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Gators have lots to smile about after late comeback

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Through a lot of reasons that Gator fans should be smiling on Saturday night after Florida roared back to defeat South Carolina 35 – 31 at the Swamp.

They should be smiling because, when it appeared all was lost when South Carolina took a 31-14 late in the third quarter, the Gators showed guts and heart that makes the difference in battles like these. Honestly, it’s the type of deficit that the Gators would have thrown in the towel on in the last few years.

Further, smiling because it came at the expense of Will Muschamp, their former coach, who was his usual animated-maniac self as South Carolina unraveled in the 4th quarter.

Smiling because Felipe Franks, for all the criticism of the last couple of weeks and talk of him being benched, played one of his best games of his Florida career. Frank’s completed 15 of 21 passes for 161 yards with a TD pass  and ran for two critical scores, including the game-winner on a fourth-and-goal (above) with four minutes remaining.

Yes, there is some controversy over him putting up the finger to his lips to “shush the Swamp,” as it was cheering him. This was as if to say: stop criticizing me, yet cheering me. Now, in fairness, a lot of those people that were cheering that 4th and goal touchdown had been the same ones calling for Frank’s to be benched. They’re happy and Franks is now happy with the comeback.

Smiling because the Gators put two running backs, Jordan Scarlett and LaMichael Perine, both went of 100 yards and Florida put together three long scoring drives late in the game, when they had to have them.

Smiling because For the first time in three games, the Gators defense finally came up with a takeaway and it was huge, as CJ Henderson’s pick in the fourth all but iced the game.

Smiling because Dan Mullen, his staff and their players demonstrated there was no quit in them, yet again. It was the second time in a month that Florida was down by at least 17 points, Vandy was the other, yet, they rallied to win. And you can tell his players love playing hard for him:

Smiling, because the win has the Gators at 5 and 3 in the SEC and in Prime position to have a New Year’s Day bowl game in Florida, probably at either the Outback Bowl in Tampa or the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville.

No. It wasn’t easy, but it was memorable Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

And the smiles will last for at least while.

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Florida Gators

Gators and Canes- It’s complicated

Matt Zemek

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Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

If asked to explain the football rivalry between the Miami Hurricanes and the Florida Gators, the simplest answer points to anything but simplicity.

This rivalry is very complicated.

If you look at the broader contours of this rivalry, which had been played annually for most of its history through 1987 but then abruptly stopped before resuming in the 2001 Sugar Bowl and then (in the regular season) in 2002, you might conclude that Miami has been fortunate.

Example number one: The Hurricanes didn’t play the Gators in the mid-1990s. The Gators were clearly the superior program for several seasons but didn’t play the Canes in that time window.

Example number two: Miami played Florida only once from 2006 through 2012. The Gators were elite under Urban Meyer and improbably made the Sugar Bowl in the 2012 season. Miami likely would have been roughed up had it played Florida on an annual basis in that seven-year sequence. It played UF only once (and lost, in 2008).

Yet, these likelihoods and probabilities can’t be taken for granted. When these teams have met, likelihoods and probabilities haven’t held up very well.

In the 1983 season, Miami won the national championship, beating Nebraska in the 1984 Orange Bowl. Yet, those Hurricanes lost to the Gators. Miami lost in Game 1 to Florida and didn’t lose again.

In the 1984 season, Florida finished first in the SEC for the first time ever, winning a long-sought SEC championship. The title was later stripped, but it remained that the 1984 Gators were a special team on the field.

That year, Miami — with Jimmy Johnson in his first year as head coach after Howard Schnellenberger jumped to the USFL — slumped to an 8-5 record.

The Canes, however, defeated the Gators. Much as Miami lost to Florida in Game 1 of 1983 and didn’t lose again, the 1984 Gators lost to the Canes and never lost again, finishing 9-1-1.

In 1985, Miami had the better team than Florida. The younger but still hugely formidable version of the Miami crew which dominated the 1986 regular season entered its bowl game, the 1986 Sugar Bowl, with a No. 2 national ranking and a chance to win the national championship. The 1985 Canes lost only one regular-season game. Yep, you guessed it: to Florida in the opener.

The 1983-1985 Gators had high-quality teams, but no one talks about those squads because of the enormous amount of NCAA violations accumulated by Florida under Charley Pell (the head coach of the team throughout 1983 and on opening day of 1984) and Galen Hall (Pell’s 1984 offensive coordinator and his successor as head coach).

