ENGSTER: LSU-Florida lost a little luster

The anticipation of the Game of the 21st Century was shot down Saturday as Auburn stunned Florida 20-17.

The Gators enter Tiger Stadium this week as defending national champions but also as a team vulnerable enough to lose at home to an opponent that had been whipped by Mississippi State and South Florida.


Since Auburn beat Florida by three points and Mississippi State beat Auburn by five points and LSU blanked State by 45, it would seem a 53-point triumph is in order this week for the top-ranked Tigers against Urban Meyer's crew.


The reality is that the game is now virtually meaningless for the Tigers as it was in 2003 when Florida topped LSU 19-7 in Baton Rouge and Nick Saban's troops captured the national title.


The best three teams in the country right now are LSU, USC and California. The Trojans and Bears will decide one representative in the BCS title game when USC and Cal tangle on Les Miles' 54th birthday, Nov. 10, at Berkeley. The prediction here is that the Golden Bears will prevail at home over Pete Carroll's unit, and Cal will play either LSU or Florida for the BCS championship on Jan. 7 in New Orleans.


The winner of the Gators-Tigers battle this week may wind up playing for the NCAA crown, but only if the victor also takes the SEC Championship matchup on Dec. 1 in Atlanta. Forget the infatuation with Kentucky slipping into the game. It's not going to happen.


Florida must prevail in the remainder of its games to win it all for the second year in a row, so the game at LSU has great meaning for Meyer and Co. But for Miles and the Tigers, LSU can lose and lose big as Saban did in 2003 and still savor a championship in January. The only challenge a defeat to the Gators would pose for LSU is that it would force LSU to win its next eight games to repeat the accomplishment of '03.


LSU should be far more relaxed this Saturday, and the Tigers have the knowledge that they are superior to the invaders from Gainesville. Florida has become the new Alabama on the LSU schedule with 15 wins in the last 19 games vs. the Tigers.


Florida has pounded LSU at home ever since Charlie McClendon departed in 1979 with a 20-3 verdict over the Gators.



Here are the LSU-Florida outcomes in the 13 contests at Tiger Stadium since Mac's exit in 1979.



1981:  Florida 24          LSU 10


1983:  Florida 31          LSU 17


1985:  Florida 20          LSU 0


1987:  LSU 13             Florida 10


1989:  Florida 16          LSU 13


1991:  Florida 17          LSU 0


1993:  Florida 58          LSU 3


1995:  Florida 28          LSU 10


1997:  LSU 28             Florida 21


1999:  Florida 31          LSU 10


2001:  Florida 44          LSU 15


2003:  Florida 19          LSU 7


2005:  LSU 21             Florida 17



Total:  Florida 336        LSU 147


Average score:  Florida 26        LSU 11


Record: Florida 10       LSU 3




Miles is 1-0 vs. the Gators in Tiger Stadium. There is every reason to believe the worm has turned for LSU under the brilliance of Miles. Look for the Tigers to pound the defending national champions into submission this week.


The last time LSU beat Florida by more than a touchdown in Baton Rouge was the 17-point victory in 1979 when the Gators' star player was Chris Collinsworth. The last occasion for LSU to score more than 30 points in a game vs. Florida was in 1978 when Mac's squad belted Doug Dickey's club 34-21 in Gainesville.


LSU last tallied more than 30 points at home vs. the Gators in 1977 when the Tigers followed a 77-0 rout of Rice with a 36-14 whipping of No. 9 Florida.


LSU won four straight times against its SEC rival from the Sunshine State from 1977-80. In the last 26 games, Florida is 19-6-1 vs. the Tigers.


As Miles prepares his charges for the Oct. 6 clash with the Gators, the coach may borrow a phrase from the great sage Larry Flynt, who recently outted Louisiana U.S. Sen. David Vitter as a frequent client of prostitutes.


In the words of the pornographic publisher, "This is payback, and payback is a bitch."




Jim Engster is the general manager of Louisiana Network and Tiger Rag. Reach him at jim@la-net.net.

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