The addition of Missouri and Texas A&M has necessitated a re-examination of the Southeastern Conference’s football schedule. One possible format would be a 6-1-1, meaning each team would play every team in its division, have one permanent foe from the other division, and play the remaining six teams in the other division on a rotating basis.
Florida-LSU is one of those permanent matchups, but there’s debate about whether the series should continue. The teams have met every year since 1971, but could 2012 be the end?
Here’s a look at it from each school’s perspective …
What's the biggest reason to keep the series intact?
Gary Laney, GeauxTigerNation: LSU set its home attendance record against Florida (93,129 for Tim Tebow and the No. 1 Gators in 2009) and its 2007 and 1997 upsets of Florida are among the favorites of LSU fans in Tiger Stadium history. You can’t replicate that by rotating more games against Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
Mike DiRocco, GatorNation: It may not have the history of Florida-Georgia or Florida-Florida State, but the series has developed into a pretty good rivalry. Especially over the last 15 years when there has been plenty of stinging defeats.
The Tigers upset the top-ranked Gators in Baton Rouge in 1997. Then there were the five fourth-down conversions in a victory in 2007 and the fake field goal that everyone – including UF’s coaching staff and players – knew was coming in 2010.
UF has delivered some heartache, too. Tim Tebow’s jump pass made its first appearance in 2006 against the Tigers and UF embarrassed third-ranked LSU 51-21 in 2008 in Gainesville. Those have been some of the best moments in college football over the past 20 years.
What could the next 10 years hold? End the series and we’ll never find out.
What's the biggest reason to end it?
MD: If the last six years have proven anything, it’s that winning the SEC is an automatic ticket to the BCS championship game – and it’ll likely mean an automatic entry into whatever playoff format the powers that be settle upon for 2014 and beyond.
Annually playing one of the top teams in the nation while other schools in the division get some of the Western Division bottom feeders certainly gives one team a decided advantage.
GL: As big as recent LSU-Florida games have been, LSU fans cared not because it was Florida, but because it was the No. 1 team with Tim Tebow, Urban Meyer, etc. LSU fans will be just as excited if South Carolina or Georgia sustain some success, then come to LSU as a No. 1-ranked team.
Point is, LSU fans don’t get passionate about Florida because it’s Florida. So why should the Tigers have to play them every year? Especially you have Mississippi State-Kentucky and Ole Miss-Vanderbilt grudge matches.
LSU doesn't need the rivalry (Texas A&M will take care of that aspect of the schedule) and the schedule is plenty tough enough.
What's in the SEC's best interest?
GL: Ultimately, it’s to put its teams in the best possible position to compete for national championships. Brutal conference schedules for the sake of better regular-season games don't make sense in a world where we're probably headed to no more than a four-team playoff.
A matchup of an undefeated Florida against a one-loss LSU in Atlanta in early December trumps LSU-UF in October. The SEC has enough great games where it doesn’t need to force big games to happen.
MD: Keeping games the caliber of the UF-LSU matchup virtually eliminates any argument that the league’s champion doesn’t deserve to play for the national championship. Plus, games against elite teams give added weight to the league getting more than one team into the impending playoff.
4. If the series does go away, which opponent would be the best fit as a replacement?
MD: Since the Georgia-Auburn rivalry is almost certainly going to continue, the most logical choice for a replacement would be Alabama. The same arguments for ending the LSU series apply here, too, but there’s really no interest in UF-Ole Miss or UF-Arkansas or UF-Mississippi State as an annual matchup.
The UF-Bama rivalry is probably more fierce than UF-LSU because of the heartbreak each team has felt at the hands of the other in the SEC title game. Potentially two meetings every year? Sign the deal now.
GL: A bit of a cop-out answer, but I say make permanent opponents by demand only. Sure, Auburn and Georgia have plenty of motivation to continue their long-standing rivalry. Same with Alabama-Tennessee. Let them.
But for those in the league without a compelling rivalry opponent in the other division, just rotate them with the caveat that, for teams in the West, Georgia (permanent opponent of Auburn), Tennessee (Alabama) and Missouri (Arkansas, assuming Missouri stays in the East) will be in the rotation less frequently than the other schools.