For openers, this one vs. Miami holds a lot of weight

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Florida vs. Miami at Sun Life Stadium in Miami on Sept.7, 2013. (Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun)

I promise, they are going to play a game Saturday night. At 7-and-change p.m., toe will meet leather and we can talk about actual football plays.

The GameDay boys will have poured through all 55 games in the history of the series (what else are they gonna talk about for three hours?), SEC Nation will have broken down the complexities of being a long snapper and we will have nothing left to write or say.

(I seriously contemplated a column comprised of things I’m tired of hearing me say. For a short summer, it sure has been a long wait for this game.)

And finally they will play this unusual opener, the beginning of another season of Florida Gator football (insert sponsor ad here).

But this is more than unusual.

This is the biggest opening game Florida has played in the history of the program.

This is where you stop me and flutter through mental file cards trying to tell me I’m wrong. The biggest opening game ever? Dools, you go to Hyperbole School this summer?

Nope, I am simply a big believer that Florida has never played a more important first game of the season. Nevah.

And the enormity seems to grow with every minute that goes by.

You may point to Steve Spurrier’s opener and while it did launch a tremendous era, it was an Okie State team on probation and wasn’t even on TV. Urban Meyer coached an opening game against Miami … of Ohio in 2010.

Florida traditionally has scheduled soft serve ice cream for opening day the last three decades. The Gators used to play Miami (of Florida) in the opener and the 1984 game was memorable between two ranked teams in Tampa.

But that was back when ESPN was still struggling out of the gates to get subscribers (it was the first night college game aired by the network) and hardly weighed as much as this one.

Two more that you are probably considering — Houston in 1969 and Michigan in 2017. The Houston win was amazing, but let us not forget that people were buying tickets at halftime so it’s not like it was a can’t-miss game. And Michigan kind of felt more about Jerry World than the teams playing in it. (Plus, Florida’s team had been gutted by the credit card fraud charges).

So let me tell you why this is the biggest opener in Florida football history.

1. It’s different.

Florida has never experienced anything like this, an opener on Aug. 24. Florida has played eight openers in August, but none earlier than Aug. 30. It was weird that camp started almost right after SEC Media Days.

But that’s a sidebar to why this is so big.

2. It’s exposure.

I don’t think this will be the most watched Florida game ever, but it will be in the top 10 because it’s the only game on TV.

There were 8.3 million people watching the Peach Bowl last season and 6.3 million watching Florida-Georgia. It might exceed those numbers. It will draw college football fans and casual fans. Most importantly, it will draw fans who hate one team or the other. Most coaches, college players, trainers and tutors around the country will be watching.

“It’s exciting,” UF safety Donovan Stiner said. “All eyes will be on us.”

3. Which brings us to this …

One of the main reasons it is important for Florida to win this game (and it wouldn’t hurt to look good doing it) is that it’s what people will be talking about for two weeks and maybe three. You’d kind of like that to be positive conversation if it’s going to last so long.

4. Which brings us to this even more important point (these aren’t in order) …

After Florida won the Peach Bowl and celebrated in the confetti, the Gators parlayed their success into a strong recruiting class. Since that day in February, not a lot has gone right.

There has been a lot of negativity around the program from a recruiting class dropping because of defections and grade problems to questions about the way Florida has handled sexual assault allegations.

There have been some bad looks for the Gators. You lose this game and the mood lighting gets dimmer on the program.

Florida has to turn the momentum back in the right direction. This is a program that has not been able to get out of its own way for the last decade. Coach Dan Mullen took a big step forward last season, but he can’t moonwalk back to the shadows of national irrelevance.

I’m not saying a loss would doom Florida’s season. Far from it. But a loss would be damaging for recruiting and for national perception.

I said a few months ago that this is the most important game of the season for Florida.

I’ve changed my mind.

It’s the most important opening game ever.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

35 COMMENTS

  1. Seems a little cliché. It’s the most important opener ever because it’s the one that hasn’t been played yet. History will determine how important it really is. The ’83 and ”84 openers were significant on a national level for both teams. The ’84 was more exciting, but the ’83 was more impactful. The UF 28, National Champs 3 bumper stickers were around for a decade after that. I’ll agree to put the Houston game on the list. The Michigan game was only a couple years ago, and almost all of us have mercifully forgotten it already, so that one’s a no. The only way it will live up to Pat’s hype is if somebody gets whoop-whooped, or if both teams do very, very well down the stretch. Otherwise it’s just the most important opener this year.

    • Disagree…this is the most important opening game. Pat listed great reasons. When has there ever been as much at stake in an opening game AND have it be the only game being played? When have we had this much discord over the last 10 – 12 years and now finally have bright lights showing at the end of the tunnel ahead? This is huge.

