One of the best changes to College Football since the beginning of the playoff era is the increased prominence of major non-conference matchups. It seems like every Power 5 team is looking to one up each other by scheduling matchups that will catch the eye of not just the country, but more importantly the College Football Playoff Committee.
It has led to great matchups like LSU-Texas, Florida-Miami and Auburn-Oregon this year alone. Not to mention battles we’ve seen in the past like Florida State-Alabama, Oklahoma-Ohio State, and so many more. Teams are doing what they can to make a statement to the entire country on the biggest stage you can create in the regular season. It’s been an awesome addition to the sport.
Recently, the Florida Gators have started to lead the charge on making this something they pride themselves on, with head coach Dan Mullen talking about it in press conferences and the recent scheduling of home-and-homes with Utah, Colorado, and Texas within the next decade.
All of this talk really came to a climax on Tuesday though, when Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin, who never shies away from stirring the pot, tweeted out an open invitation to Power 5 ADs to try and schedule a home and home series with the Gators.
Apparently, as Mullen has said before, not everybody is running to The Swamp to try and play the Gators. And despite what UCF fans may tell you on Twitter (sorry, but I had to say it), the Gators don't appear to be shying away from anybody.
And they shouldn’t, as there’s not a ton to lose in these prominent matchups. It brings great exposure to your program, can provide you with a huge win to get your season rolling, it’s great for recruiting, and even if you lose the game it can often be used to help your team instead of hurt it. In this new age of College Football, quality losses are a real thing and can actually help a team’s case come selection time.
With all of the hype, now is a good time to break down the top five matchups the Gators could shoot to schedule a home-and-home with. Some factors considered are the frequency of the matchup, the quality of the program, and the settings they would provide.
As Stricklin stated, this call to action is for Power 5 teams only. Sorry, UCF.
5. Washington Huskies, PAC-12
Last Meeting: 1989 Freedom Bowl (34-7, Washington)
This is one of the matchups I’ve seen campaigned for most by Gator fans on this topic. Washington has solidified itself as a fixture in the Top 10 in the latter part of this decade and has made a bowl game every year since 2010 - including one playoff appearance and two more New Year’s Six games to go along with that. Chris Petersen has built a powerhouse out west and has turned the Huskies into a nationally prominent program. This would be a great matchup of head coaches and two programs who have built themselves back into true powers in their conferences after their own respective dark periods this century.
However, while Husky Stadium is known to be a very underrated atmosphere, I don’t think many would consider it an iconic setting like some that we’ll talk about later in this list. It would be a really different matchup, one that’s only ever been seen once, but there are better places and programs out there for the Gators to play.
This would be a good matchup for both sides, but doesn't quite have the spark some of the other matchups we’ll talk about, so it lands at fifth on this list.
4. Oregon Ducks, PAC-12
Last Meeting: 1929 in Miami (20-6, Florida)
Another PAC-12 team makes the list as the Gators look for chances to go show their brand off to the west coast. I mean, does it really get more fun than Oregon? Autzen Stadium is possibly the most underrated atmosphere in the sport and would be such a cool environment to go into.
Of course, when you talk about Oregon you have to talk about uniforms, and there would be something cool about the idea of them pulling out a sick uniform to come to The Swamp. And perhaps the Gators would even pull out something special to go up against the Ducks (black uniforms, please). Something is just exciting about the concept of playing Oregon.
The thing working against this matchup is the on-the-field perspective. Oregon isn’t what they were in the early 2010s and while they’re still a nationally prominent program, I wouldn’t say they’re the elite program they were in 2014. This would be a great game, but not quite the game it would have been five years ago.
I would probably put this matchup higher on my personal list, but in terms of what is best for the Florida program, it slots in at the fourth spot.
3. Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12
Last Meeting: 2009 BCS National Championship (24-14, Florida)
Some will definitely argue this is too low on this list because it will be very difficult for the Gators to find a better program to go up against than Oklahoma. They’ve won their conference four times in a row and they’ve made three of the five College Football Playoffs, including the last two.
Not to mention the only meeting between these two teams was in a National Championship, one of the highest-powered matchups in recent memory. This has all the makings of a tremendous contest.
And let's not forget, Florida vs. Oklahoma would be Jordan vs. Jordan uniform sets.
The only argument against this matchup is the same as Washington. Do people really consider Norman, Oklahoma one of College Football’s great environments? I’m in no way questioning Oklahoma’s fanbase, but Norman is not one of the places in College Football that I would be drawn to most. This would probably be the best on-field matchup that the Gators could find, but it’s hard to see the pageantry in this game as much as some others.
Despite that, if I were Scott Stricklin, I would have this very high on my priority list for finding a home-and-home suitor.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes, Big 10
Last Meeting: 2012 Gator Bowl (24-17, Florida)
The Gators have faced the Buckeyes twice in their history and have won both matchups. We all remember the first one, the 2007 BCS National Championship game, but the one in 2012 had some extra special meaning as well for Gator fans. The Gators got to beat Urban Meyer in his first postseason appearance at Ohio State, something that no doubt felt oh-so-sweet for the whole program.
There’s always been an unusual amount of bad blood between the two programs considering they’ve only played each other twice, making this matchup one that I’m sure Gator fans would drool over. Not to mention, Ohio State is pretty much as big as it gets. One of the all-time greatest programs in the history of college football, it would be a treat to see these two programs face off in each other’s houses.
This matchup pretty much has it all. Two iconic settings in The Horseshoe and The Swamp, two good coaches, two huge programs, and just enough history to get the fanbases jacked up about playing each other again. There are not many bigger programs outside the SEC that you can attract to your place than Ohio State if you’re Florida, and this would, without a doubt, be a landmark matchup for both sides if it were to ever come to fruition.
This is a perfect win-win situation for the Gators. This is one I would put a lot of work into if I were Scott Stricklin.
1. USC Trojans, PAC-12
Last Meeting: 1983 in Los Angeles (Tie 19-19)
Yep. You read that right, the last time the Trojans and Gators met they tied in the Colosseum. That was actually in the second leg of a home-and-home in 1982-83, the first matchup being a 17-9 win for the Gators in The Swamp.
I am the biggest proponent of these two teams running it back sometime in the next decade or so.
Despite the struggles relative to their standards since Pete Carroll left The City of Angels, USC is still the holy grail when it comes to scheduling in College Football. It’s just perfect. This would be such a great recruiting event for the Gators. You get to go to California and put your program on display, and you do it at the most iconic setting not just in College Football, but in all of American sports.
If there were a United States of America Stadium, it would be The Colosseum. The place has hosted the Olympics and will host another this coming decade, World Cup games, Super Bowls, NFL games, college games and so much more. You can’t go any bigger than going out to LA.
Not to mention, it’s the University of Southern California. Another legendary and historic program that you get to measure your team against, plus it has the coast-to-coast factor that can add a little spice.
I think every fan would get excited about the possibility of playing USC and getting to travel to Los Angeles to watch the Gators play. Nothing screams pageantry and tradition like the cardinal and gold uniforms, the Trojan planting the sword. and the USC program as a whole. This is the ideal home-and-home series that the Gators should be searching for, one that is all about tradition and making a statement in front of the whole country.
Clemson: The only reason this wasn’t on the list is because Clemson’s Athletic Director Dan Radakovich was actually the first AD to respond to Stricklin on Twitter, and stated that they would be interested in scheduling a series but it would have to be in the late 2030's. The Clemson name speaks for itself at this point, they are the standard and it doesn't get bigger than the Tigers. But that timeframe is just too far off at this point.
Penn State: Who wouldn’t love a trip to Happy Valley? Another game that would be all about tradition and a very attractive name to go up against.
Notre Dame: Everybody wants a shot at Notre Dame. Having the Irish come to The Swamp would be such a unique sight, and the return trip could be one of the coolest Gator fans could go on.
UCLA: Even though they’ve totally fallen off on the field, the UCLA name still carries a lot of weight. Playing in the Rose Bowl would be special and this is an easy way to do something the Gators wouldn’t normally have a chance to.