I wrote an article nearly three weeks ago highlighting the Florida football team’s game against Tennessee. That article started out with the phrase, “The Florida-Tennessee rivalry is the stuff of legends.”
Now seems as good a time as any to say it: I told you so.
I’m not going to deny it because it’s true. Gators games against the Volunteers have historically been some of the biggest, most important matchups of the season.
But if UF-UT is the stuff of legends, then Florida-LSU is a gift from the gods. Especially this year’s rendition.
Well, because of three major storylines that surround the game.
The first is the story of a hurricane.
Hurricane Matthew hit Florida in the fall of 2016, right around the time the Gators were supposed to face LSU at home in their annual matchup.
Both sides had been figuring out what to do about the situation in the weeks leading up to the game. They ultimately decided to postpone the contest to a later date.
Then came the bad blood.
LSU wasn’t willing to give up a home game later in the season to travel to Gainesville for a make-up game. There also wasn’t any time to play the game after the end of the regular season.
The end result, after weeks of bickering and an unwillingness to compromise, was that the contest was moved to Baton Rouge. Florida won that game 16-10 following “The Stand,” where the Gators defense stopped LSU running back Derrius Guice on fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line.
The rivalry hasn’t been the same since.
The second is the story of quarterback Feleipe Franks and his history with the Tigers.
Franks, a four-star recruit, was a verbal commit to LSU nearly three years ago before flipping his commitment to former Gators head coach Jim McElwain. He was one of McElwain’s biggest recruits during his time at Florida.
Franks hasn’t looked back in the three years since. He said he doesn’t think about how much different his life could have been if he had stayed with LSU.
“I don’t ever think about that,” Franks said. “Just more focused on what, you know, what we got going on here. We got something good going on here at Florida.”
Franks will face the life he could have had when he takes the field against LSU on Saturday.
The last one is the story of two former teammates taking the field against each other.
Gators receiver Trevon Grimes and Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow played together at Ohio State last season. Grimes was a freshman and saw limited playing time while Burrow was a backup in Urban Meyer’s regime.
Less than a year later, Grimes is now at Florida while Burrow is under center at LSU.
“Before I left Ohio State, me and him were kind of close,” Grimes said. “I think he’s a good player.”
Now, both will meet again at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday for the first time since 2017, this time under different banners.
There are plenty reasons to be excited when LSU comes to town. The stories breathe new life into a budding rivalry, one that has taken a backseat to those like FSU, Georgia and Tennessee.
But LSU contains one aspect that is lacking from those other rivalries: a general disdain for one another.
The Gators and the Tigers are enemies, fueled by recent events and storylines that make this weekend’s contest a much-watch affair.
Jake Dreilinger is the assistant sports editor of the Alligator. Follow him on Twitter @DreilingerJake and contact him at [email protected].