Florida and Michigan set to open 2017 football season in Cowboys Classic

The Florida Gators announced on Wednesday that the program has agreed to open up the 2017 season against the Michigan Wolverines at AT&T Stadium – formerly known as Cowboy’s Stadium – as part of the 2017 Cowboys Classic in Arlington, TX.

When it kicks off against Michigan on Sept. 2, 2017, Florida will be playing its first non-conference regular season game outside the state of Florida since 1991.

“You don’t get these opportunities very often,” said UF athletic director Jeremy Foley in a school release. “Our schedule has been pretty consistent through the years. We were presented this opportunity and just thought it was something that our fans would embrace, our program would embrace. It would give us great national visibility. Obviously, a very difficult ballgame against a storied program – that excites us.”

Though a broadcast partner has not yet been signed for the showdown, which will kick off in prime time, it will no doubt be an extremely attractive national matchup. More than 90,000 fans will be able to attend with each school getting 25,000 tickets to divvy up.

The Wolverines announced in their release that they will be the away team with the Gators set as the home team. The Big 12 will send a crew to officiate the game between teams from the Southeastern Conference and Big 10.

Florida and Michigan have not squared off on the gridiron since the 2008 Capital One Bowl. The Wolverines topped the Gators 41-35 in former head coach Lloyd Carr’s last game and the final contest of Tim Tebow’s Heisman Trophy-winning season.

UF also fell to UM 38-30 in the 2003 Outback Bowl.

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11/15: Donovan, players speak about Ohio State

No. 9/10 Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his latest media availability in the following post. Additional material from some of Florida’s players can also be found below.

FIRST PHYSICAL TEST COMES IN GAME TWO

Donovan has made it a point over the last two seasons to schedule tough opponents early both to increase strength of schedule and test his team. That is why the No. 4/5 Ohio State Buckeyes are heading to Gainesville, FL, on Tuesday for a rekindling of a recent rivalry.

“This is a great test and a great opportunity for both [teams]. One because it is so early in the season, it is the second game for both of us right now,” Donovan said Monday. “There’s a long way to go, you find out a lot more about your team in these situations. There will probably be some things in the game that we will need to get better at improve on. They’ll probably say the same thing. There’s no question we’re going against a physical frontcourt with [Dallas] Lauderdale, [Jared] Sullinger and [Deshaun] Thomas and that poses great challenges for our frontcourt as well to do the things we are talking about physically.”

But wouldn’t it be better for everyone involved if the game was a few weeks later? “Part of me really, really likes the fact that it is really this early,” Donovan continued. “The opportunity to play against a team clearly that returns four starters, they return guys that won a Big 10 Championship. They’re veterans and they add the best recruiting class in the country to their team. And Sullinger [is] arguably the best player in the country. […] Things are going to get exposed that you gotta get better at and sometimes its better off finding out those things now than it is later.”

YOUNG WILBEKIN COULD PAY DIVIDENDS

Freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin had an impressive showing in his first regular season game, showcasing his poise, crisp passing and mature defense. Donovan raved about Wilbekin on Monday and hinted that he should see the court plenty this season.

“He’s really a disciplined kid, and when I say ‘disciplined,’ he really does the right things at the right time. When you talk about the discipline part of doing your job and doing the things you need to do, that’s what has really enabled him to come in and play,” he said. “His game will get better. As a coach, you always enjoy playing guys [from whom] you kind of know what you’re getting. I’ve been very, very impressed with him. I’ve been impressed with his toughness, and I’ve been impressed with his stamina.”

MACKLIN’s KNEE ACTING UP

Asked about the health of redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, Donovan confirmed that he is dealing with some knee issues – specifically tendinitis and bone spurs. “He’s been in and out of practice here the last couple of days. He’s dealing with some knee issues; it’s nothing that s going to prevent him from playing [Tuesday],” he said. “Going forward that is a concern for me. We’ll have to wait and see, but he’s been battling it now for the last week to 10 days. It’s definitely probably affected him some, but I’ve always been the believer when you step across the lines and put the jersey on, you have to go out there and play.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
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FOUR BITS: Leonard, Davis, Tebow’s party, SEC

1 » Florida Gators 2011 tight end commitment A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, FL) will be transferring to his second high school in as many years. According to The Florida Times-Union, the goal is for Leonard to improve his test scores in order qualify for admission to the University of Florida. “Academically he’s on the right track,” University Christian head coach Heath Nivens told the paper. “His grades are solid, but he’s got to get his test scores up. We’re going to help him with some of those things this summer, as far as an SAT prep class so that in July he’s in great shape to qualify.”

2 » Former Gators defensive tackle Torrey Davis, who played his final college season with the Jacksonville State Gamecocks after leaving Florida due to academic and off-the-field issues, has agreed to a free-agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers according to The Birmingham News. One of the nation’s top recruits in 2007, he is best known for making two exciting goal line tackles in the 2009 BCS National Championship game against Oklahoma. He will attempt to make the Buccaneers’ roster during mini camp workouts.

3 » Apparently a radio host in Boston, MA, named “Toucher” working for 98.5 The Sports Hub, after former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow was selected by the Denver Broncos, said his family’s celebration “looked like some kind of Nazi rally … so lily-white is what I’m trying to say. Yeah, Stepford Wives.” As David Whitley of Fanhouse explains, it will be interesting to see whether or not CBS decides to take action against the host like it did against Don Imus for calling the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos.” Take a look at Whitley’s thoughts and decide for yourself.

UPDATE: On Monday, “Toucher” apologized for his comments. “Anyone who listens to the show regularly knows that I am not the most articulate person in the world,” he said. “I apologize to you that were offended. You know, I just apologize, and I regret what I said.” CBS still has a decision to make…

4 » Though he told reporters that he has yet to speak with any universities in particular, Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive said Monday that his organization is discussing expansion internally. “Given the success we’ve experienced over the past decade, we are comfortable in the position in which we find ourselves,” Slive said. “Having said that, if there’s going to be a significant shift in the conference paradigm, the SEC will be strategic and thoughtful in order to maintain its position as one of the nation’s premiere conferences.” In other words, if the Big 10 chooses to expand to 16 teams, the SEC will do its darnedest to make sure they are not upstaged.

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