How Florida may have lost a shot at a College Football Playoff spot

Author: Zack Cherney

MADISON- The Florida Gators have been able to show just how talented of a team they are this season with a strong defense as well as an offense that has averaged 42 points per game. This insane offense is led by Heisman front-runner quarterback Kyle Trask.

The Gators laid claim to the SEC East with a record of 8-1 and are just one week away from facing off against the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide, who are the number one team in the country, in the SEC Championship game. Before worrying about going up against Alabama, the Gators faced their final regular-season opponents: LSU.

Going into this weekend’s game against LSU, the Gators sat at no. 6 in the playoff rankings with a record of 8-1, and LSU, as the reigning National Champions, sat at a poor 3-5. The Gators were in a great position to win as the win probability had the gators at 89.8%. A win would be exactly what they needed to keep their playoff hopes alive.

LSU had an exceedingly difficult task ahead of them. LSU lost over 30 players coming into the 2020 season either to the NFL or to opt-outs. The biggest loss of all was Heisman winner Joe Burrow who went on to become the number one pick in the 2020 draft. With Burrow gone, the quarterback spot was up for grabs. As the season progressed they showed the QB spot was not a guarantee as freshman QB Max Johnson became the third starting QB of the season against Florida. Although this was not his first game this was his first collegiate start.

The same could not be said for Florida, as they had the majority of their impact players. Most important of them all they looked towards the Heisman front runner in senior Kyle Trask. Trask has put up numbers that rival the all-time leaders with 3,248 passing yards and 38 passing touchdowns, one away from holding the school record. Going up against an inexperienced defense Trask, had his sights on a performance that would help his Heisman campaign.

Florida chose to take the ball to start the game and it began as expected. After the first three plays, Trask had already thrown for 53 yards and was already down to the 22-yard line, knocking on the door to take an early lead. But after eight more plays, the Gators faced a fourth and goal at the one-yard line. One yard to go, and top running back Malik Davis is unable to break the goal line, and Florida turns it over on downs.

By the end of the first quarter, it was a 7-7 game.

On the first drive of the second quarter Kyle Trask, who only had three interceptions all season long, threw a ball right into the hands of LSU defender Eli Ricks who returned it 68 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly LSU had a 14-7 lead. As the second quarter went on Trask threw another interception, but after two LSU punts the gators appeared to gain momentum by scoring a field goal and then a touchdown to take a 17-14 lead. Just as soon as Florida gained momentum, it shifted towards LSU who responded quickly with a touchdown. As the half was coming to a close, with just over 30 seconds remaining, Florida looked to get in field goal range, but Trask fumbled to LSU who were able to extend the lead at half with a field goal.

At halftime LSU had a 24-17 lead, a lead nobody expected.

LSU started off the second half with a six minute, 17 play drive, which only resulted in a field goal. Florida, over their next two drives, only needed a total of nine plays to score two touchdowns and take a 31-27 lead which was the score going into the fourth and final quarter.

LSU quickly retook the lead at 34-31 with a touchdown on the first drive of the fourth quarter. That score held until 2:51 remaining when Florida was able to tie it up with a 31 yard field goal.

The next drive would prove to be the most crucial one of the entire game. LSU had plenty of time to go down the field and score, but the Florida defense had shown total dominance in the second half as four of the six drives for LSU resulted in punts. Three of those punts came from three and outs. The Florida defense was showing the same resilience as they forced LSU to a third and ten.

On third and ten, LSU passed short for only four yards. The Florida defense had forced yet another three and out and were in great position to win as they were about to get the ball with 1:51 remaining. After the play was over several penalty flags flew and LSU was given a gift. Marco Wilson of Florida took the cleat of the LSU receiver and threw it several yards down the field resulting in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down for LSU. LSU was able to take advantage of this mistake by scoring a field goal and took a 37-34 lead. Wilson made the worst decision at the absolute worst time.

There was still 23 seconds left for Florida to try to go down the field in order to get into field goal range. For most teams this would be a daunting task, but the Gators have Kyle Trask to try and move them down the field, who had already thrown for 432 yards, and then kicker Evan McPherson, who has a career 86.8 field goal percentage. In three plays Kyle Trask did everything that could have been asked of him, as he threw for 42 yards down to the 33 yard line making it a 51 yard field goal, well in the range of McPherson. With two second remaining and the game on the line McPherson lined up for the kick. A good snap, a good hold and he missed it just wide left.

LSU as major underdogs, in a season where almost nothing has gone the way they wanted it to, went into Florida and came away with the biggest upset of the season in college football.

Florida was looking to come away with an easy win as they hoped to make the college football playoffs for the first time. Unfortunately, they played very sloppily against a bad team and all of those mistakes added up. Even worse for them, they now have to face Alabama in the SEC championship who has dominated every team they played this season and show no signs of letting up.

Will Florida be even more determined following this loss to make a statement by pulling a huge upset against the number one team in the country or will all of their playoff hopes be thrown away?