GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A lot of questions and concerns have been raised since the cancellation of the Florida-LSU game Saturday.
First and foremost, we at SEC Country hope everyone being impacted by Hurricane Matthew stays safe as it hits the east coast of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.
Here are the top five questions from this week:
How bad will the cancellation of the LSU game affect recruiting and some of the big names who had visits lined up?
It’s definitely a big blow for recruiting, especially if the matchup doesn’t get rescheduled. This game was the only potential Florida had for a big recruiting weekend this year, and now it’s lost.
The Gators were scheduled to host more than two dozen elite prospects, including several who can’t get to Gainesville on a regular basis. Had they been able to see an exciting game in front of a sellout crowd, it could have worked wonders for Florida.
Florida had four recruits scheduled to fly in to be in attendance, including a pair of official visitors. Donovan Peoples-Jones, the nation’s No. 1 wide receiver, and Anthony Hines, the nation’s No. 2 inside linebacker, were set to make the trip from Michigan and Texas, respectively.
The cancellation hurts the Gators with Hines more than it does Peoples-Jones, who witnessed Florida’s 28-27 victory against Tennessee last season and has been recruited heavily by the staff for more than a year. Florida is considered one of the top schools for Peoples-Jones.
However, the Gators appear to be chasing Texas A&M and a couple of Big 12 schools for Hines. He has never visited Florida, so this weekend was the perfect time to make a first impression with an electric atmosphere in The Swamp.
Florida cornerback commit Elijah Blades and 4-star linebacker Rahyme Johnson, both California recruits, also missed one of the few opportunities they had to visit Gainesville. And they were coming on their own dime this weekend.
Do you think a lot of the recruits who were supposed to come this weekend will make it back on campus?
Absolutely. Peoples-Jones and Hines both plan to reschedule their trips, and Blades and Johnson still have official visits to use for Florida.
Obviously all the Florida commits will make it back, as will most of the in-state recruiting targets and other prospects within driving distance. However, two recruits who might not come again — at least unofficially — are 5-star Alabama offensive tackle commit Alex Leatherwood (Pensacola, Fla.) and 4-star linebacker K.J. Britt (Oxford, Ala.).
Both have scheduled trips to Florida in the past and failed to show up for those visits. I don’t think it’s indicative of their interest level in Florida, but they’ve had trouble making it to the school before.
It might take official visits to get Britt and Leatherwood on campus.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to postpone the game to Nov. 19 so recruits can have a huge end of the year recruiting weekend?
That would be the best outcome for Florida. The Gators have three more home games for recruits to attend, but they want them to see a packed stadium and that won’t be the case for Missouri, South Carolina or Presbyterian.
As I wrote yesterday, Nov. 19 is a possible makeup date for the Florida-LSU game and that weekend makes the most sense.
The SEC could use its lost-revenue insurance policy to cover the estimated $5 million cost of the two Nov. 19 buyouts and LSU losing a home game. The league also would have to move the Tigers’ Thursday game at Texas A&M to Nov. 26, which is certainly doable.
But while LSU athletic director Joe Alleva refuted an ESPN report that the school turned down an offer to play Florida on Nov. 19, he bluntly said “the game is not going to happen.”
That’s probably because he doesn’t want the Tigers to follow up Alabama with three SEC road games to end the season (at Arkansas, at Florida, at Texas A&M). Unless the SEC forces LSU’s hand or finds another date for the game, it looks like the Gators will miss out on their big recruiting weekend.
Doesn’t the game not being played work to Florida’s advantage?
While it hurts Florida from a recruiting standpoint, it certainly benefits the team.
I’m sure the players and coaches wanted to play this game Saturday, but this was not a good matchup for them.
Starting quarterback Luke Del Rio was expected to return from a knee sprain, but there’s no way he’s 100 percent healthy. He also hasn’t seen any live action in three weeks and getting his feet wet against that LSU defense would have been less than ideal.
Florida also has several starters banged up on both the offensive and defensive lines, and you have to be able to control the line of scrimmage against a team like the Tigers. I know LSU’s Leonard Fournette was doubtful, but their other running backs are talented.
There’s the coaching aspect as well. The Gators had very little tape to watch as they prepared for this new staff at LSU. Interim coach Ed Orgeron made several changes on the offensive side of ball, including replacing the coordinator, so that presents a lot of unknowns.
If this game does get played on Nov. 19, by then the Florida coaches will have a better sense of how to attack and defend the Tigers.
How will the cancellation of Florida-LSU affect both team’s rankings? And what is the impact on the SEC race and College Football Playoff?
No. 18 Florida shouldn’t experience much movement in the polls, and LSU won’t get into the AP Top 25 unless a handful of lower-ranked teams lose.
Florida will benefit from this in the SEC East race, but it could hurt Tennessee. If the Gators win out in conference play, which is possible, the Vols could get left out if they lose to Texas A&M and Alabama.
The team with the best winning percentage goes to Atlanta for the conference title game, so a 6-1 Florida would clinch the division over a 6-2 Tennessee. That’s why Tennessee coach Butch Jones wants Florida and LSU to play.
However, and this purely hypothetical, if the Gators run the table and finish the season with an SEC title and a 11-1 record, they’ll certainly have a case to be in the College Football Playoff. But their seeding could be affected by that lost game with LSU.
The chances are much lower for the Tigers to win the SEC West at 6-1 and/or make the playoff at 10-2.