Why Florida's schedule intrigues me more than any SEC team in 2019
Yeah, I went ahead and broke down all the SEC schedules for 2019 even though we’re still 8 months from opening weekend.
I couldn’t help myself.
Some SEC schedules, I’ve learned, are more exciting than others. Alabama’s marquee nonconference game is against Duke and it’s non-regular crossover game is against South Carolina. Sorry, but that doesn’t have me counting down the days to the start of the season.
Georgia, on the other hand, gets Notre Dame in nonconference play with a crossover matchup against Texas A&M. As a wise person once said, “that’s what I’m talkin’ bout.”
But the SEC schedule that has me most intrigued is not Georgia, or even Texas A&M, which again has Alabama and Clemson in the first half of the season and a crossover at Georgia later.
Why? In case you haven’t seen, it’s basically a biweekly chance to say, “the Gators are back, y’all.” There were a few instances in which those words were said in 2018. That’s why Florida finished in the top 10 with its first New Year’s 6 Bowl win of the Playoff era. That’s also why the Gators are going to be a fun topic of conversation throughout 2019.
In case you haven’t stopped watching the LSU-Florida replay on your DVR and looked ahead to the Gators’ 2019 slate yet, I’ll define it in one word. “Juicy.”
Look at all of these headliner matchups in 2019:
- Aug. 31: vs. Miami in Orlando
- Oct. 5: vs. Auburn
- Oct. 12: at LSU
- Nov. 2: vs. Georgia in Jacksonville
- Nov. 30: vs. Florida State
Keep in mind that doesn’t even include road matchups at Kentucky and Mizzou, both of which beat the Gators in Gainesville during their bounce-back season and could easily be ranked when those games are played.
Sign. Me. Up.
I know what you’re thinking. Florida plays Georgia, LSU and Florida State every year. What makes this year so special?
Well, Florida State doesn’t really look like a fair fight just yet. If the 2018 contest is any indication, the Gators will be significant favorites to win that game at home. But if — this is a huge if — Florida has Playoff chances alive, that regular-season finale carries more weight.
But think about this. There’s a good chance that Florida, Georgia and LSU will start the season in the top 10. They all finished in the top 10 of the Associated Press Poll for the first time since, well, ever.
In other words, those matchups could both have legitimate Playoff implications, just as they did in 2018. The difference in 2019 could be that Florida could be a top 10 team for both games.
Before those 3 games are played, though, we’re going to find out a lot about the Gators.
Getting to open the season against Miami in Orlando will provide all the juice needed this offseason. We’ll get reminders about how Florida is 1-7 against the Canes since 1985, despite the fact that the Gators will be significant favorites in the first game of the brief post-Mark Richt era.
And sure, the fact that I’ll probably make the 20-minute trip to see that one in person has me even more intrigued than the casual observer.
It’s the Miami and Auburn games that make Florida’s schedule a fan’s dream. Unique crossovers between contenders are always a treat. Getting to see 2 of the game’s most respected offensive minds battle in The Swamp will be must-see TV.
The beauty of Florida’s schedule is that much like LSU’s this past year, we’re going to find out just how real Dan Mullen’s program is. There’s no hiding. Any notion about the Gators having it easy because they’re in the East should be out the window.
We’re talking about a team that will face a pair of traditional powers in nonconference play. Yes, Florida is catching the Noles and Canes at an advantageous time, but never underestimate how hotly contested those rivalry games can be. As a result, Florida has 10 games against Power 5 teams, which is something Ohio State doesn’t even have in 2019.
Combine that with crossovers against likely Top 25 teams and yeah, this is shaping up to be as intriguing of a schedule as we could ask for.
Some would argue that A&M has a more intriguing schedule than Florida. With matchups at Clemson, vs. Alabama, at LSU and at Georgia, I’d certainly say the Aggies have it as tough as anyone in 2019. The problem is that if they go 0-2 against the likes of Clemson and Alabama in the first half of the season, they’re suddenly out of the Playoff hunt (keep in mind it would essentially depend on Alabama losing multiple SEC games in order for A&M to win the West).
Florida, on the other hand, could have its Playoff hopes come down to that Georgia game in the first weekend of November. I’d also argue that 2 Power 5 foes in nonconference play compared to 1 helps Florida’s case, as does the likelihood that the Gators face multiple ranked teams in their crossover matchups compared to one for A&M.
Again, this is about intrigue.
Who knows, though. Maybe Florida will end up having the toughest schedule in America. That would be probably dependent on FSU and Miami not underachieving like they did last year.
Either way, as a neutral observer I find myself looking forward to more Florida games than any other SEC team. I could envision a scenario in which Mullen elevates his program to an even higher level than it reached in 2018. The opportunities definitely won’t be lacking. Who knows if that’ll happen.
All I know is that if you’re a Gator fan with a bunch of fall weddings in 2019, a whole lot of friendships are going to be put to the test.