Since 1937, Florida and the Tigers of Louisiana State have met 53 times on the gridiron, with Florida enjoying a 28-22-3 lead in the series. Since 1953 the meeting has been an annual affair.
Much of the earlier part of this rivalry belonged to LSU but for a long time this match-up was of little consequence, because neither team was particularly good, or in a position to compete for either the SEC or a mythical national title.
Both teams flirted with better times in the 1980's, with the Gator's gaining their first number 1 ranking that decade, and LSU ending the 1987 season with a 10-1-1 record and an overall 5th ranking.
As for LSU's fans, if I thought of them at all during that time, I thought of them as relatively polite folks with funny accents who drank too much at their games.
The 1990's brought changes. For the first 7 years of the Spurrier era at Florida, an unranked LSU team lost to the Gators every time, including the rather lopsided 58-3 beating at Baton Rouge in 1993. I remember saying then - "Death Valley - where the Tigers go to die".
All of that changed in 1997.
The Gators were defending their mythical national title and ranked number 1 in the nation after blowing out Southern Miss, Central Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas by combined scores of 247-67. I went to the game and thought that beating LSU was going to be a mere formality as, after all, the score the year before was 56-13. But LSU coach Gerry DiNardo, winner of 10 games the year before, was in the process of returning LSU to glory.
It was a night game, and for the first time, I came to appreciate why "Death Valley" got its name. The place was deafening, and the well-fueled crowd was really into the game.
Final Score: LSU 28 - Florida 21.
In my years as a Gator I have seen many fields stormed by fans. I had never before, or since, seen anything like this. After both goal posts went down, the crowd came to our section looking for some "Gator" trophies. We headed for the buses - fast.
My co-blogger Henry Gomez adds a personal anecdote about the game:
I saw that game at Dan Marino's bar in Coconut Grove. There were a couple of liquored-up lady LSU fans there that shrieked every time something positive happened for the Bayou Bengals. LSU is one of those teams I'd like to like because of their traditions and great fan base but the memory of the sound of those harpies still makes me wince.
Since that time, a much-improved LSU team has become yet another stern annual test on the Gator's schedule.
Exactly 10 years later the Gators are once again defending their mythical national championship, but it's LSU that's ranked number 1 going into the game. So the situation isn't an exact parallel but we'd certainly like to return the favor and ruin your season.
The Gators are 15-5 against LSU in the last 20 meetings. We are quite sure our LSU colleagues are going to be less than kind to us in their post. We don't blame them.