Who should Florida line up next for a home-and-home football series?

Earlier this month, Florida announced home-and-home series with Colorado and Texas. They each have a certain level of intrigue. Florida has never played Colorado before,¬†while it’s been 78 years since the Gators and Longhorns last faced off.

It’s easy to think up some marquee programs that UF could try to line up next, but I wanted to look at it in a systematic way. So, I went to the all-time wins list and looked at teams with at least 600 of them. I threw out SEC teams, Miami (FL), and most Group of 5 teams, which gave me a list of 36 potential opponents that UF doesn’t have an upcoming series against. Then, I used the Stassen head-to-head tool to see Florida’s history with all of them.

Here are these potential opponents grouped into categories. Who do you want to see Florida line up next?

Never Played

Navy (711 all-time wins), Wisconsin (705), Minnesota (695), Stanford (653), TCU (651), Arizona State (614), Purdue (614), Arizona (613)

I left the service academies in since they’re not your standard non-power conference programs, and it turns out one of them is the winningest team Florida has yet to play. I suspect any series there would have to be a two-for-one.

Beyond that, I don’t know how much I’d prioritize the Big Ten teams on this list. The SEC has a lot of bowl tie-ins with that conference, and it’s some weird accident of history that the Gators haven’t played Wisconsin in the Citrus or Outback Bowl or something. Even so, I like the idea of facing the Badgers. TCU and Stanford stand out as opponents with recruiting potential, at least as long as Dan Mullen continues to be serious about going for California prospects.

Colorado has 705 all-time wins, which ties it with Wisconsin for second on this list.

Only Played in Bowls

Team All-Time Wins Bowls Last UF Bowl
Ohio State 911 2 2011
Notre Dame 897 1 1991
Nebraska 897 2 1995
Oklahoma 896 1 2008
Penn State 887 3 2010
West Virginia 750 2 1993
Washington 735 1 1989
Michigan State 701 1 1999
Iowa 649 4 2016

 

The year of the last column corresponds to the season, not the game. So for instance the last bowl against Penn State is listed as 2010 even though the game was played on January 1, 2011.

Here we have a lot of the non-SEC heavy hitters of college football history. Ohio State probably still brings the most juice, though it’s hard to discount the draw of Notre Dame and Oklahoma. Nebraska has fallen off a lot since the Gators last played them, but I’m sure some fans out there would like to get some revenge for the 1995 season’s Fiesta Bowl.

It probably wouldn’t be too hard to get Notre Dame lined up, as it likes to recruit in Florida. The Irish are also finishing up a series with Georgia this year and have Alabama coming up in 2028 and 2029, so they’re perfectly willing to play SEC teams. Penn State could bring James Franklin back to Gainesville if he’s still there, while Washington could bring a coach a lot of Gator fans desperately wanted in the cycle that brought Will Muschamp.

Notre Dame, Nebraska, Washington, and Michigan State are the teams on this list that Florida hasn’t defeated. Iowa feels like the most skippable, with three of the four bowl appearances coming since 2003.

Florida’s Never Visited

Team All-Time Wins Games Bowls Last Bowl
Michigan 953 5 4 2018
Pitt 724 1 0
Utah 677 1 0
Cal 668 2 0
Boston College 666 2 0
Oregon 657 1 0
Virginia 657 1 0
Illinois 606 2 1 1988

 

This list is less full of marquee names. Michigan is way out in front in the wins department, but with three games played in the last four seasons, Florida is probably good on matchups with the Wolverines for a while.

The longest gap in having played is Oregon, who Florida played in Miami in 1929. One thing I really noticed while researching this is that the Gators used to regularly play in Tampa and Jacksonville and sometimes Orlando and Miami before about the 1980s. In 1976, for example, they opened against UNC in Tampa and closed against Miami (FL) in Orlando. They’d do this with SEC games too, as in 1949 when they played Vandy in Jacksonville and Kentucky in Tampa.

Anyway, next is Boston College, who UF last faced in 1939. I’ll call it the AddaziBowl, though given how far out these games are being scheduled, there’s no telling who the head coaches of any of these teams will be. Then comes Virginia (1959), and a tie between Pitt and Utah (1977).

Rekindling a Series

Team All-Time Wins Games Last UF Bowl Road Games Last Road Game
Clemson 744 13 2 1925
Georgia Tech 735 39 1966 22 1980
North Carolina 691 10 3 1968
Maryland 649 18 2001 3 1941
NC State 600 14 1992 5 1975

 

These are the teams that Florida has played at least ten times before. Not surprisingly, former SEC member Georgia Tech has the most prior games with 39. The rest are teams that were once league mates with UF in the Southern Conference prior to the SEC breaking off in 1932. The ACC was formed in 1953 when more teams broke off from the SoCon.

Clemson is the biggest name right now, obviously, and UF actually has a history of playing those Tigers in Jacksonville (five times). I find UF’s history with Maryland the most interesting because the Gators only played them as a Southern Conference foe once. They then played the Terps every year from 1933-44 except ’43 when UF didn’t field a team during the war. They then for some reason didn’t play again until the ’70s.

Georgia Tech has a tie to UF for now with Geoff Collins the newly named head coach, and doing a series with the Jackets would be a chance to get the team a guaranteed ticket to the fertile recruiting grounds of Atlanta.

Who’s Left

Team Wins Games Bowls Last Bowl Road Games Last Road Game
USC 839 2 0 1 1983
Virginia Tech 743 2 0 1 1934
Syracuse 719 4 1 1998 2 1991
Army 692 3 0 2 1924
Rutgers 650 2 0 1 1986
UCLA 605 5 1 1987 2 1958

 

These are the teams that didn’t fit into my categories above. Rutgers gets an asterisk because the one road game happened at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford instead of the team’s real home stadium. I say close enough, especially since playing that team should not be a priority.

USC really stands out, obviously, and Army has a certain appeal the same way Navy does. Virginia Tech is like an SEC program in the ACC, so that could be a fun series even if the team is struggling a bit to find its way after Frank Beamer’s retirement.

So, those are the 36 teams. If I was to pick one from each category, I’d go Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Oregon, Clemson, and USC. Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Washington, and Nebraska would be my next five from any category.

There are plenty of good options with real angles here. It’s all going to come down to where the mutual interest is and who has the scheduling spots open.