- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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What’s the 2013 schedule look like for Will Muschamp and the Gators?:
Nonconference opponents (2012 records)
Aug. 31: Toledo (9-4)
Sept. 7: at Miami, Fla. (7-5)
Nov. 23: Georgia Southern (10-4)
Nov. 30: Florida State (12-2)
SEC home games
Sept. 21: Tennessee
Oct. 5: Arkansas
Nov. 2: Georgia, in Jacksonville
Nov. 9: Vanderbilt
SEC road games
Sept. 28: at Kentucky
Oct. 12: at LSU
Oct. 19: at Missouri
Nov. 16: at South Carolina
Gut-check time: It’s the date that jumps out there for all Florida players, coaches and fans -- Nov. 2. The annual showdown with Georgia in Jacksonville might as well be circled in blood this season. Georgia has won the past two in the series, and that’s after Florida dominated this rivalry for much of the past two decades. The Gators had won 18 of 21 prior to losing the past two. Florida also hasn’t played in the SEC championship game since 2009, and losing a third straight to Georgia would make getting back to Atlanta a long shot.
Trap game: It sounds like this could be the last time Florida and Miami play in the regular season for a long time. So when the Gators visit South Florida on Sept. 7, the Hurricanes will be fully aware of the stakes.
Snoozer: The Gators’ nonconference schedule is nothing to sneeze at in 2013. And while Georgia Southern’s option offense isn’t much fun to defend, the Gators should have more than enough firepower to send their FCS visitors packing on Nov. 23 in the Swamp.
Telltale stretch: The tail end of the SEC slate will put the Gators to the test. It’s a stretch that starts with the Georgia game in Jacksonville on Nov. 2, and then the Gators come back home to face Vanderbilt on Nov. 9 before hitting the road for their SEC finale against South Carolina on Nov. 16. Getting through that three-game swing unscathed would be a chore for any team in the country.
Final analysis: It helps that Florida doesn’t have to go to Texas A&M this season. Instead, the Gators get Arkansas at home. The nonconference slate features four teams that had winning records last season, and Florida is one of three SEC teams in 2013 that will face two nonconference opponents from BCS conferences. It’s going to be critical that the Gators play well away from home. After taking on Arkansas at home on Oct. 5, they will play just one more game in the Swamp until returning home on Nov. 23 to face Georgia Southern. It’s never easy when your toughest three SEC games are all away from home, and that’s exactly what the Gators face in 2013. They get LSU in Baton Rouge, Georgia in Jacksonville and South Carolina in Columbia.
4dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough