Yesterday, we asked you to pick a home-and-home series the Gators should schedule. We had seven commentators submit teams and reasons why the Gators should play that particular team. Those were: tbcook, Georgia Tech; Jean Shorts Torture, Virginia Tech; Cowtown, TCU; skigator93, Utah; DudleyAUF, Oregon; silverstreak3k, USC; KegelExercise, Michigan.
[Note: A commentator asked when UF could play a series like this. It appears to be 2015-2016. UF has already scheduled their four OOC games through 2014 (and they are awful, aside from Miami and FSU). UF also plays USF at home in 2015.]
If you're thinking, "Hey, what about Miami! Or Texas A&M! Those would be cool games!" That's not good enough. If you remember, the point was to explain why the Gators should play a team based on national significance, historical significance and access for Gator fans. Yeah, it's easy to get to Miami, but UF-Miami is already scheduled for 2013. Texas A&M would be accessible for Gators, especially if played at Cowboys Stadium, but is A&M a national power? Also, revenge against Nebraska loses some power when you consider that was 15 years ago.
Of the two that missed the cut, TCU was left out because it is hard to determine the historical significance. (There was spousal significance, however.) USC would have made it, had silverstreak3k noted that UF and USC played two classic games in 1982 and 1983. I was almost as disappointed in that as I was that no one backed me up on Notre Dame.
That is why we have five teams to make a home-and-home series with. Originally, I had planned on selecting my Notre Dame pick, but the Michigan entry was so strong that it merited an entry. Here are the entries, unedited, for your approval. Vote in the poll below. Try to pick not just for the team, but for the reasons presented to play that team.
Georgia Tech: The obvious historical significance is that they used to be in the SEC. The Atlanta Gator Club has a pretty large base, plus Atlanta is easy to drive to for most people in Florida. While the Gators already recruit out of Georgia, they don't play any regular season games in that state with the Cocktail Party being in Jacksonville. Georgia Tech is usually competing for the ACC Championship, so it would certainly shut people up that say that the Gators play cupcakes in their OOC games and that they don't leave the state for road games.
[Note: UF last played Georgia Tech in 1981. They have played 38 times. -mlm]
Virginia Tech: Historical Significance: The Gators and Hokies played in Gainesville 1985, back before either program was really elite. Florida was ranked fourth at the time, but was also on probation at the time. The two teams have never met in a bowl, which is just weird.
National Significance: Any inter-league game involving Virginia Tech seems to get everybody's attention, even if the Hokies do keep losing them. Tech has a strong base in D.C. and Richmond, which is a bigger city than a lot of people think. It also gets Florida outside of the SEC footprint and gives the Gators some quality mid-Atlantic exposure. I lived in D.C. for a while and was stunned that people were more interested in ACC football than SEC football.
Gator Fan Access: Blacksburg isn't real easy to get to from, well, anywhere, but there are tons of young Gators in the D.C. area, and probably even some older ones, too. I think lots of Gators in Florida would make the trip just to experience gameday in Blacksburg (Enter Sandman, etc.). It's also not a real bad drive from Atlanta, which has the nation's largest Gator Club outside of Florida.
Utah: National Significance: Utah is currently 6-0, ranked 9th in the nation, and just 2 years removed from an undefeated season where some were calling for the Utes to be crowned national champion. UU has the same problem as Boise State in that they rarely get to play a quality opponent. I think the average football fan would be interested to see how the Utes would fare against a traditional SEC powerhouse.
Historical Significance: UF and Utah have squared off only once, a 38-29 Gator victory in Gainesville. Even 33 years ago, the game appeared to be an offensive shootout. While the teams obviously don't have a history of clashes, the fact that Utah is where Meyer (and President Machen) spring boarded his career into the national spotlight is certainly intriguing.
Fan Access: This is obviously the biggest problem with the game. There is no Gator Club chapter in the State of Utah and local alumni are surely limited at best. That being said, the Rocky Mountain Gator Club in neighboring Colorado, while about 550 miles away, is only a short flight between 2 large airports. Also, as the Gators haven't played a regular season OOC game west of the Mississippi in...well, who knows how long? Fans should be itching for a flight based road trip to see the Gators play. If you've never been to Salt Lake City, it is a beautiful city that is absolutely worth visiting. SLC is also a Delta hub, making flights into the city plentiful and easy to come by.
[Note: ESPN tried scheduling Utah-Florida for the 2009 opener. -mlm]
Oregon: Chip Kelly has Oregon playing at a solid and consistent level each season, so it's safe to say if the Gators schedule them it won't turn into a UT situation where one team is garbage, assuming UF gets it together.
As far as nationally, if you feature recent PAC-10 champs against a recent SEC Champ, you are going to have a marquee matchup. Also, whenever the two conferences play, it seems that one side is heads and shoulders above the other (Example: USC-Auburn and Oregon-UT). Historical significance offers a first time meeting between these two teams. Fan Access is a nightmare because nothing is in Oregon, however, UF fans could come from big areas like Seattle, Denver and L.A.
Michigan: Historical Significance: Michigan and Florida have played just twice, both in bowl games, and both in the 21st century. Michigan won them both, a 38-30 win in the 2003 Outback Bowl, and a 41-35 win in the 2008 Capital One Bowl. It would be great to see the Gators notch a win (preferably two) against one of the premier teams in college football history. One victory for Florida here though: these two teams were the two primary participants in the 2006 national championship controversy to determine who got to play Ohio State for the title, and we all know how that ended.
National Significance: Both teams may be down this moment, but national powerhouses like Michigan and Florida don't stay this way forever. In the time it would likely take to negotiate this home-and-home, I fully expect both programs to be back in full force, setting up a great early season inter-conference powerhouse matchup, and fueling the endless Big Ten vs. SEC debate that will rage on for all eternity.
Ease of Access: According to FloridaGators.com, there is a Gator club in Detroit, though the link to their page is currently broken. Even so, Ann Arbor is not overly far from either Indianapolis or Chicago (There is a HUGE Gator club in Chi-Town), so it would be a great treat for us Gators living up here in Big Ten country. Hell, I'd make the drive from Milwaukee.