      So, again, I agree that this is the biggest opening game that UF will have to play, to date. GO Gators!!

    • I also disagree. I actually agree with “Dools” for a change. Well thought out and well supported article. A victory, especially an impressive one will have a big impact on this season and in-state recruiting. And it will launch our ranking status, even if it proves to be prior to the realization that um is not a very good football team.

    • Plus, the distinction & honor of being selected to commemorate the 150th anniversary of college football. I definitely think it will be entertaining. I’m expecting the type of game similar to when these teams played in the ’80s. Very intense energy but a lot of mistakes due to the first game and new players.

  2. I’m sorry that I don’t get the point of this article. I’m sure that can be attributed to my lack of education otherwise itself attributed to my lack of normal intellect, but it seems to me that the Florida program didn’t just fall off the turnip truck yesterday, never having had a big opening game before. I would think that logically it’s much bigger for Miami, UNRANKED as they are, versus a Top-10 team such as WE ARE. It’s certainly big to us inasmuch as we’re opening with an OK Power-5 team instead of a traditional OK warm up patsy from the GOF or a lower division, and there is certainly some risk associated with doing so…….but I fail to recognize it as the biggest opener in our history.

    • Exactly. People seem to think this is 2001 Miami instead of a 7-6 team that returns 12 starters and has first timers at the most important positions, QB and head coach. There’s going to be a whole lot of buildup to what I’m predicting to be a boring blowout that the Gators come out of not getting much credit for. People will just say oh it’s the same ole Miami that LSU did the same thing to last season, no big deal.

  3. It has already made a huge impact. Last year, on my way to work, I was lucky to hear a snippet of Gator news or commentary on the radio (satellite). For the last two weeks, no matter what time I listen, it has been all Gators and how they should beat the Hurricanes. These radio personalities will know who the Gators are just because they have had to cover them so extensively, which only bows well for further coverage. I hope we play week 0 every year.

  4. The article is definitely hyperbole but I guess I would say that this is the season opener at the moment, but mainly because we have no idea how it – or the season – will play out. Say we beat Miami 55-0, but then lose to Kentucky, LSU, Auburn, Georgia, Missouri and the bowl game to finish 7-6, 3-5. Is it really that big of a game then? Or say we lose to Miami, then beat everyone else on our schedule and are in Atlanta for the SEC Championship game, is the game still the biggest? Games at the beginning of the season gain or lose importance on how the rest of the season plays out.

    Big season openers:
    1969 Houston – (NR) Gators 59; (#7) Houston 34. Gators finish 9-1-1. Huge game after the fact.
    1982 Miami – (#16) Gators 17; (#15) Miami 14. Gators won that game, then beat USC (#10); Ultimately finished 8-4, 3-3. So was that game big or not?
    1984 Miami – (#10) Miami 32; (#17) Gators 20. Gators lose opener then tie LSU; Finish 9-1-1, 5-0-1; Win SEC (vacated) and finish #3 in AP poll. 22 publications declares them National Champs. Did the big opener matter?
    1990 Oklahoma State – (NR) Gators – 50; (NR) Oklahoma State – 7. Mentioned in article because of Steve Spurrier, but it was two unranked teams. Only big because Gators finished 9-2, won the SEC and skyrocketed from there. If they had gone 7-4, would the game be big?
    2017 Michigan – (#11) Michigan 33; (#17) Gators 17. The Gators went 4-7 because we were overrated and had a horrible coach; we realized this after the season played out.

    I don’t disagree with Pat’s arguments and a win or loss would be huge news, but ultimately the saying, “its not how you start but how your finish” rings true. Go Gators!

  5. The most important game is always your next game.
    History is always subject to revision.
    I truly hope Franks “sees the field” as I suspect Miami will blitz and make him hurry. They will leave people open to apply the pressure.
    Go Gators!

  6. This game “feels” a lot bigger than it really is. Until they prove otherwise, Miami is a has-been in a weak conference. Pat has succumbed to the emotion of the event rather than the reality. All this hype will, of course, be inflated by the Hijacker of College Football – ESPN. This game is only big if we lose it, and even then will have nothing to do with the SEC, which is our real test. Having said all this, GO GATORS!

  7. I can’t moonwalk but if I could, I would moonwalk all the way to Orlando to see the game. It will be billed as the most spectacular and most important walk of my life. Check that, I meant in human history. Instead, I am going to settle for learning to moonwalk while watching the game in front of a TV.

