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Better Know an Opponent: Florida

LSU travels to The Mac

Dan Davis

LSU takes to the road this weekend to play #11 Florida in Gainesville. We don’t like Florida, they don’t like us, and this promises to be one of the bigger series of the year. Lucky we get it out of the way in the second week of SEC play.

Florida Gators

Record: 14-8 (0-3)

RS/RA: 101/82

RPI/ISR: 39/51

… or maybe not. Seriously, what is up with Florida? They swept Miami and took two of three from UCF, which is usually a pretty good sign, but they opened up SEC play by getting swept by Auburn. The Gators threw in two straight midweek losses to Florida Gulf Coast for good measure. You think LSU fans are ticked that the team isn’t quite clicking on all cylinders? Imagine what Gator fans are saying about a team that’s winless in the SEC right now.

Mascot: Albert and Alberta Gator

The alligator mascot was chosen by a law student at UVA who had never seen an alligator. And if that’s not a metaphor for Florida, I don’t know what is. They chose the alligator because, hey, the sporting goods store thought it was a good idea and why not go along with it? Florida’s fine tradition of half assing it at least started honestly.

The school got around to getting a live mascot in 1957. It didn’t work out, and the school even toyed around with a mechanical version, which was equally ineffective. The school scrapped the whole idea and put a guy in a vinyl suit in 1970. In 1986, the school decided to give Albert a platonic friend in Alberta. I’m really disappointed the two aren’t married, or at least dating. But the school’s website assures me Alberta is “a sidekick and friend.” That’s right, ladies. Even your mascots have to play second fiddle.

About the School

USNW Ranking: 50th

Most Popular Major: Engineering

Like a good SEC school, Florida’s academic reputation is built by its engineering department. I want to throw some shade at the Gators, but let’s be honest, it’s a really good school. According to USN&WR, Florida is the 14th best public school in the country. Now, we should take school rankings with a large grain of salt, but still, that’s an impressive achievement.

The second most popular major is the Social Sciences, so the student body swings between each pole there. You can either learn applied science and how to actually do things, or you can be like me and get a degree in bullshitting. It was good enough for Socrates, mom.

About the Team

Offense: The Gators offense has been bad. There’s no nice way to say it, and there’s no sugar coating it. This team shouldn’t be as bad as it has been at the plate, but it has been undeniably awful in the first month.

Florida ranks dead last in the SEC in batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. At least they are consistent. But if you rank dead last in every rate stat, it really doesn’t matter what else you do. Predictably, the Gators rank dead last in runs scored as well. Hey, they can run the bases real well, stealing 24 bases on 28 attempts. So there is that.

They may have discovered a hitter in LF Ryan Larson, who in just 27 at bats has hit 333/400/630. Among qualifying players, the best slash line belongs to 2B Jonathan India at 278/359/481. They are still playing mix and match with the lineup, as clearly, they haven’t discovered the right mix just yet.

Defense: The defense, especially at home, has pulled the freight this season. The Gators are 13-2 at home with a 1.75 ERA. The goal here is to drag you down to their level, and they have the pitching staff to do it.

All three starters boast an ERA below three, and the marquee matchup will be on Saturday, when the Gators send out RHP Brady Singer for the start against Poche’. He has a 1.74 ERA and a 31/9 K/BB ratio. Jackson Kowar is undefeated as the third starter (carried a 5-4 lead through 6 last week before the UF bullpen cracked against Auburn last Sunday) , giving Florida a clear edge in the potential rubber match. The Gators have managed to strangle the offense of their opponents.

Tiger Bait?

Florida is not playing well right now, though they have been good at home. It seems like a bit much to think LSU’s lineup will get to their starters all weekend, but there is going to be a moment where the dam cracks for the Gators. And I don’t see how the Gators can come back from a significant deficit in a game.

That Sunday start gives me pause, as Florida is one of the few teams with a truly deep rotation of three excellent starters. So, because of their staff strength and the virtue of playing at home, we should expect the Gators to pull one out, but the Tigers to take the series. This is a great chance for LSU to assert their dominance early in the SEC race.