It’s been six weeks since Hurricane Matthew caused the cancellation of LSU at Florida. After much, much debate and frustration, the SEC and both schools agreed to play the game at 1 p.m. ET this Saturday on the SEC Network in Baton Rouge instead of its original site, Gainesville. Both teams are also buying out non-conference opponents this weekend.
So why’s this thing kicking off so early in the day? Isn’t LSU famous for night games?
If the Tigers had their druthers, they’d play every home game starting no earlier than 7 p.m. local time, but this technically isn’t an LSU home game. Before the storm, this game in Gainesville was scheduled for noon ET on Oct. 8 on ESPN.
“As part of the decision to play the game in Baton Rouge, it was determined that the game would start no later than 2:30 pm CT,” SEC Associate Commissioner Herb Vincent told SB Nation via email. “The SEC worked with its television partners to establish a noon CT start time.”
Per a report in the Baton Rouge Advocate, Florida requested the game not be played at night. SB Nation can confirm that LSU did not have input in the start time of the game during the rescheduling process.
Does kickoff time matter in the outcome? Maybe. But it makes sense to fight it if you’re Florida. You’ve lost home-field advantage to a conference opponent. There’s no need to make it even harder on your team.
Why isn’t this game on CBS at 3:30 ET? Don’t they get first pick of SEC games? They’re showing Missouri at Tennessee? Really?
Because it was never supposed to be. CBS passed on LSU-Florida in Week 6 in order to broadcast Tennessee-Texas A&M.
Would it be fun to have Verne Lundquist get an extra game in Baton Rouge during his farewell season, rather than force the poor man to call an SEC East game? Certainly, but LSU-Florida was determined to be ESPN’s inventory before the hurricane.
“ESPN retained the right to televise the game because ESPN initially selected the game for the original air date of October 8,” Vincent said. “The SEC Network lost a game on October 8 because an SEC Network game was moved to ESPN to fill the loss of the Florida-LSU game on that date, so ESPN assigned the November 19 game to the SEC Network.”
ESPN declined to comment. But again, this makes sense. ESPN is not in the business of volunteering away live event inventory it pays a lot of money for.
Also: it co-owns an entire network with the SEC. CBS had already exercised its options for doubleheaders this season, by taking the LSU-Alabama night game and last week’s South Carolina-Florida at noon, and thus had no cards to play even if it wanted the game.
Are Florida and LSU still mad at each other?
Officially? Everyone’s on board with Commissioner Greg Sankey’s plan to reschedule and move the game. All’s well that ends well.
Unofficially? Oh yeah, they’re still very much pissed off at each other.
There won’t be any love lost between the administrations for what was one of the most public, personal disagreements between two SEC members since before the Mike Slive modernization of the league.
Maybe it helps that new athletic director Scott Stricklin is now on duty at Florida, since the bulk of the public vitriol from the Gators’ side came from former AD Jeremy Foley. Stricklin is also a genuinely nice guy, and unlike Foley, isn’t on his way out the door and thus able to burn a bridge.
Regardless of who wins, it would be shocking to see any kind of chippy quote from either side regarding the rescheduling. This has been a bruise for the league. They’re going to keep this from getting any more public than it has been.
Would the world have ended if this game didn’t get rescheduled?
In early October, both teams were in contention for their division titles. The idea of not playing the game not only put LSU and Florida in an odd spot but potentially hurt other teams in contention for the league title.
Six weeks later, Alabama has locked up the West, but the Gators still lead the East at 5-2 in league play. If the Gators win Saturday, they’re going to Atlanta. But if they lose and Tennessee beats Missouri and Vanderbilt, the Vols would take the division.
So yeah, it’s not shocking that LSU vs. Florida ended up being pretty important.
And that’s not to mention the stakes in Baton Rouge, where Ed Orgeron is 4-1 as interim head coach and needs data points to try and get the permanent job in Baton Rouge.
While LSU is exploring a variety of options for its head coaching future, SB Nation can confirm that a 6-1 record would make Orgeron a favorite for the job.