  8. What is significant is there are 130 teams in DI and we are playing in the opening game of 150 years of college football! This game was selected as the highest profile game on opening day. Common Gators Get Up And Go! don’t fight over whether it’s the most important game opening ever. Call the score. I’ll have 6 pay the winner!

  9. I also agree with Pat about most of his article’s points. It is an important game for all the reasons he and evreyone else have stated. But, it is important for another reason that he didn’t really mention very specifically. We are at a point where we think we are finally turning the corner and resurrecting what we once were. We had our ups and downs last season, but finished on a high note and we could also see the future looking brighter. In fact, even though Pat said everything has gone wrong after Feb last year with the recruits, I still feel like this team can survive that. Of course, he didn’t mention the big transfer we got and the defections from other teams either. And I strongly disagree with the idea Florida is still figuring out how to deal with sexual assault allegations–what he really means is how Mullen is dealing with them. I think this school deals with them arguably better than any school in the Power 5 and maybe the country. We automatically suspend a player presumed innocent under the law based solely on the allegation. And what player on the team under Mullen has stayed on the team after the allegations surfaced? These guys who are “transferring” are being told , quietly, they need to go. I respect Coach for not throwing the kid under the bus while still letting him go. According to the media, “dealing with it ” the right way, is hanging, drawing and quartering the kid publicly within the first 24 hours based solely on an allegation. But , back to the point: this is an important game for our psyche as fans to answer our hopes about the offense, first games, rivals, and a future that looks more like our more glorious past.

  10. I would love for the degenerate drunks that make up the national sporting press to buy into the idea that this is the biggest opener in UF history. More attention for us, more of a boost when we win, more of everything. Hopefully, Pat fooled the booze-sodden vermin that make up the sports media– and not just Bianchi.

    The reality, as others have pointed out, is that we are opening versus an unranked creampuff from a conference that has been the laughing stock of college football for generations. Miami had a good run long before the joined the Clown Conference, but that is history, and they are now back to being what they were before– a pathetic school for coke snorting losers with rich parents. This is just another game, and I am hoping our players don’t get too over-hyped for this game. Just go out there, punch Miami in the face, and get ready for the next game.

  11. The game can certainly be talked about as one of the most important openers in UF history. That in and of itself is a huge step in the right direction.

    I do not recall any mention that the 2017 Michigan game was involved in this conversation. The main reason being we got beat pretty badly by FSU in 2016 (4th in a row) and positively waxed by Bama in the SEC Championship game. By the start of the 2017 season I had personally soured on the head coach and thought he was a terrible ambassador for UF. Don’t want to beat a dead shark, er, horse on that.

    Fast forward 24 months, we missed the SEC championship game but there is little doubt the 2018 team was better than the 2016 team. We waxed FSU and then Meat Chicken and saw major strides with the QB and Offense. On top of that we had a coherent Ambassador for UF football once again.

    So end of the day, playing a hated rival with the wind starting to fill the sails, I could see this being in the conversation as most important openers ever. And that my friends is a breath of fresh air after the last decade of mostly lousy Saturday afternoons……. Work em’ Silly Gator’s!

  12. this game is underhyped, not overhyped imo. it will have, without competition, the eyes of a nation desperate for entertainment upon it. it will have two rivals, in spite of mistakes by our administrators, true rivals, both eager to prove something. the results may be close, it may be a crazy ivan unpredictable, or maybe an outstanding showing by the gators, or maybe even the canes find the magic somewhere in the moonlight, but it is the biggest opener, bigger than 1985, bigger than Houston, etc., and hopefully the end and good riddance of the cupcake opener era.

  13. The OK State game would’ve been intriguing if Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith were around in ’90, but Sanders was gone after ’88 and Emmitt in ’89.

    Contrary to some of my favorite posters on here, particularly Gator 6, this game is as big as a New Years 6 (did you see what I did?) prime time bowl game for a plethora of reasons already in print.

    My family and friends have booked a beach side resort in near John’s Pass around Madeira Beach. Our first night there is dedicated to the Gator game. Let’s get rowdy! Go GATORS!

  14. Don’t forget the opening game for the 1969 season – the first game I attended at Florida Field (with my father, who graduated from UF in 1958 – I graduated in 1985). The Gators were picked to finish LAST in the SEC, and Houston had a star running back who was supposed to destroy us. At halftime the score was UF 35, Houston ZIP. The final score was UF 59, Houston 34. John Reaves was our QB, and Carlos Alvarez was our receiver. Ray Graves was our HC. GO GATORS!!!

    • Hey! That was my first home gain ever too! I was a junior in high school. Decided then and there to be a Gator and never looked back. Never regretted it either. I think I wore the old-time t-shirt I bought that day with the blue collar and a UF on the left chest until it disintegrated!