FlaGators: Since the talk of future SEC schedules keeps coming up (and up) here lately, I thought it was appropriate to answer the question brought up by one of our readers in a recent post about what you all want to see here at Alligator Army over the summer. I promise you that we'll do our best to get to everything you have asked for (the multiple win shares articles are almost complete) and then some.
But for now, in the first edition, I'll attempt to answer the question on which non-conference opponent I would like to see the Gators play in the future. And yes, there will indeed be a poll at the bottom of the article in which you can agree with me (doubtful), disagree with me (probable) or come up with a random fun team like Boise State just for the hell of it.
Speaking of Boise State... yeah, no.
Anyway, the reader who asked this question mentioned Nebraska. That's a pretty good one, I must say. I do know that we owe them a bit of revenge for what they did to us nearly twenty years ago, but hey, while those Nebraska teams were some of the best I've ever seen (the 1995 Nebraska team was probably the best college football team I've ever seen), it was found out later that steroids ran rampant and, well, that's a black mark as far as I'm concerned.
So while it would be fun to beat Nebraska, I'm going to go in another direction. I'm sure a lot of you think that Texas would be fun (we play Texas A&M now, so the state of Texas is taken care of), or want a trip to Virgina Tech (yeah, Lane Stadium at night seems pretty cool), but Florida State has been there and done that, so I want to do something that they haven't done.
Notre Dame? Again, FSU did it first. Penn State would have been cool, but Joe Paterno isn't there anymore, so no. Ohio State? Nah, I couldn't listen to
Urban Meyer's The Liar's comparisons and stories that are sure to be brought up. Michigan? Like the rest of the Big Ten, we seem to play them in bowl games every year. I really want to say Southern Methodist, because I've always been fascinated with their story, but that wouldn't be much of a game.
With all that being said, I'm going to go with Southern Cal. You're probably right when you say that their best days of recent memories are behind them. I mean, let's face it: Pete Carroll > Lane Kiffin.
But that's just it: Lane Kiffin is the USC head coach.
There isn't a coach in college football that seems to annoy me more than Kiffin. And I'm not really sure why. He's not that good of a coach, runs his mouth so obnoxiously that even Steve Spurrier has told him he's doing it wrong, and I'm not even sure he's deserved any job he's ever gotten, though he just keeps getting promoted.
On the plus side, too, is the fact that USC is loaded in college football tradition. As a whole, the program has had more than their fair share of national titles, Heisman trophies and All-Americans. There have even been more players drafted out of USC to the NFL than any other university in the country.
Their players and coaches are legendary as well. Marcus Allen, Carroll, Ronnie Lott, Junior Seau, O.J. Simpson and John McKay. The list goes on and on. Literally. You'd be hard-pressed to find a team that can compete with the Trojans in that regard.
So beating down Kiffin and the Trojans is priority No. 1 for me when it comes to non-conference opponents. Maybe we'll eventually meet up in a bowl game, but that's beside the point. I really just want to see the Gators play a regular season game against USC.
Andy Hutchins: I really don't want to throw cold water all over FlaGators' argument for USC here, but if Florida's setting up non-conference games in the near future — and it won't set up many, given the inevitable nine-game SEC schedule and Florida's interest in playing seven home games a year — it needs to set them up based on program, not coach. I really don't think that Kiffin will stick around USC long enough for Florida to hand him a beatdown if it schedules a game, because that game would come in 2015 or 2016 at the earliest, and I think Kiffin will been gone before then.
USC's a fine program, one well worth playing, but Florida did play USC in non-conference play quite a while ago, in 1982 and 1983. The Gators beat the Trojans 17-9 in Gainesville in '82, then tied them 17-17 in Los Angeles in the following year. For some, who actually remember those games, USC would be a "been there, done that" opponent, albeit a blue-chip one. I'd rather blaze a new trail.
That requires picking a team Florida's never played before, or one it hasn't seen in the modern era. Texas would fit that bill, with the last of the three meetings between the two powers coming in 1940; Oregon would, too, with the Gators having only played the "Webfoots" in 1929. Florida's entire history with Notre Dame is the 1992 Sugar Bowl, so the Irish would technically count, as a non-conference matchup would be a first in the modern era.
I would take home-and-home matchups with those three teams in a heartbeat, and I'd even be interested in "neutral" site games against the Longhorns in Cowboys Stadium or the Irish at Soldier Field or the Citrus Bowl — where a long-rumored game against Notre Dame that would've taken place in the 2000s would have happened.
But there's one team that I think makes a more interesting pick than even those powers: Stanford.
Wait, hear me out: Stanford and Florida are pretty routinely recognized as the two best collegiate athletic programs in the country. Florida and Stanford have sent coaches back and forth, with Buddy Teevens and Steve Spurrier, Jr. flaming out at Stanford in the early 2000s and D.J. Durkin and Jon Haskins thriving at Florida now. And Florida and Stanford could play a home-and-home or a "home"-and-"home" in San Francisco and Jacksonville, Tampa, or Miami, adding more uniquity to a matchup created for fans.
The most important thing about a Stanford game, though, would be the football, and both Will Muschamp and David Shaw appear to be building programs that will create good football teams in 2015, 2017, 2020, and so on. We don't know that Florida would get that from many other non-SEC teams on the national landscape.
Truth be told, Stanford's probably 1C or 1D on my list, which I'm going to unfurl over the next two weeks, one team per day. And, if you think Stanford's bad, know that it could be worse: Louisville will also be on my shortlist.