This year I would say the same thing. Florida has a top 10 schedule. They have their usual SEC foes in Tennessee and Kentucky, who despite being woeful last year are going to be gunning hard with new head coaches. They have top 10 caliber teams from the Eastern Division in Georgia and South Carolina. They have LSU as always who is in a little bit of a rebuilding year, but always has as much talent as anyone.
Vanderbilt is an up and coming program and is trying to push down the door on the big boys. The Gators play Arkansas from the West as their rotation game and actually got a good year to play the Razorbacks as they are in a coaching transition and major overhaul from what they have doing.
Florida has two teams in the non-conference schedule (total of four) that played in bowl games last year with Florida State and Toledo. The Gators also have to travel to Miami to play a noon game and Miami would have been bowl bound if they didn't decline a year ago.
Make no doubt about it, this is a top ten and probably top five schedule for the orange and blue this year. For those that worry about the fairness of schedules, it has favored the Gators a few times in the last few years to have the really tough schedule including last year when they were just an eyelash away from playing for a national title and didn't even play for a conference title.
Florida head coach Will Muschamp welcomes the competition this and every year and he should thank the scheduling folks for one that sets up very well for Florida.
First off, the Gators start at home against a top 50 team in Toledo, the Rockets are going to find the confines of The swamp rather tough, especially on August 31. They follow that up with that road trip to Miami a week later. I would assume they wouldn't be beat up at all heading into that rivalry tilt with the Gators and the noon game should help the deeper team which Florida certainly is.
Then the Gators play a nice bye week before a home game against the next rival Tennessee. The Vols will come in hungry with a new coach, but an extra week to prepare and lick any wounds from the Miami game should be just what the doctor ordered.
A travel game to Kentucky comes a week later and while they will be pumped about playing the Gators under a new coach, Florida should out-talent the Wildcats pretty significantly. A week later is Arkansas in Gainesville and the Higs are picked at or near the bottom of the pack in the SEC West by most.
The big test as far as timing and facing big time talent is the following game and week against LSU in Baton Rouge. When is it ever easy to win in Red Stick unless we are talking about the mid-90's?
The Gators could be 5-0 heading into the LSU game and at that point the game would probably be a pick'em.
Win or lose, the Gators head to Columbia Missouri the following week for a division game against the Tigers and a team still trying to find it's SEC identity. It marks the only two true road games in a row for Florida and the Gators should fare no less than 1-1.
But the scheduling folks finally did a big favor for Florida the next week. That bye week that the Gators had for so long before the Georgia game… is back. That means healing up from two road games and an extra week to prepare for the Bulldogs.
The boys should come out screaming for the Bulldogs who have beaten the Gators the last two years. It is the perfect scenario for a team that will get the benefit of playing a tough team and no penalty among computers and strength of schedule folks for getting the week off beforehand.
The Gators finish off the season with three out of four on the road and probably the second toughest timing and talent struggle against South Carolina being a big time road venue for the Gators. There is no denying that will be a tough one.
Georgia Southern will be entering division one or Football Bowl Subdivision in 2014, but is still in the Football Championship Subdivision. They offer a nice buffer between the gamecocks and Florida State who finishes out the regular season schedule, but in Gainesville. The gator defense has stymied FSU's offense for both of Will Muschamp's years at the helm and I expect that to continue again with a rookie quarterback at the helm.
In my opinion the only other way to make the schedule better and keep all the same opponents would only matter if the gators were to happen to win the SEC
Eastern Division. The toughest thing for Florida could very well be having to play a rugged game against FSU the week before the SEC Title Game.
At that point though, I don't think anyone in orange and blue would complain.