Florida football: Five home-and-home series AD Scott Stricklin should schedule

By Adam Silverstein
October 23, 2019
Florida football: Five home-and-home series AD Scott Stricklin should schedule

Florida Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin sent a bat signal out Tuesday afternoon when he used his Twitter account to announce to the world that he is seeking to schedule additional Power Five nonconference home-and-home series for the football program. While this tactic on Stricklin’s part certainly created some buzz and noise, it is not a surprising stance that Florida is taking. In fact, it is a bit late to the party in this regard.

With Stricklin now a member of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, he understands more than ever that strength of schedule matters when it comes to how the committee puts together the CFP Rankings and sets the CFP field at the end of the season. Head coach Dan Mullen recognizes this as well. In fact, both have separately stated that they are doing whatever they can to ensure the Gators have tougher nonconference schedules in future years.

To this end, Florida has — in the last few months — announced four such upcoming series: Utah (2022-23), Miami (2024-25), Colorado (2028-29) and Texas (2030-31). That’s a good start, particularly the long-awaited series between the Gators and Longhorns.

But Stricklin’s tweet got us thinking. Since he is making his search public, we’re going to make our suggestions public.

When coming up with these teams, a number of factors were taken into account. Florida should want to face quality programs. That does not mean the potential opponents need to be in the top 10 nationally, but they should be on a similar level. It should also want to choose locations that fans not only want to visit but can travel to with relative ease and (if possible) low expense.

These are the five teams that the Gators should schedule home-and-home series with in the coming years (in no particular order).

1. Clemson: Do you know the last time the Gators and Tigers played? Me neither; I had to look it up. Despite being in the same region and just 450 miles apart, Florida and Clemson have not squared off on the gridiron since 1961. That’s nearly 60 years. The teams have only met 13 times in history (9-3-1 UF), and the Tigers offer everything the Gators could desire. The game would be a national spectacle and an incredible opportunity for recruiting, particularly if the teams could arrange for the showdowns to be played at night in The Swamp and Death Valley. Outside of the home-state teams, Florida is one of the most popular teams in South Carolina (along with Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina).

2. Penn State: Playing in the Big House would be fun, but Florida and Michigan fans alike have grown tired of facing one another. Ohio State and UF so actively dislike one another that it would take all the fun out of such a game. The Gators and Nittany Lions have only played three times and never seen one another’s stadiums (all meetings were bowl games won by the Gators). When considering worthy game day destinations, Happy Valley is as insane as it gets — and The Swamp provides an equal atmosphere. There’s always the potential to Florida and Penn State to play in bowl games, but the showdown would feel fresh with Dan Mullen and James Franklin at the helm of the respective programs.

3. Auburn: Yes, I know, the Tigers are an SEC team. But here’s the thing: Florida-Auburn used to be one of the SEC’s best rivalries. Due to the league’s scheduling philosophy, these teams hardly play anymore — let alone annually. AU’s visit to UF this year was its first in 12 years. There will be a 13-year gap between Florida’s last and next visit to Auburn in 2024. That’s insane for teams that played nearly every season from 1927 to 2002 (war years excluded). Playing a conference opponent as a game that does not count toward a conference record is not an unheard of practice. In fact, it happened this year with two ACC teams. This is a rivalry fans care about, it makes geographic sense, and you saw the passion it elicited this year.

4. Nebraska: The easy call would be to go with Oklahoma out of the Big 12, but it is Nebraska that handed Florida arguably its worst loss in program history, 62-24 in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl. Think the Gators and their fans would like some revenge for that? The teams would be able to hype up the game to no end. There’s also the added twist — assuming both are still with the programs whenever the game is scheduled — that you could get a showdown between Mullen and Scott Frost, the man who reportedly turned down UF’s overtures when its head coaching job opened a couple seasons ago.

5. USC: With Florida and Texas finally scheduled to go head-to-head, the last of the three-headed monster of big college football recruiting battlegrounds is California. In fact, what would be great is if these teams did a round robin. But we digress. The Gators and Trojans have actually pulled this off before with a home-and-home series in 1982-83, the only times they have met in history. Florida won 17-9 in Gainesville, and the teams tied 19-19 in Los Angeles. Saturday afternoon showdowns in The Coliseum and The Swamp in consecutive years would be special, and Florida would get a chance to flex state supremacy if it was able to hold these games in 2032-33 after the Texas series ends.

Aside from the schools mentioned above, it would be interesting to see Florida rekindle a rivalry with former SEC team Georgia Tech (there’s a massive UF fan base in Atlanta). There are also the standard Power Five opponents of interest like Ohio State, Oklahoma and Notre Dame. Thinking more outside the box and outside of the Power Five, teams that would present interesting spectacles include Army, Navy, Boise State and Tulane (former SEC member).


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