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Florida Gators

Recent history shows Saturday will be tough for Gators at LSU

Matt Zemek

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The last few Florida-LSU games have been slugfests, and beyond that, most Florida-LSU games this century have been slugfests. If you like offense, it has died an ugly and violent death in many Gator-Tiger tussles.

Given that Florida used a late pick-six (photo above) to beat LSU last year, 27-19, the UF offense was responsible for only 20 points in that game. Based on that reality, no UF or LSU offense has scored more than 20 points in any of the last three meetings between the two schools.

If you think that Florida-LSU games usually are grinders, you are correct, at least in the context of the 21st century.

Since Steve Spurrier’s last LSU game at Florida in 2001, the subsequent 17 Gator-Tiger games have produced only six games with more than 50 total points, only four with more than 52.

A score of 17 points or fewer has won this game five times in the last 17 games. A score of 21 or lower has won this game seven of the last 17 times.

LSU scored 30 or more points against Florida four times in six seasons, from 2010 through 2015, but other than that brief period of success, the Tigers have scored at least 30 points against Florida only one other time in the post-Spurrier era, encompassing the past 17 meetings between these teams.

A bonus fact extending beyond the 21st century: From 1979 through 2009, LSU scored at least 30 points against Florida only once: 36 in 2002 under Nick Saban. That’s it. When LSU crushed Florida in Year 1 of the Ron Zook disaster, it marked the first time LSU cracked the 30-point barrier against Florida since 1978, when the Tigers scored 34.

There is a long history and track record of Florida playing LSU in the mud and – certainly over the past 30 years – winning most of the time. The Gators are 19-11 in the last 30 meetings, and in their most recent trip to Baton Rouge, they won in typically rugged fashion.

The 2016 trip to Tiger Stadium was a rescheduled game due to Hurricane Matthew, which caused the originally scheduled game in Gainesville to be postponed. LSU agreed to host the 2016 game in exchange for Florida hosting in 2017 and 2018. This makes the 2019 game the first LSU home game in the series in three years.

In 2016, Ed Orgeron was on the LSU sideline – not as LSU’s permanent coach, but as an interim boss after Les Miles had been fired earlier in the season. Orgeron watched Jim McElwain’s limited and clunky Gators – a team which very rarely entertained the UF fan base but was good enough to win consecutive SEC East championships – lock down another trip to Atlanta with a 16-10 victory in Death Valley.

Florida won on the strength of a late-game goal-line stand. This was 1970s SEC football, the hard-nosed, turn-back-the-clock violence grandfathers knew well.

It was the kind of game Florida needed to play to beat LSU that year. It was the kind of game Florida needed to play to beat LSU a year ago.

It is the game Florida needs to play this Saturday to have a realistic chance… which is why the Gators are – let’s not beat around the bush here – in deep trouble.

Ed Orgeron has shown a lot more wisdom than I or other college football commentators expected two years ago. Orgeron never meshed well with highly-paid offensive coordinator Matt Canada. He intervened in the offense and gave the impression that he wouldn’t let his coaches coach.

What was happening, though, was not a process in which Orgeron was being more stubborn. Quite the contrary. Orgeron began, in a tough 2017 season, a process of evolution. He and his coaching staff gradually developed Joe Burrow into a competent, effective quarterback in 2018.

Burrow wasn’t a fully finished product, but he certainly complemented the Tigers’ defense and moved LSU toward its goal of creating an offense which didn’t get in the defense’s way. Les Miles’ offenses (with coordinator Cam Cameron calling the shots) often tore down what the defense built.

Orgeron’s 2018 season changed that dynamic in Red Stick… but Coach O wanted more O. He wasn’t satisfied.

Orgeron brought in Joe Brady from the New Orleans Saints to teach the passing game. Orgeron arrived at the fundamental realization so many of his fellow coaches – inside and outside the SEC – have failed to make: You can’t beat Nick Saban on Saban’s terms. You have to beat Saban with something different from what he wants or is used to.

LSU and Orgeron saw the light and pursued offense, not defense, as the primary gateway toward elite status in college football. This has not been the modus operandi at LSU. It wasn’t under Miles, despite a national title and a 2011 runner-up finish. It wasn’t under Saban in 2003, when the Tigers won it all.

LSU did develop a high-octane offense in 2013 under Zach Mettenberger, but that was the exception which proved the rule. LSU hasn’t generally had dynamic passing quarterbacks, and it hasn’t had the innovative approach to offense needed to get the most out of its still-position talent.

Until now.

From 1990 through 2001, LSU-Florida featured an old way of doing things against a new way. LSU was the bearer of the old way, Florida the new under Steve Spurrier, who transformed the way offense was played in the 1990s SEC.

In 2019, Florida is the bearer of the old way. LSU is the bearer of the new way.

Joe Burrow is a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender. His receivers are the best in the country – they torched the Texas secondary in a huge Week 2 victory. LSU can now legitimately claim to be on the same plane as Alabama because it has the offense it lacked in previous years.

Does Florida want to muck up this game? Of course it does. Yet, precisely because LSU has made the changes it needed to make, and has evolved in step with the times in college football, it will be exponentially harder for the Gators to play this game the way they want to.

We all know what Florida has to do, but the agility of Ed Orgeron has made it that much harder for the Gators to win this game.

We will see if the old ways prevail on Saturday night, in the same Tiger Stadium where Jacob Hester won the 2007 game by sheer force of will, and where the Gators won a 19-7 grinder to spoil LSU’s perfect season.

Maybe Florida has a 2003-style surprise to offer the Tigers.

Just don’t expect that to happen.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

Florida Gators

Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday

Florida Football Insiders

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Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

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:

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.

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Florida Gators

Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools

Jamil King

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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