Power Ranking Florida Gators 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest
If the college football schedule was based on last year’s performance, Florida would have a much easier ride in 2014. Instead, the Gators were given no favors and will have to overcome a tough schedule against many of the better teams in the land.
Florida’s slate includes road games against the last two national champions, as well as five other SEC teams that finished last season with a winning record. Welcome to life in the toughest conference in college football.
While many games aren’t going to be easy, it’s time to rank them in order of their difficulty.
The hardest matchup shouldn’t surprise anyone.
12. Vs. Eastern Kentucky Colonels (Nov. 22)
Eastern Kentucky loses to football teams that even the most diehard college football fans have never heard of.
Tennessee-Martin? Murray State? Eastern Illinois?
Florida doesn’t even lose to the biggest team in the state of Kentucky, so there’s no way Eastern Kentucky has a chance. This is simply a warm-up game for the hardest matchup on Florida’s schedule.
There’s really not much else to say other than the fact that this is by far the easiest game on the schedule.
11. Vs. Idaho Vandals (Aug. 30)
Idaho has won two or less games in three straight seasons and doesn’t have a single advantage heading into the season-opening matchup against Florida.
Last season the Vandals lost to Old Dominion, Texas State and New Mexico State. They also had a defense that allowed 46.8 points per game.
Idaho is entering its first season as an FBS program, and a trip to Gainesville for its opening match isn’t exactly going to be fun. Even though we’re still a couple of months from this matchup taking place, a victory can be marked on your schedule at home.
10. Vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles (Sept. 6)
You think Florida had a bad season last year? It’s taken Eastern Michigan two years to reach Florida’s win total from last season.
Despite the Eagles returning a healthy 15 starters, it’s tough to believe a team that finished 1-7 in the MAC and allowed more than 45 points is going to come close to leaving Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with a victory.
The Eagles are starting over with a new head coach, and this is simply a paycheck game to build the program over the next four decades. You’re sure to see a lot of backups in this one.
9. Vs. Kentucky Wildcats (Sept. 13)
While a lot of things went wrong for the Gators last year, they were at least able to beat Kentucky for the 27th consecutive time. The only time I’ve seen them lose to the Wildcats was on a basketball court, and that makes sense considering Kentucky is mainly a basketball school.
Mark Stoops is doing what he can with what he’s got, but it’s no secret Kentucky has a long way to go before competing with some of the top programs in college football. It’s almost like asking the other teams in the SEC to compete with Kentucky and Florida on a basketball court. That's nearly impossible when you’re handicapped in recruiting and don’t have the proper resources.
The Wildcats are outmatched at nearly every position, and it’s been the same song and dance for nearly three decades. Florida rolls in this matchup once again.
8. At Vanderbilt Commodores (Nov. 8)
If you’re in your early 20s or younger, you experienced Florida losing to Vanderbilt for the first time last season. Call it what you want, but I call it a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Sleep soundly and know that you won’t see it happen again for as long as you live.
OK, that may be a stretch, but you can at least know that a loss to the Commodores won’t happen this season. Vanderbilt lost its main guy in head coach James Franklin, who gave the future doctors and lawyers the motivation to become a respectable football program. On top of that, Vanderbilt has to replace eight defensive starters, which is a major setback for a team that isn’t loaded with superior talent.
Florida has beaten Vanderbilt on the road in 11 straight meetings, and extending that record another year won’t be that difficult.
7. Vs. Missouri Tigers (Oct. 18)
Don’t expect much of an encore from Missouri this season, as it returns only nine starters from last year’s team that won the SEC East.
James Franklin? Gone. Michael Sam? He’s in the NFL. The Tigers lost five of their top seven tacklers and more than 50 percent of their sack production from last season. Missouri even lost wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who may sit out the year and leave for the next level.
In other words, the team that beat Florida last season, 36-17, is no more.
Sure, we’ve seen stranger things happen with the Gators, but this is easily one of the softer conference opponents they’ll face all season. If Florida is truly a better team from a year ago, this game shouldn’t be a problem.
