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 firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.