For the second straight season, a tropical storm system could impact the LSU-Florida football game, set for 2:30 p.m. CDT Saturday in Gainesville, Florida.
The National Hurricane Center at 4 p.m. Wednesday began issuing advisories on a tropical depression centered in the southern Caribbean Sea just off the east coast of Nicaragua.
That system, which would be named Nate once it reaches tropical storm status, is expected to scrape along the Central American coastline and across Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula over the next couple of days. It is likely to enter the Gulf of Mexico sometime Friday or Saturday.
According to Wednesday’s 4 p.m. advisory, the storm is expected to make landfall as a minimal hurricane Sunday afternoon between the Louisiana/Mississippi state line and Cedar Key, Florida, roughly the point where the Florida panhandle meets the Florida peninsula. Gainesville is inland about 60 miles northeast of Cedar Key.
Florida sports information director Steve McClain said Wednesday his school is monitoring the storm's progress but indicated there was no call for further planning at this time. The forecast for Gainesville on Saturday afternoon as of 6 p.m. Wednesday called for light winds with a chance of thunderstorms.
Herb Vincent, a former spokesman at LSU who is Southeastern Conference associate commissioner for communications, said: “Like all of our games, we’re monitoring them and tracking the weather. We’re looking forward to playing football on Saturday, but we see what everyone else sees. They’ll probably be dealing with some rain (in Gainesville), but you can’t tell about the wind.”
That the Tigers and Gators are scheduled to play at Florida on Saturday is because of a compromise brokered last year between the schools and the SEC when the LSU-Florida game in Gainesville was postponed by the threat of Hurricane Matthew.
That game, scheduled for Oct. 8, was eventually moved to Nov. 19 in Tiger Stadium. Florida won 16-10, a loss that likely denied LSU a chance to play in the Sugar Bowl.
LSU now has to play at Florida this year and in 2018 as scheduled.
The move sparked a contentious episode between the schools and left some lingering hard feelings on both sides.
“This game,” LSU defensive end Rashard Lawrence said Tuesday, “means a little more.”
At the time it was postponed last October, the schools could not be compelled to reschedule the game. Since then, the SEC commissioner’s office has been given broader powers to reschedule games impacted by weather or other natural disasters.
This season marks the 80th anniversary of the first meeting between the Tigers and Gators. LSU and Florida have played every year since 1971 and are designated as each other’s permanent cross-divisional opponent.