching 1,000 yards for the season could be in reach. While that is unlikely with the way Darius Grice is running the ball in relief of Fournette, it’s imperative for Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins to dial up a scheme to halt the run.
While LSU seniors will be given roses as they walk in for Senior Day, Las Vegas is also giving them a seven-point favorite. The Gators on the other hand could get a handout of their own by Missouri this week or Vanderbilt next week, if either one can beat Tennessee. A Volunteers loss would ensure there will by plenty of orange and blue in the Georgia Dome on December 3.
Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday
The Florida Gators continued their philosophy of striking “home-and-home” deals with Power 5 opposition, when they announced on Friday that they will be doing so with the Cal-Berkley Bears out of the Pac-12 coming later in this decade.
The Gators made the announcement through their website and social media mid-day Friday that they will play Cal at home first and then travel to Berkeley the following year:
Coast to coast❗
🐻 at 🐊 2026
🐊 at 🐻 2027#GoGators
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) February 7, 2020
A.D. Scott Stricklin has broken up the long tradition that Florida would only play two home out of conference games in September and usually, against much lesser competition before entering SEC play. Stricklin has been very outspoken that in the age of the College Football Playoff, strength of schedule is emphasized and the selection committee holds schools responsible for not playing top-notch out of conference opponents, at least some of the time.
With that in mind, the Gators opened the 2019 season in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes and won a sloppy game. And, they already have other Power 5 schools laid out to play home and away.
As we previously wrote, Florida will be playing the Texas Longhorns first in Gainesville in 2030 and then. return the game the following year in Austin.
Florida had previously announced last year that they will also play the Colorado Buffaloes out of the Pac-12, again with the first game in Gainesville in 2028 and then, returning it to Boulder the following season.
It’s interesting with Friday’s announcement that Stricklin and the football program are working backwards with the schedule. And, they will now play Cal before Colorado in September of 2026, and then will be opening on the Berkeley campus the following season.
Florida and Cal have only met two times, having played first in Gainesville in 1974 as the Gators wo 21 – 17 and then, they also met in Tampa to open the 1980 season with a Florida 41-13 blowout victory.
Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools
National Signing Day 2020 has come and gone, and several in state schools were able to improve their classes heading into spring ball. The University of Florida watched rival Georgia secure the number one overall class, but the Gators were still able to land the best class in the state with the number eight class overall.
The Gators officially signed former five-star receiver Justin Shorter from Penn State, and Florida stayed in the family today as well, Xzavier Henderson officially joined the Gators. He’s the ounger brother of former DB C.J. Henderson.
Dan Mullen also able to dip into the state of Texas inking four-star DE Princely Umanmielen. It wasn’t all great news for the Gators, as they missed out on a few key guys, including losing out on arguably top state safety Avantae Williams to in state rival Miami. Overall it was a good cycle for the Gators both recruiting and in the transfer portal.
The Miami Hurricanes continued an impressive offseason on National Signing Day. The Canes made arguably the biggest move in the state by landing Williams and keeping him Florida. Williams became the highest rated Hurricane in the class and propelled the U to the number 13 spot.
Miami has the second-best class in the ACC behind Clemson. With an impressive offseason in the books, once again excitement will be in the air in Coral Gables. The question is: will they live up to it in year two for Manny Diaz?
Florida State and new coach Mike Norvell have been working hard to get this class rolling last minute. After a good early National Signing Day Norvell looked to keep the momentum going. The Noles took a big hit Wednesday though, with the loss of Venice four star WR, Malachi Wideman, who flipped to Tennessee.
The Noles came back from that by landing a handful of other recruits. They got the number six Juco running back La’Damian Webb, ass well as, Robert Scott, an offensive lineman and Corey Wren, an athlete/running back.
Replacing Cam Akers will be tough for Norvell and building the offensive line is a top priority. The former Memphis coach came in late like he did, yet he finishes with a decent class sitting at 22 on 24/7.
Now the work begins turning around the former powerhouse.