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SEC 2000-10: Rivalry of the Decade -- LSU vs. Florida


TUESDAY: What a Decade It's Been; Mike Price's Trip to Pensacola

WEDNESDAY: The Zook Experiment; Georgia Hires Mark Richt

EARLIER TODAY: The Best Game; Auburn's Rise and Fall

A word should be said before we even begin to discuss the LSU-Florida matchup. It's not a rivalry in the purest sense. There is no special enmity between the two schools, no particular regional antipathy that gives special grist to the mill of hate.

Within the SEC, several other rivalries are more traditional and more heated: Alabama-Auburn of course, but also Alabama-Tennessee, Auburn-Georgia, Mississippi State-Ole Miss, South Carolina-Georgia, Florida-Tennessee, Florida-Georgia.


But as far as a pure, throw-out-the-records rivalry? Not this one.


No, what makes this the Rivalry of the Decade is that these two schools have been the SEC's best for the decade. They are the only two schools in the BCS era to win two titles, all in this decade.


And as much as it means in the national scene, it means even more in the SEC title race. Since the SEC schedule makers decided to make these two teams each other's permanent opponent from the other division, this interdivisional matchup has meant more than any other.


Both have appeared in four SEC title games, tops in their division. Interestingly though, they have never faced each other in Atlanta.


Out of the ten meetings, only one time has the loser of this game gone on to appear in the SEC CG, LSU in 2001. Six times, the winner of this game has gone on to the title game, and five times the winner of the LSU-Florida game has been the SEC champion.


Here are some of the numbers from the series: Florida has won six, LSU four. Due to three blowout games, the average margin of victory in the Gator wins is 21 points, while the Tigers average margin of victory in four wins is just ten points, and 29 of those came in 2002. Florida has had three coaches, LSU two.


The two teams have been at or near the top of their respective divisions for most of the decade, and therefore the game has been the most important.


But one game pushes this rivalry above all the others. One 60-minute war that left players, coaches, fans, and observers exhausted.


Of the ten, it is a game that not only lived up to the hype, but exceeded it.


It is, of course, the 2007 tilt, when ninth-ranked and defending national champion Florida traveled to Baton Rouge to face the top-ranked Bayou Bengals.


LSU fans taunted Tim Tebow by calling his cell phone during the week, he responded by making dialing motions after scoring on a 9-yard run in the second quarter to give the Gators a ten-point lead.


Twice the Gators went up by 10, twice LSU rallied. Included in those rallies were several Les Miles signature moments: a fake field goal run for a first down, and five converted fourth downs, two for scores.


The game ended with a delirious Tiger Stadium crowd and a weeping and exhausted Tebow.


The game was physical, fast, and exactly what college football is supposed to be. Both teams left everything on the field that night; most fans left everything in the stands.


Most LSU fans can tell you where they were when they watched that game, and Florida fans the same.
Reaction was immediate: ESPN's Chris Fowler said: "the violence of the hitting, the passion on the field, the high stakes...I haven't seen many better than that, ever."


And at least in terms of passion and violence, those words could be applied to the entire series.