- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- SEC commissioner Mike Slive was subtle, but the message was clear: He wants the league’s 14 teams to beef up their nonconference schedules.
Dump the FCS schools and some of the games against smaller directional schools and instead play teams from BCS conferences. Or at least play some of the better team from non-BCS leagues. Not only will that generate more interest nationally and on television, but it would eliminate a lot of the empty seats at those cupcake games like Florida-Jacksonville State.
But, as parents preach to their children, we can’t always get what we want.
Florida has established a formula for its football scheduling: Play smaller FBS or FCS schools in the early non-conference games and play a Division I-AA school in the week between the final SEC game and the annual Florida State game. It’s done that way to ensure that the Gators will get the revenue from seven home games every year. Playing a big-time opponent would require a home-and-home series, which means the Gators would be giving up a home game -- and the $2.5-$3 million of revenue -- every other year.
UF is feeling that pinch in 2013 because it is playing at Miami in the season’s second week. It’s only the second time the teams have played since 2004, and UF athletic director Jeremy Foley said this week during the SEC’s spring meetings that scheduling the Hurricanes in the future is not a priority.
A bummer, for sure. But if the Gators do take Slive’s advice, we hope Foley also will take some of ours: Here are 10 nonconference opponents we’d like to see Florida schedule.
Last meeting: 1940 (UT leads series 2-0-1)
Will Muschamp leaving for UF in December 2010 instead of waiting for Mack Brown to retire so he could finally shed the coach-in-waiting label adds an interesting subplot to this game. Muschamp was the Longhorns’ defensive coordinator for three seasons and helped them reach the 2009 BCS National Championship game behind a smothering defense. Since he left, however, Texas’ defense has steadily declined and last season ranked 67th nationally in total defense (404.2 yards per game) and 73rd nationally in scoring (29.2 points per game).
Last meeting: 1983 (UF leads series 1-0-1)
A two-game series against the Trojans would allow Florida to finally make the trip to the West Coast that it missed out on twice before (2001 and 2009). Older fans remember the excitement around the 1982 and 1983 games, and another meeting would have twice as much hype. Plus, you know that Lane Kiffin is going to say something guaranteed to upset Gators fans at least once.
Last meeting: 1929 (UF leads series 1-0)
Granted, this probably would have been a better matchup had Chip Kelly not bolted for the NFL, but the Ducks still have some dynamic playmakers in QB Marcus Mariota and RB De’Anthony Thomas. Love to see how the Ducks’ offense, which is expected to feature the pass more thanks to a solid group of receivers, would fare against Muschamp’s defense, particularly UF’s secondary.
Last meeting: 1992 (Notre Dame leads series 1-0)
Now that Notre Dame has re-joined the national elite, this is a game that needs to be played. Every kid deserves a chance to play at the feet of Touchdown Jesus. UF fans still remember the battering that Jerome Bettis delivered in the 1992 Sugar Bowl. He ran for 150 yards and three TDs to help the Irish rally from a 16-0 deficit for a 39-28 victory.
Last meeting: Have never met
We’d like to see this game played strictly because of the weather. How will the Wisconsin players handle a 3:30 p.m. kickoff in Gainesville in September when the temperate is in the 90s and it feels like you’re breathing through a wet blanket? And the trip to Camp Randall Stadium needs to be scheduled the week before the Florida State game, when the average temperature in Madison is 46 degrees. Dare we dream: Snow flurries at kickoff?
Last meeting: Have never met
Stanford never faltered when coach Jim Harbaugh left for the San Francisco 49ers following the 2010 season. The Cardinal went 23-4 in David Shaw’s first two seasons and is again one of the favorites for the Pac-12 title. You can be smart and good at football, too.
Last meeting: 1996 (Nebraska leads series 2-0)
The Gators need a chance to avenge the most embarrassing loss in school history, which happened when Tommie Frazier ran wild in the Fiesta Bowl and gave the Huskers a second consecutive national championship. Never mind that Florida won the title the following season and has won two more since. That loss still stings.
Last meeting: 2009 (Florida leads series 1-0)
Every time there’s a head coach opening at Florida, Bob Stoops’ name gets (erroneously) linked to the job. That usually leads to a denial from Stoops, which of course ramps up the speculation even more. But the message should be pretty clear right now: Stoops is not interested in leaving Norman. So people please stop citing the fact that he has a condo right near Steve Spurrier in Crescent Beach, Fla. We can only hope that any future meetings will be as entertaining as the first, which came in the BCS National Championship game. UF won 24-14 by shutting down an OU offense that had scored more than 700 points.
Last meeting: 2012 (UF leads series 2-0)
Urban Meyer. Do we really need to say anything more?
Last meeting: 2008 (Michigan leads series 3-0)
Each of the three meetings has been decided by eight points or less. But it’s the 2003 Outback Bowl that everyone remembers because of Ron Zook’s ill-fated decision to use a reverse pass from Vernell Brown to quarterback Rex Grossman with about a minute remaining. The pass was underthrown and got intercepted, and the dump-on-Zook campaign got off to a roaring start.
2dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough