Football pales in comparison to the expected damage and potential loss of life Hurricane Matthew will cause on the East Coast this weekend, but the sports news cycle kept churning Thursday and delivered a bombshell: LSU and Florida will not play each other this weekend.
The game has not been rescheduled, and if it stays that way, the Gators are one step closer to the SEC East crown.
ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) now lists Jim McElwain’s team as the favorite in all four of its remaining contests: vs. Missouri (75.3 percent chance of winning), vs. Georgia (67.1 percent), at Arkansas (51.5 percent) and vs. South Carolina (85.3 percent).
This preseason, LSU had a 73.0 percent chance of beating Florida at The Swamp, and while that number dropped to 57.3 and then 51.8 as the Tigers went through a rough stretch, the fact remained: Florida was supposed to lose the game.
That’s one half of the SEC East equation.
On the other side, Tennessee is expected to lose its next two games at Texas A&M (31.2 percent chance of winning) and vs. Alabama (35.8 percent). If the Vols drop those two games and the Gators win out, Florida’s 6-1 conference record will trump Tennessee’s 6-2, despite the Vols’ triumph over their hated rival in Knoxville two weeks ago.
“Tennessee would have every reason to roar if Florida dodged – even by natural disaster – one of its best remaining chances to take a second league loss, then won the East Division,” our own Kyle Tucker wrote while explaining that the two sides “must find a way” to make the game work.
Outside of ESPN’s FPI, another well-respected formula had Louisiana State as the clear favorite: Bill Connelly’s F/+ projection, which combines the Fremeau Efficiency Index (based on data from every meaningful possession) and the S&P+ ratings (based on both play-by-play and drive data).
F/+ projected LSU as a 4.4-point favorite, a sizable advantage for a road team in a conference game.
Then, there are the bookies.
As of Thursday night, VegasInsider.com still listed LSU as a 3-point favorite in Gainesville.
What we’re trying to say is: Florida would’ve had its hands full this weekend, and a second SEC loss would’ve all but ended the Gators’ hopes of getting to Atlanta.
Now, there’s a storm to deal with. But there’s also a silver lining for Gators fans.