The corruption of Florida football was so pervasive — and the SEC so merciless toward Florida (in a way it never would be with cash-cow Alabama) — that Steve Spurrier’s first Florida team in 1990 was not given an SEC championship despite finishing first in the conference. It paid a price for sins committed by Galen Hall.

Nevertheless, despite the darkness of the mid-1980s in Florida football history, it remains that in 1983 and 1985, these schools met at the height of their powers. This has rarely happened in UM-UF annals. The 2001 Sugar Bowl was another instance, the 1966 game yet another… and that’s the full list of games between the Canes and Gators when both programs were riding high. For a series which dates back to 1938, that’s not a lot of showcase games.

Miami was weak when Florida was strong in the past 30 years. The discontinuation of annual play between the schools cost college football fans many clashes which probably would have been quite memorable and significant.

Imagine the 1991 Canes — co-national champions — facing the Gators at some point. Florida was in the top five entering the Sugar Bowl that season.

The 1994 Canes weren’t spectacular — Nebraska, often UM’s punching bag in the Orange Bowl, outplayed the 1994 Miami team — but they were still a top-five-quality group. The 1994 Gators led Florida State 31-3 in Tallahassee before the “Choke at the Doak” unfolded. UM-UF would have been fun in 1994, without question.

Imagine the 2001 Canes, possibly the best college football team of all time, facing Rex Grossman (whom many people feel should have won the Heisman Trophy over Nebraska’s Eric Crouch) and a loaded UF offense. That matchup didn’t occur in the regular season, but it could have happened in the Rose Bowl for the national title.

Florida, though, was stunned in The Swamp by Tennessee on December 1, dashing that possibility to bits.

Miami and Florida played a home-and-home series in 2002 and 2003… right after Spurrier left for the NFL and the Washington Redskins. Ron Zook was no match for the Larry Coker teams which were the last at UM to win on a massive scale.

Florida versus Miami is a story of two schools who don’t like each other, rarely meeting when both teams are great. The stop-and-start quality of this series, plus the untimely lapses for Miami and the equally untimely departure of Spurrier from Gainesville in 2002, have deprived this series of so many more special moments. Miami-UF could have become a rivalry on par with Miami-Florida State and Florida-Florida State, but it was not meant to be.

Let us see if yet another Canes-Gators season opener will cut against the grain. Don’t expect the losing team to go unbeaten the rest of the way, as 1983 Miami did after losing to UF, or as 1984 Florida did after losing to UM..

.. but given the way this series has played out, don’t take a single thing for granted. Miami is 12-4 in the last 16 games of the series dating back to 1978. It might be easy to think this is Florida’s time.

Yet, if UM-UF has taught Floridians anything, it is to let the drama play out and not assume one school has the obvious upper hand.

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Florida Gators

Gators- Hurricanes make home and home series official

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As the Gators and the Hurricanes get ready to tangle on the neutral field of Orlando in a huge matchup Saturday night to open the 2019 college football season, the official word has come down that the two schools will meet each other twice more starting five years from now.

Both the Gators and Hurricanes released the information simultaneously Tuesday Morning announcing that Florida will host Miami in the opening game of the 2024 season at the Swamp and Florida will return the favor at Hard Rock Stadium against the Canes in September of 2025:

This is the first of a home-and-home schedule between the two programs since Florida hosted the Hurricanes in 2008, a 26-3 Gators romp and the Gators returned with a visit to Hard Rock Stadium in 2013, a Miami 21-16 victory.

The last time the two schools played in back-to-back years was 2002 – 03.

The Gators announcement of hosting Miami in the opening game on August 31, 2024, is the second piece to their non-conference schedule for that season. Obviously, Florida ends every year playing with Florida State in their rivalry game. Also, it has been previously announced that Florida will host USF as part of a two-for-one home game deal with the Bulls and that game will be on September 6th, 2025. Or, two weeks before Florida will now travel to play the Hurricanes in Miami.

The Canes now have three pieces to their non-conference schedule for both 2024 and 2025. Miami will host Florida A&M after the Gator opener on the road and then will play Notre Dame later in the season. In 2025 ,the Hurricanes will host USF, Notre Dame and now Florida, as part of a robust home schedule out of conference.

Saturday night’s showdown on the neutral field in Orlando is at Camping World Stadium and will be televised as a standalone ESPN national broadcast. The Gators are ranked in the top 10 of every preseason ranking and are a touchdown favorite of the Canes.

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