6. At Tennessee Volunteers (Oct. 4)
It almost makes you wonder if Florida and Tennessee are even rivals anymore. Sure, they play every year and have taken part in classic games, but the Gators have won nine straight matchups against their SEC East foe, and the last seven have been decided by double digits.
This annual meeting loses a little more of its buzz with every beatdown. However, to be fair, winning in Neyland Stadium is never an easy task for anybody. The fans who always pack the place are loud and inspire the home team to play better than it probably is. Last season, the Volunteers took Georgia to overtime and upset South Carolina with help from their home crowd.
Tennessee still has a ways to go under head coach Butch Jones, especially with only 10 starters returning, but home field plays a big role in college football, making this a game that Florida fans can’t write off.
5. Vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (Nov. 15)
Florida has not had much success against its former coach, losing three of the last four matchups against South Carolina. The good news is that nobody has to worry about getting blasted by Jadeveon Clowney; the bad news is that the Gamecocks return eight offensive starters and six defensive starters from a unit that held Florida scoreless in the second half last season.
South Carolina has recently become that team that can hang with the big boys of the conference and match up well on both sides of the ball. It has to bring a smile to Steve Spurrier’s face when he wins in The Swamp, and you better believe he has this game circled on his calendar.
Even with the home crowd behind them, taking down South Carolina won’t be an easy task for the Gators.
4. Vs. Georgia Bulldogs (Nov. 1)
Georgia returns 10 starters from a defense that finished second in the SEC with 33 sacks. Offensively, the Bulldogs still have a two-headed monster at running back with Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Gurley averaged close to six yards per carry in last year's 23-20 victory over Florida.
The Bulldogs have won three straight games against the Gators and have been able to control their nerves a lot better than their rival. Turnovers and penalties have killed Florida in recent meetings, a trend that hasn’t been able to escape Will Muschamp and his staff.
Right now, it seems like Georgia is the slightly better team on paper, and it’s a game that’s probably going to come down to the wire like so many have in the past. Finding a formula to slow down a future NFL running back is a tall order even for Florida’s great defense.
3. Vs. LSU Tigers (Oct. 11)
LSU always plays Florida tough, which would explain why the last eight meetings have been split right down the middle.
The Tigers are just one of those teams that reload and stick to a certain formula. With four offensive linemen and seven defensive starters returning, LSU will remain a physical football team at both ends of the field and be tough to beat. In fact, LSU reminds me a lot of Florida—a team that has a remarkable defense but a questionable offense that can become stagnant.
This game will be a defensive bloodbath, and the first team to score 10 points is probably going to win. This one is not for the faint of heart and certainly won't be easy on the Florida players.
2. At Alabama Crimson Tide (Sept. 20)
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade, you’ll know that Alabama is a well-oiled machine. The Tide have had six straight seasons of double-digit wins and have had the best defense in the SEC for five consecutive years. They haven't had to deal with rebuilding years like what Florida has experienced under Will Muschamp.
The only concern for Alabama is a quarterback change, but that’s not a big deal when you factor in that A.J. McCarron was never asked to put the team on his back. The Tide still have a mammoth offensive line, a loaded backfield and one of the top receivers in the country in Amari Cooper.
The defense, well, there’s never a reason to worry about that side of the ball.
Florida has lost six of its last eight games against Alabama, and that’s when the Gators were actually a balanced football team. There’s just no way the Gators leave Bryant–Denny Stadium with a win this season.
1. At Florida State Seminoles (Nov. 29)
Florida has lost three of its last four meetings against Florida State and will now have to play the defending champs on the road. The Seminoles still have Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston and return six starters from a defense that ranked third in the country.
The Gators lost by 30 in last year’s meeting and would have to be a completely new team just to keep this season’s contest close. The only thing Florida has going for it right now is the fact it has won four of its last five games in Doak Campbell Stadium. On the flip side, Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes aren't coming out of that tunnel.
For the eighth straight year, this rivalry will likely be decided by double digits, and it won’t be in Florida’s favor.