They said it couldn’t be done. But after more than a month of waiting, all the delays, posturing, sniping, wheedling, pleading, infighting, calling out and fake cat skeleton bedecking are over.
LSU and Florida will finally meet on the playing field.
It’s amazing to consider that there was a time it was thought this game would be canceled because, by playing this late in the season, there would be nothing at stake.
With apologies to the folks who suffered from Hurricane Matthew, the reason we’re all here right now after it slogged along Florida’s Atlantic coast in October, this game is more meaningful being played on this Saturday than it would have been when it was originally scheduled seven Saturdays ago.
Because of the earliness of the hour, someone suggested this LSU-Florida game be dubbed the Mimosa Bowl. Or maybe the Bloody Mary Bowl. (Cajun style, please, with a piece of okra instead of celery.)
More apropos, if this game were a drink, it would be 90-proof eggnog with a melted butter chaser.
The storylines for this game are thick and rich, the weeks leading up to it a building mystery of career paths, championship aspirations and thumbing noses at conventions of authority.
Let’s start off the field, with that dark-haired man in the suit leading the Tigers down Victory Hill, flashing that know-it-all grin in the crisp early morning light.
Did you ever have one of those Christmas countdown calendars with a little piece of chocolate behind each day of the month? That’s sort of what this interim coaching period has been like for Ed Orgeron. He has nibbled his way through five games now with a 4-1 record, the only loss a 10-0 blanking by Alabama that hardly qualifies for embarrassment considering how potent the Crimson Tide is looking.
If he can gobble up another opponent in Florida, a ranked opponent at that, Orgeron comes one big step closer to fulfilling his dream of being LSU’s permanent head coach. But if there’s a stumble — or a choke, considering how much the Tigers are favored — then LSU will likely look elsewhere.
Orgeron has the added impetus behind him and his candidacy of trying to steer LSU to the Sugar Bowl. Before the season, when there were national championship hopes aplenty for the Tigers, it still seemed a more reasonable expectation that Alabama would be Alabama and LSU had the goods to make it to New Orleans.
That the Tigers will have taken an unpredictably twisty road to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, if that comes to pass, doesn’t change the fact that the objective is in sight if the Crimson Tide wins out, likely knocking Auburn out of contention with a fourth loss and holding the SEC East champion at bay. Entering the weekend, Auburn is No. 15 in the all-important College Football Playoff rankings, and LSU is No. 16. If LSU can slide past the Auburn team that beat it, LSU is in the Sugar Bowl, provided Bama is in the CFP.
To do that, Alabama would have to get past the SEC East champion in Atlanta, and that’s where Florida comes in. The Gators have recovered from that once-in-a-decade loss to Tennessee to have the opportunity to stamp their ticket to a record 12th SEC championship game with a win over LSU.
Remember back when the jab at Florida was the Gators weren’t keen on rescheduling the LSU game to the following Sunday or even Monday because they were too banged up? Florida would like to be that banged up now. The Gators will likely be without six starters and will have three other starters playing after recent injuries. It’s not a recipe for success in Tiger Stadium, but a talented defense and plenty of motivation could carry the Gators to the top.
Tiger Stadium probably won’t be the rocking pit it usually is for a night game. This was supposed to be the South Alabama game and, even though the game is a near sellout, it’s unlikely Death Valley will be full. People made other commitments, to be sure, and duck season has begun — hunting being the one season that challenges LSU and the Saints for superiority on Louisiana’s sports calendar.
The Tigers will have long-distance support, though, from Tennessee. If Florida loses, the Volunteers go to Atlanta if they win out against Missouri and Vanderbilt.
If the Tigers topple the Gators, they should get the Volunteers to agree to give them a touchdown head start when LSU visits Knoxville next November.
But first, the Tigers have to worry about winning this game. At least, finally, there is a game to worry about.