FISCHER: Outside the Box
Perception meets reality in The Swamp
By RICHARD FISCHER
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
The vast difference in perception and reality in the world of college football never ceases to amaze me.
Teams are given mythical numbers by their name, and when we see a team without a number by it or a team with a higher number by it pull off an “upset,” we pretend like it shouldn’t have happened and make excuses for why it did. In most cases, the winning team was just simply better than the losing team. Period. Regardless of what we thought of the squads entering the contest.
When No. 4/3 LSU enters the Swamp versus No. 10/11 Florida, the same Tiger team that began the season as the nation’s top team in the Coaches’ Poll will take on the same Gator team that entered the campaign ranked No. 23 (with the obvious exception of injuries).
Evidently, one team has gotten better and the other has gotten worse - in the perceptions of voters and the general public - over the course of the past five weeks. But does this perception and change in rankings actually matter for Saturday’s game?
Does the fact that CBS picked it up as the game of the SEC’s week actually matter?
Does the fact that a Florida win could bump them to the top of the SEC East hierarchy in the minds of some actually matter?
No, no, and no.
But I’ll tell you what does matter.
Florida’s second-half shellackings of Texas A&M and Tennessee to the tune of a combined score of 37-6, and LSU’s struggles versus perceived mediocre schools Auburn and Towson in unimpressive victories.
It must be a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, because those recent facts almost make you forget that these same teams that looked completely different only a few short weeks ago.
Do you remember LSU absolutely annihilating a Washington team that, oh by the way, just beat Stanford, winners over the AP’s preseason No. 1, USC?
How ‘bout Florida and its inability to get a first down for much of the season-opener versus Bowling Green?
I don’t know if you remember those contests from early September, but I certainly do, and I’m not going to get caught up in the recent minutia and “Sky-falling” drama of LSU being worse than we thought it should be and Florida being better than we thought it should be.
The fact of the matter is that teams are who they are regardless of who we think they are at any specific moment in time.
But the beauty of all this is that we finally have a chance to stop the vicious cycle Saturday.
It’s fine for our perceptions to change. We wouldn’t be conscious viewers if they didn’t. But we must also realize that week-to-week blips don’t matter much in the grand scheme of things.
While watching the SEC’s flagship game this weekend, I challenge all of you to ignore the numbers before the words LSU and Florida at the bottom of the screen and only focus on the numbers after them. Watch the game objectively without personal bias for what should or shouldn’t happen.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned while watching college football my whole life, it’s that the more I think I know about the sport, the more I realize how little I actually know.
I still think LSU is a better team than Florida. I still think Les Miles is a better coach than Will Muschamp. And I still think, apart from Alabama, only LSU can beat LSU in 2012. I try not to overreact.
But my perceptions just sell magazines. At the end of the day, they mean absolutely nothing for what’s going to happen on the field.
It’s the reality of sixty minutes in The Swamp that means everything.
And I don’t know about you guys, but I’m ready to change my perception (or not) about these two college football giants in a good ‘ol fashioned SEC slobber knocker.
So let’s allow perception to meet reality Saturday.
Richard Fischer is the associate editor of Tiger Rag Magazine covering football and baseball. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.