Dream matchups for UF football
Published: Tuesday, July 8, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, July 7, 2008 at 11:19 p.m.
When the NCAA added a 12th regular-season game in 2006, the initial reaction was it would open the way for a bunch of intriguing heavyweight non-conference games around the nation. That hasn't really happened, even though Ohio State at Southern Cal this Sept. 13 is pretty huge. The feeling at Florida is that an eight-game conference schedule, plus playing arch-rival Florida State on a yearly basis, is tough enough. As a result, teams like Central Florida, Western Kentucky and Troy have filled out the Gators' non-conference schedule. Miami hops on for a one-year deal this season. In 2009, the Gators' non-conference schedule consists of Charleston Southern, Troy and Florida International. UF probably isn't going to schedule any big-time non-conference opponents any time soon, but that can't stop us from dreaming up some possibilities.
Here are five Florida non-conference games we'd like to see:
FLORIDA VS. SOUTHERN CAL
Given the national recruiting success Urban Meyer and USC coach Pete Carroll have had in recent years, these are two of the most talent-laden programs in the country. Some have even predicted Florida has a chance to become the Southern Cal of the East. So, let's play. There's already a little bit of a rivalry there between Meyer and Carroll because they've gone head-to-head for some big-time recruits, including Percy Harvin. The latest five-star guy to pick UF over USC was wide receiver Carl Moore. There's also a nice slice of history between the Gators and Trojans. In one of the most memorable games ever played at Florida Field, Wilber Marshall and the Gators suffocated USC 17-9 in 1982. A year later, In Los Angeles, USC scored on the last play of the game, but then missed the extra point and had to settle for a 19-19 tie. This would be some rubber match.
FLORIDA VS. NOTRE DAME
It's amazing that there could be so much dislike between two schools that have played only once. And it really has little to do with ND's upset of Florida in the Sugar Bowl following the 1991 season. What it stems from is the coaching search in the fall of 2005 when the schools went head-to-head for one of America's hottest young coaches — Urban Meyer, a Catholic whose dream job had been Notre Dame. Jeremy Foley struck first and secured Meyer, with Notre Dame making its move a little too late. Notre Dame thought it ended up on the best end of the deal by hiring Charlie Weis. That's not the way it's work out so far (and Irish fans are stewing over it).
FLORIDA VS. OKLAHOMA
It's pretty amazing that the paths of these two prominent programs have never crossed down through the decades. There, of course, is a nice connection now: Bobby Stoops, the former UF defensive coordinator who helped the Gators win the national title in 1996 and has restored the Sooners as a national power. Many thought Stoops was the guy who would replace Steve Spurrier in 2002 and then Ron Zook in 2005. It didn't happen either time. A Stoops vs. Meyer matchup would be huge.
FLORIDA VS. TEXAS
These two football schools haven't tangled since FDR was in the White House (1940), so it's time to get after it again. Mack Brown is one of the nation's best recruiters and the Longhorns are always loaded with talent. This would be one fast, physical game. And it would be for bragging rights in a way. Texans think everything is bigger in their state, especially high school football. Floridians think it's just as big or bigger here. So, let's find out.
FLORIDA VS. ILLINOIS
This is such a natural we couldn't let it go. This one would really get the hyper Zook talking fast. After Spurrier left UF in a lurch after the 2001 season, Foley needed to find a guy fast and there weren't a lot of hot candidates out there like there turned out to be in 2005. Zook, the former UF assistant under Spurrier (and friend of Foley's), jumped at the opportunity to take the un-winnable task of following the legend (Spurrier) in Gainesville. Zook got trampled, but landed on his feet and has built Illinois into a contender in the Big Ten. Given the history, this could take on the feel of a Florida-FSU game.
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