As mentioned in Sunday Brunch, we're going to spend the next two weeks looking at the ideal non-conference opponents for Florida. Leave your feedback and guesses about the rest of the teams in the comments.
I have to lead Foes of Dreams, our series on the teams I want to see Florida play in non-conference games, with this caveat: Florida's not going to play any of them, almost certainly, and is even less likely to play the home-and-homes I would really, really love to see. But this is about dreams.
The problem with running a two-week series — it'll run weekdays until next Friday — is that you either need 10 items or creativity. There are more than 10 teams here, so, uh ... here are the teams I also gave some consideration!
This got mentioned in the comments on Sunday, because Arizona State is one of the many "cool" teams in the Pac-12, and I don't hate this idea, but Florida's just not a good match for a mid-tier Pac-12 team. The distance between the teams is too far for a home-and-home to not cost an arm and a leg for the team and fans, and the level of play is uneven. While I'd love for Florida to be favored in every game in a given year, and know that's part of the point of the scheduling Florida does, I don't want to spend a precious non-conference series on a road trip to play a team that won't compete for a conference title.
The Pac-12 teams other than Arizona State I would throw into this category are Colorado, which has a gorgeous stadium setup; Washington, which played LSU in a home-and-home; Arizona, a great place for a big night game; UCLA, which Florida "owes" for 2006 like it "owes" Arizona State for 1996; and Cal, which has little other than the beauty of the area to recommend it right now.
This much is obvious: It would be awesome to see Florida play Virginia Tech in a Saturday night showdown. But the Hokies don't welcome the big boys into Lane Stadium all that often: Boise State and USC each played Tech at FedEx Field, not in Blacksburg, in the last decade, and the Hokies' 2009 game against Nebraska, a classic, is essentially the only big non-conference game in Lane not featuring a Big East team (Cincinnati and West Virginia, basically) in the last 10 years. Also: A Nick Saban-led LSU team went to Lane in 2002 and dropped the only non-conference regular season game it would lose under Saban by a 26-8 count. There be treachery in them thar hills.
While it would be kind of funny for Florida to thumb its nose at the "But Florida never plays anyone in non-conference play!" crowd by making a return trip to Syracuse, which hosted the Gators in their last non-conference game outside the Sunshine State in 1991, Syracuse isn't on Florida's level. And do we really need to see the Carrier Dome? Florida's basketball and lacrosse teams have been there, lost those games. Syracuse isn't even particular
On paper, this makes a lot of sense, what with both schools holding some claim to being their austere conference's flagship academic and athletic institution, and with both home venues being among the best stadiums in college football. But after the 2002 Outback Bowl and 2008 Capital One Bowl, I'm convinced that playing Michigan is a surefire way for even a great Florida quarterback to look like a doofus.
Besides, do you really want to deal with Michigan's very knowledgeable, somewhat haughty fans after that Elite Eight game?
Maybe the most likely of any non-conference foe, the 'Canes have a fairly awful stadium and a mostly awful fan base ... though you're unlikely to experience both at the same time! (Necessary.)
Miami's not on par with Florida right now, but there's always the chance it could get there; the reason this doesn't make sense for both teams is that the meetings since 2002 have, to this point, featured either Ron Zook or Randy Shannon. The 2013 meeting may be as good as we'll get for quite some time in the Florida-Miami rivalry, and so it should be savored. Don't worry about ordering more.
The history of that 2009 BCS National Championship Game aside, the Will Muschamp-Bob Stoops matchup would be the dominant storyline of this game. Unless, of course, Stoops, who has led the Sooners to one BCS game in the last four years despite Texas falling off the map, gets the urge to try the NFL or the boot before this game happens. Norman's boring, and OU's stadium — which I'll bet you can't name without mousing over this link to its Wikipedia page — is not the draw that either Lane Stadium or Michigan Stadium is. Sorry, Sooners: We'll just wait to see you and Big Game Bob in another big game at some point.
I know, I know: I'm throwing the team I advocated hardest for on Sunday in the honorable mentions. I'm a bad person. I get it. But I looked up Stanford's stadium after I wrote Sunday Brunch — and it seats 50,000. Stanford demolished and rebuilt it before the 2005-06 season, and reduced its capacity by about 35,000 seats — and it still didn't sell out before the 2008 Stanford-USC game. It's beautiful, as you can see from the picture attached to this article, but that's not enough.
I would still love to see San Francisco on a football trip, and I'd still love to play a David Shaw Stanford team, but I doubt Florida could pull off an asymmetric home-and-"home" with Stanford that put the Cardinal in The Swamp and the Gators in the fantastic new Levi's-branded 49ers stadium, and so I think that Stanford dream has to die.
Florida State Seminoles
We're stuck with them, so I guess we'll play 'em.