The Florida Gators lived through one of the worst seasons in recent history in 2013, and by all accounts, it’s do or die time for Will Muschamp entering the 2014 campaign.
The scheduling gods, for one, have not done Florida any favors. Two big road games loom in Alabama and Florida State, as well as the neutral site contest against Georgia. The Gators must also travel to Tennessee, and although the team is riding a 9-game winning streak against the Vols, sooner or later that has to come to an end. Their other road contest is against a Vanderbilt team welcoming a new coach.
A silver lining in the schedule is the home lineup. Florida starts the season against cupcakes Idaho, Eastern Michigan and Kentucky. LSU, Missouri and South Carolina will also come to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The home season is capped off by a visit from Eastern Kentucky.
Following is a look at how the games rank according to toughness:
12. Eastern Kentucky Colonels – Nov. 22
Florida won’t lose two years in a row to an FCS-level team.
11. Idaho Vandals – Aug. 30
Idaho went 1-11 during the 2013 season.
10. Eastern Michigan Eagles – Sept. 6
Eastern Michigan went 2-10 during the 2013 season.
9. Kentucky Wildcats – Sept. 13
If Muschamp loses to Kentucky at home, a year after falling to Vanderbilt in The Swamp, he might as well pack his bags.
8. Vanderbilt Commodores (Away) – Nov. 8
Vanderbilt is welcoming a new head coach. Florida won’t lose two years in a row to the Commodores.
7. Tennessee Volunteers (Away) – Oct. 4
As far as quality of competition, Tennessee is inferior to all the teams ranked ahead. It’s never easy to win in Rocky Top – South Carolina lost in Knoxville in 2013 – and the Gators will no longer have the early season scheduling benefit.
6. Missouri Tigers – Oct. 18
They lose star quarterback James Franklin and must travel to The Swamp.
5. South Carolina Gamecocks – No.v 15
More often than not, the Ol’ Ball Coach finds a way to make it interesting.
4. Georgia Bulldogs – Nov. 1
The Dawgs have had the Gators’ number the past three years. Aaron Murray may be gone, but Florida must find a way to eliminate its mental mistakes in the game.
3. LSU Tigers – Oct. 11
Cam Cameron seems to be the answer to the Tigers’ offense’s prayers. LSU is also welcoming stud running back Leonard Fournette to campus, who should start immediately.
2. Florida State Seminoles – Nov. 29
This game could very easily be placed in the top spot, but based on time of year compared to Alabama, I’m giving the Crimson Tide the nod. It’s going to be tough to beat Jameis Winston and the defending champs in their own house.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide – Sept. 20
Remember the last time Florida traveled to Tuscaloosa? I’ve also tried to forget that game happened. Add in the early season (Week 4) schedule, and this is a brutal contest.