Editor’s note: this article was written by Colin Williams, but due to trouble with setting up his account, I just decided to run this under my name so it has a chance to circulate before kickoff tomorrow.)
We all know the story of the 2016 game. Hurricane Matthew hit, the game was initially canceled before being rescheduled at LSU, where another roller coaster of emotions awaited. It started with a rough first half, turned around completely on a two play sequence that featured a fumbled snap on a field goal and a 98 yard touchdown pass from Austin Appleby to Tyrie Cleveland, and ended with Derrius Guice being stuffed at the one-yard line, and Florida walking away with an SEC Division title in Death Valley.
Oh, how times have changed.
This Saturday, the Gators are coming into this game with a lot of confidence. They have started to finally find an identity on offense, feel like they have found their quarterback of the future in Feleipe Franks, and are fresh off three straight SEC wins. The Gators are facing a very vulnerable LSU team that was just upset by Troy last weekend. So, is this an easy win for the Gators?
Not so fast.
This game can easily make or break Florida’s season, and it presents a legitimate opportunity for the latter for one simple reason: LSU is going to come to play. Not only do they have something to prove after their embarrassing loss last weekend, but facing one of their biggest rivals isn’t going to elicit anything short of the best effort the guys wearing gold pants are capable of.
Since 2012, the Florida-LSU match-up has come down to a one score game all but once. And that game, a 17-6 LSU win in 2013, was a one score game midway through the fourth quarter. All that goes to show that no matter what types of seasons these teams are having, they will always give each other nothing short than a tremendous effort. We saw it just last year– LSU was clearly the better team, but Florida won it with pure heart and by making the right plays at the right time. To summarize: Florida should win this game, but they’d be foolish to overlook the Tigers.
A win in The Swamp will elevate this team even further. They’ll have beaten LSU two years in a row, (something they haven’t done since 2008-2009), instill even more confidence in this team, and push them to 4-0 in the SEC heading into a home game against Texas A&M and the Jacksonville showdown with the Georgia Bulldogs that could decide the East.
A loss, however, could be devastating.
Gator fans and analysts alike will continue asking questions on who the Gators are as a team, and where the direction of the program is after two up and down seasons under Jim McElwain. The Florida Gators coach has won in Gainesville, but it’s been shaky nonetheless, and there are still glaring questions to be answered. A loss magnifies these ideas. After a season of two halves in 2015 (a Will Grier lead team vs. a Treon Harris lead team), and an injury plagued 2016, there are no excuses. But so far this season, there hasn’t been many excuses to give. The Gators seem to be getting better every week. The running game has gotten going, the emergence of freshman Kadarius Toney and Malik Davis has gotten fans excited, and most importantly, the Gators are finding ways to win.
The Gators need to keep it that way. They need to avoid letting a down LSU team take control of this game, and ultimately put the glimpse of momentum the Gators have gained week by week to a screeching halt. Florida needs to do their job to avoid what they did against LSU just last year– an embarrassing, season crushing loss.
Do your job, Gators. It’s your turn to make a statement.