It’s finally over.
After a week of bickering, grandstanding, speculating and name-calling, Florida and LSU will actually play each other on the football field this season. As the SEC announced earlier today, Florida will travel to Baton Rouge on Nov. 19 to play their “home game” against LSU. That means Florida, which we thought held all the cards after Hurricane Matthew forced this game to be postponed last week, loses a revenue monster of a home game, while LSU gets to keep all of its home games — just like athletic director Joe Alleva said the Tigers would.
There was way too much talking and way too much drama, and not enough action until today. From Florida and LSU to the SEC, this entire situation was botched when no one had an official contingency plan the Tuesday before the postponement was announced. Now, all those other schools — most notably Tennessee — and fans can breathe a sigh of relief after the adults at the table took care of business.
The league also announced that SEC commissioner Greg Sankey will have more authority to determine the date and location for future games that are either postponed or interrupted. Yes, this was a must after the standoff Alleva and Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley had.
On paper, you’d probably initially think that LSU got the better end of this deal and Florida caved — after all that speculation that the team was too scared to play the Tigers last week. But if you dive into all of this, both programs scored victories.
For LSU, the Tigers get to keep a home game that they desperately needed from a revenue standpoint, especially with the devastating flooding the Baton Rouge area dealt with in August. That’s great. The town absolutely needed it. They also scored in the sense that they get the now-18th-ranked Gators at home. Anytime you can get an SEC opponent at home, you win. Plus, this is now a MAJOR recruiting weekend for the Tigers.
You know what else the Tigers could gain from this game getting moved back to Nov. 19? How about a healthier Leonard Fournette? He wasn’t going to play in Gainesville last week and he isn’t expected to play this weekend against Southern Miss. In a month, Fournette could be back from his debilitating ankle injury.
However, having to play Florida later in the year could be tough for the Tigers, no matter where this game is played. And that could be damaging to Ed Orgeron’s chances of shedding the interim tag at LSU. He’ll now try to fully replace Les Miles by ending the season against Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Texas AM all in a row. Arkansas and Texas AM were already on the road, but LSU will have to play AM five days after playing what should be a physical game with the Gators — not South Alabama.
Chances are, Coach O would have to run the table to stay LSU’s head coach. This schedule — which also features Ole Miss next week — would be tough for any coach to get through unscathed.
And if this program is in the market for a new head coach, that head coach will begin his LSU tenure on the road against BYU (in Houston), Mississippi State, Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama and Tennessee. Good luck.
For Florida, fans are probably not going to be too happy with the fact that the jewel of your home team’s schedule could be Missouri this weekend. Florida also has to play at LSU before traveling to Tallahassee to play Florida State. Boosters can’t be happy with just five home games this year, and Florida is going to lose the valuable home revenue that LSU’s administration was hell bent on preserving. Florida already lost one recruiting weekend, now it trades its valuable recruiting weekend to LSU, which will really sting.
It hurts Florida now, but this team could also be healthier, especially with quarterback Luke Del Rio (knee). Also, Florida will greatly benefit from this in 2017 and 2018 because LSU must now play in Gainesville in back-to-back years … likely with a new head coach. Florida’s 2017 schedule looks even more manageable with a home schedule that now features Tennessee, LSU, Texas AM and Florida State. Hello, regaining that lost recruiting weekend.
Without a trip to Baton Rouge, Florida plays Michigan in Arlington, Texas, but the true road games are now at Missouri, Kentucky and South Carolina — three teams that could miss out on bowl games yet again in 2016.
With LSU at home in 2018, in the long run, this wasn’t a bad compromise for Florida.
The great news is that the 2016 Florida-LSU game is going to be played. It might mean everything, it might mean nothing, but it’ll be played, and that’s a win for everyone. How we got here was nauseating, and we’ll see over the next year if all of this was really worth it for either side.