Undefeated Florida has an unfortunate similarity with 3-2 Florida State this week.
Both have to face top-tier Tigers in Death Valley.
About an hour after the Seminoles’ game ends at No. 2 Clemson, the No. 7 Gators will be taking the field in the other Death Valley to face LSU. As if that isn’t enough, UF’s contest is at night, when the always-loud Tiger Stadium turns deafening after a full day of bourbon and beer.
“There’s a little magic going on at night when you walk in there,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “That feeling, the intimidation and the feeling of domination.”
That feeling of domination comes from LSU’s rich history of intensity when the sun goes down. Although the Tigers are shakier than they used to be, they’re still 89-12 in night home games since 2000. That record .881 winning percentage looks better when you consider that four of those defeats have been against Nick Saban’s Alabama Death Star.
The Gators don’t have much recent experience in Baton Rouge at night, but they did churn out a 16-10 win in the 2016 Hurricane Matthew game thanks to the biggest goal-line stand in program history. That marks LSU’s only loss in its past 18 home day games.
Receiver Josh Hammond remembers having food thrown at the team bus on the way to the stadium for that game. The Gators aren’t expecting any more hospitality this time.
Quarterback Kyle Trask has some SEC road experience — he led the fourth-quarter comeback at Kentucky after Feleipe Franks fractured/dislocated his ankle — but there will be 40,000 more cheering against him this weekend.
“Death Valley is an unbelievable atmosphere when you go down there…” center Nick Buchanan said. “You know it’s going to be loud. They’ve got everything you can ask for when it comes to a big-time college football atmosphere.”
So does the other Death Valley.
Clemson has one of the most electric environments in the game. That’s a big reason why Dabo Swinney’s Tigers have won 39 of their last 40 home games since Jameis Winston led FSU to a 51-14 rout during the Seminoles’ 2013 national title run.
“I've never been in Death Valley, so I can't tell you what it's like,” second-year FSU coach Willie Taggart said. “But I've been to a football game, and I know in a football game, you'd better be worried about those 11 guys on the other side of you and not the environment around you…”
But when you’re playing in Death Valley, that’s easier said than done.
Tale of the Tiger Tape
Clemson’s Death Valley
Official name: Memorial Stadium
Year built: 1942
All-time record: 312-102-7
Recent history: 56-3 since 2011
Notable tradition: Touching Howard’s Rock before running down the hill onto the field
LSU’s Death Valley
Official name: Tiger Stadium
Year built: 1924
All-time record: 427-151-18
Recent history: 117-19 since 2000
Notable feature: Live mascot Mike the Tiger lives in an enclosure across the street and eats meat shaped in the logo of that week’s opponent