Florida-LSU Rivalry: Anytime, Anywhere

Florida beat LSU on Saturday, clinching the Gators’ spot in a second straight SEC title game. The game also cemented college football’s “Anytime, Anywhere” rivalry.

That’s right. Let the hate flow through you.

What happened Saturday in Baton Rouge was not a football game. It was shock, infuriation and bitterness intertwining to form a unique concoction. It was pure emotion.

When the Florida Gators held Derrius Guice out of the end zone on 4th-and-goal, they clinched a berth in the SEC title game for a second consecutive year. Simultaneously, a simmering rivalry effectively cemented itself among the sport’s elite.

Consider the stakes. Had the Tigers won, it would have made it a tough decision for the powers that be to get rid of Ed Orgeron. As interim head coach, Orgeron helped stabilize LSU’s recruiting class and a 6-1 record to finish the season probably would have secured him the full-time job.

But going 5-2 likely relegates him to little more than a fallback option. And that’s assuming the Tigers beat Texas A&M on Nov. 24. Someone else will likely take the reins in Baton Rouge, and whomever it is will have his hands full, for this inter-divisional matchup that will — for years to come — be circled on calendars.

If you haven’t experienced a Florida-LSU game and question whether or not it can be called a rivalry, know that it’s well deserving. Saturday’s game officially gave it life.

With all the jawing that was done — LSU players, administration and fans saying the Gators were “scared” to play the Tigers in Death Valley — and Guice was staring down the goal line, inches away from victory, this coupling finally ascended into the upper strata of rivalry games.

Factor in the pre-game scuffle that involved Leonard Fournette shoving Florida defensive backs coach Torrian Gray (twice). Take into consideration how, after they beat LSU, Florida players brought back out the cat skeleton with purple and gold beads around it — mocking the death of Mike the Tiger IV.

Saturday was the crescendo of an annual game that has slowly logged plenty of animus.

It was as simple as both programs claiming to be DBU. It’s as straight-forward as both athletic directors disputing over how, when and where a game between the Gators and Tigers would be played in 2016.

It was as ugly as the 2012 “Mike Gillislee game” where the former Florida running back took 34 bruising carries for 142 rushing yards and two touchdowns to beat LSU, 14-6 in The Swamp, which was the last time the Gators had beaten the Tigers before Saturday.

This is about cat skeletons and leaked emails. This is about jump passes and fake field goals. This is about Mad Hatters and coaches who were just too damn mad — all of the time.

This is about when Matt Elam stripped Odell Beckham Jr. on the 25-yard line as OBJ was streaking for what would have been a go-ahead touchdown. This is about five-for-five on 4th down, and college football’s first “overtime” game.

This is about Feleipe Franks, Kristian Fulton, Gerald Willis and every other recruiting battle — past, present and future.

This is a rivalry that for so long defied any sort of nickname … until Saturday.

For only the second time in nearly eight decades, this contest was played at the same venue in consecutive games. Florida won on the road in what should have been a home game. LSU will look to return serve next season. Because when the pads are locked in, and the helmets are strapped up, Florida and LSU will go to battle in any swamp, in any bayou.

The cross-divisional rivalry has reached its next level: “Anytime, Anywhere.”

MORE: Florida Gators Remind LSU They’ll Play ‘Anytime, Anywhere’ After Win