My name is Brett DioGuardi, and I am a former Second-Team All-SEC long snapper for the Florida Gators.
I am going to touch upon what I believe are the five most important games for UF in this upcoming season. Although there will be a lot of new faces playing key roles for the team in 2021, I believe that if the Gators can take care of business versus three-to-four of the opponents listed below, that there is no reason the team can’t make it back to Atlanta and compete in the SEC Championship.
1. Georgia – Jacksonville, Fla.
There is an argument here for Alabama as it isn’t often the Gators face the Crimson Tide during the regular season especially in Ben Hill Griffin. However, this game has been and will continue to be the most crucial one for the Gators in terms of whether the team will once again punch a ticket to the SEC Championship game.
The Bulldogs will be looking to get redemption against a Gator team that poured it on them the previous season. Georgia comes into the season with high expectations and a talented 2021 recruiting class to go with it.
A win here for Florida would mark the first time the Gators have won back-to-back matchups against Georgia since the 2015-2016 seasons. There are a handful of high-stake games for the Gators in 2021, but none bigger than the world’s largest cocktail party on October 30th.
2. Alabama - Gainesville, Fla.
On September 18th, Nick Saban and company will make the trip down to Gainesville, Florida for a rematch of the 2020 SEC Championship Game. This will be the first real test of the 2021 season for the Gators after they face two interstate matchups against FAU and USF.
The Gators will attempt to make a statement with a win against the reigning National Champs at home in The Swamp. Both these teams lost a lot of star power from the previous year in the 2021 NFL Draft and will have new faces in pivotal roles, including the battle will be between quarterbacks Emory Jones and Bryce Young - two talented QBs who hope to take the college football world by storm.
This game shouldn’t be anything similar to the high-scoring affair it was in Mercedes Benz stadium last year as both teams will look to showcase much-improved defensive fronts. A win here for Florida would cause a lot of national media and propel the Gators to an immediate contender in the college football world.
3. LSU – Baton Rouge, La.
Other than the rematch of the SEC championship game versus Alabama, this year’s matchup against LSU has to be one of the main games circled on the calendar for every Florida football player.
After the stunning upset in the Swamp the previous year, the Gators should be coming with vengeance to Baton Rouge on October 16th. The Gators will look to avoid a three-game skid against the Tigers and return back to Gainesville with a big-time win at the midpoint of the season.
LSU landed another top recruiting class for the 2021 season and will look to improve after a fourth-place finish in the SEC West this past year. The past few matchups between the Gators and the Tigers have been exhilarating and I expect another dog fight in Baton Rouge this season.
4. Florida State – Gainesville, Fla.
The Gators will host the Seminoles in the regular season finale on November 27th, renewing the Sunshine State rivalry after a year of absence amid the coronavirus pandemic, in which the entire SEC played a conference-only schedule.
Mike Norvell and his team will look to have a big bounce-back season after an abysmal 3-6 record in 2020. The Gators, meanwhile, will look to extend their current win streak versus FSU to three games with a win this season.
Though UF has handled the 'Noles fairly easily in the past couple of matchups, this is one of if not the best rivalry in Gator football history and should be an intriguing game. It will be interesting to see where both these teams stand in their respective conferences heading into the final regular season game of the year.
5. Missouri – Columbia, Mo.
There were several options here as there is a bit of a drop off after those top four games. However, I believe that this is a game that Florida has dropped in the past due to lack of preparation and underestimating the opponent.
With this season’s schedule, if the Gators can take care of business against their lower-level opponents, there is a good chance the team can represent the SEC East again in Atlanta come postseason.
Just a few seasons ago, the Gators dropped back-to-back games to the Tigers in both Colombia and the Swamp. Florida will travel to Missouri in 2021 to take on the Tigers in their SEC regular-season finale. This game cannot have any resemblance to last season’s final SEC game, against an uninspiring (LSU) Tigers team, if the Gators have aspirations to get back to Atlanta.