Breaking down the 2014 football schedule

With just over a week until the Gators kickoff the 2013 football season against Toledo in The Swamp, the 2014-2015 SEC conference schedule was released. With Florida’s out of conference games already scheduled, we now have the full 2014 schedule.

While the coaching staff and the team need to focus on the Rockets and starting the season 1-0, we in the media don’t have to scheme and gameplan for August 31, so why not take an early look at what the Gators will face next season.

A quick glance at the schedule shows one of the toughest schedules in the conference with a trip to Bryant-Denny Stadium to take on the Crimson Tide, as well as Florida’s normal cross-divisional opponent in LSU. Tack on SEC East games against Georgia, South Carolina, a rising Vanderbilt program and the annual matchup with Florida State and the Gators schedule quickly turns into a gauntlet.

Here’s the full schedule and a quick breakdown of each week.

August 30 – Idaho

Last season Florida opened the season off with Bowling Green – a team they had never faced in more than 100 years of playing collegiate football. This season the Gators will face off against Toledo to start the season and the Rockets are another team that Florida has never faced prior to the meeting on August 31. That streak will continue next year when the Idaho Vandals travel down to Gainesville to open their season against Florida.

The Vandals finished 1-11 in 2012 but hope that new coach Paul Petrino will get the team back on the right track this season.

September 6 – Eastern Michigan

The Eastern Michigan Eagles have traveled to The Swamp once before – 2004 – and that trip didn’t turn out well for them as the Ron Zook led Gators kicked off their season with a 49-10 victory.

September 13 – Kentucky

SEC play gets underway when Mark Stoops and his Kentucky Wildcats roll into Gainesville. This will mark the second time in three seasons that the Gators haven’t opened their conference schedule with Tennessee and just the third time since 2001.

Kentucky finished the 2012 season with a 2-10 record and went 0-8 in the SEC. That got former head coach Joker Phillips fired and put Stoops in charge. There is a new buzz surrounding Stoops and the Wildcats heading into this season but we’ll see how much Kentucky can improve and how Stoops continues to recruit before we put Florida on upset alert here.

September 20 –@ Alabama

Will Muschamp will take his team into Tuscaloosa looking to improve on a poor showing last time against the Tide. Nick Saban is building himself quite a coaching tree and this game will mark the second meeting (barring a meeting in the SEC Championship game this season) between Saban and Will Muschamp.

Despite not having played Ole Miss since 2008, the Rebels and Gators will once again not meet as cross-divisional opponents.

Alabama finished the 2012 season as National Champions with a record of 13-1 (7-1 SEC).

October 4 – @ Tennessee

The price of expansion is tradition. Florida and Tennessee had been accustomed to playing on the third Saturday in September and other than a game that was rescheduled due to 9/11, the game and date had become a reliable fixture on the schedule.

Last season, Florida kicked off the SEC slate of games in College Station, but this will be the first time Tennessee opens up their conference schedule with someone other than Florida (they will open up against Georgia) since 2001.

Tennessee finished 5-7 (1-7 SEC) last season and hired former Cincinnati coach Butch Jones to give the program a face-lift.

October 11 – LSU

Les Miles offseason of protesting that LSU shouldn’t have to play Florida every year fell on deaf ears and the teams will square off again for the 44th consecutive time in 2014. LSU will be working in a new quarterback when they travel to Gainesville but you can expect a close, hard fought game because, well, it’s Florida vs. LSU, that’s why. Now why would you want to get rid of that?

LSU finished 10-3 (6-2 SEC) last season.

October 18 – Missouri

For the second consecutive week the Gators will host the Tigers, this time they’ll host the Tigers from Missouri.

Gary Pinkel may be the most tenured coach in the SEC (he started just before Mark Richt did at Georgia) but if Mizzou has another season like their inaugural season in the SEC, Pinkel might be looking for work in 2014.

Missouri finished 5-7 (2-6 SEC) last season.

November 1 – Georgia (in Jacksonville)

Will Muschamp is 0-2 against his alma mater but he – and Gator fans for that matter – hope to be heading into this game looking to even the series against Georgia under Muschamp.

If the goal every season is to get to Atlanta and play for the SEC Championship – and it is – than that road goes directly through Jacksonville and the Dawgs.

Georgia finished 12-2 (7-1 SEC) last season.

November 8 – @ Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt took a gigantic step forward in 2012, winning nine games for the first time since 1915. James Franklin has the Commodores pointed in the right direction and has successfully created a winning culture at  a school that  was once the doormat of the SEC East. This is no longer a game that Florida – or any team for that matter – can look past.

Vanderbilt finished 9-4 (5-3 SEC) last season.

November 15 – South Carolina

Since Steve Spurrier took the job at South Carolina, the Gamecocks have steadily risen to the top echelon of teams in the SEC East. Florida will get a reprieve in the form of Jadeveon Clowney suiting up for an NFL team rather than against them next season but with the ‘Ole Ball Coach still at the helm, anything can happen in this rivalry game.

South Carolina finished 11-2 (6-2 SEC) last season.

November 22 – Eastern Kentucky

The end of the SEC schedule brings the Eastern Kentucky Colonels into town. Will Muschamp coached at Eastern Kentucky in his second full season as a coach.

Eastern Kentucky finished 8-3 last season.

November 29 – @ Florida State

There was once a time that Florida vs. Florida State held national title implications. Then, Florida State took a nosedive towards the end of Bobby Bowden’s career and Florida ripped off six straight wins in the series before Florida State took wins in 2010 and 2011. Florida got back on track in the series last season with a 37-26 win in Tallahassee and will look to make it two straight behind enemy lines in 2014.

Florida State finished 12-2 last season.

Other Notable Games across the SEC

August 28 – Texas A&M @ South Carolina

The Aggies travel to South Carolina to kick off the college football season on a Thursday.

September 13 – Georgia @ South Carolina

The winner of this game jumps into the drivers seat in the SEC East.

October 4 – Alabama @ Ole Miss

Hugh Freeze is doing a great job of recruiting and Ole Miss will have a talented roster when the Tide rolls into town.

October 18 – Texas A&M @ Alabama

Unless the NCAA renders Johnny Football ineligible, I believe he will be back in College Station in 2014, which makes this, must see TV.

November 8 – Alabama @ LSU

No explanation needed for this one.

November 27 – LSU @ Texas A&M

A Thanksgiving Day matchup for the ages here.

Nov 29 – Auburn @ Alabama

The Iron Bowl, can Gus Malzahn make this a competitive game in his second season back?

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC