Hard times won't make Florida less formidable

Updated: October 10, 2003, 10:05 AM ET

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Rodney Reed remembers the hard times at LSU.

The senior tackle is one of the few people on the sixth-ranked Tigers who can. Most of the players who went through the final, futile games before Nick Saban revamped the program are long gone.

"It's really tough on everyone when things are going bad," Reed said. "You can't go out, you can't turn on the radio or read the newspaper. Everybody's down on you."

Nowhere is it worse than in the Southeastern Conference, Reed said. That's why he feels he understands what Florida (3-3, 1-2) is going through.

"It's hard, but it brings you closer together," Reed said. "The team relies on each other and feel they have something to prove every game."

Florida hits Tiger Stadium Saturday desperate for a win. With four of its six games remaining against Top 10 teams, starting Saturday at LSU (5-0, 2-0), the Gators are in danger of missing the postseason for the first time since 1990, when the team was on probation.

Florida's offense has struggled, and freshman quarterback Chris Leak, while talented, is still far from polished. The defense, ranked ninth in the SEC, has been uneven, and most recently, its ability to stop the run has been hampered by a rash of injuries to linebackers Todd McCullough and Channing Crowder.

That's added a new step to the Florida game plan this week -- circling the wagons.

"It's a lot of noise out there saying we're not that good, we're not the Gators of the past," said Florida linebacker Matt Farrior. "But you just got to block all that stuff out and try to remain focused."

Focus was also a big topic at LSU, where Saban was switching psychology with his players. After calling the Georgia game just another matchup, Saban labeled the meeting with Florida the biggest game of the season.

"There are certain teams in every league and certain teams in the country that have great tradition, and are elite teams in your league, regardless of what their record is or where they are right now, they still have that elite status," Saban said. "When you play against those teams and have success against those teams that is the only way to get to their peer level. Florida certainly has that in our league, and they are the school tradition-wise to have the most success over the last 12 to 15 years."

The Tigers have plenty of reasons to respect the longtime SEC power. Florida has won four of the last five and 13 of the last 15 meetings between the teams.

Last year, however, LSU beat Florida 36-7 in Gainesville.

"We would like to make it two years in a row," said LSU defensive end Marquise Hill. "But we'll have to stay focused to do that. They may have had some trouble this year, but they have talent and tradition. That can do a lot for them if we're not careful."

The Florida players called a team meeting Sunday so everybody could "put something on the table," and get things corrected, offensive lineman Shannon Snell said.

They hope it will give them new life against LSU and the rest of the schedule. It apparently gave them some optimism at least.

"We still have a chance," Leak said. "It's been done around here before that teams that have lost two games in the SEC have still won the SEC. Were going to keep fighting no matter what. You never know what can happen."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index