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Florida Gators

Gators to the “New Year’s Six?” They deserve it

Matt Zemek



Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Viewed from a national perspective, it seems hard to believe that the Florida Gators are the ninth-best team in the United States.

West Virginia and a certain former Gator quarterback named Will Grier would love to get their mitts on the Gators. So would Washington State, a 10-2 team which might get left out of the “New Year’s Six” bowl rotation altogether. Texas and Tom Herman probably think they could win a shootout against UF. The same applies to Syracuse. Utah — which never got to play Florida in a plus-one game for the 2008 national title the Gators won — would love to meet Florida and see where the two teams stand.

Yet, as much as any of those teams might complain (of them, only Washington State has a legitimate gripe, given that it lost fewer games this season), it remains clear: Florida picked the right year in which to go 9-3.

The Gators weren’t a great team this year. Against Georgia, Missouri, and in the first 2.5 quarters against South Carolina, they were a bad team. Yet, in 2018, becoming a very good team was hard to do across the country.

Here is the statistic which explains why Florida is in a New Year’s Six game after the final Tuesday night rankings show put the Gators at No. 9, well inside the cut line for NY6 inclusion: Only two Power Five teams went 10-2 through 12 games.

That’s right: Only Washington State and Michigan went 10-2 among Power Five teams. The Mountain West had three 10-2 teams. Cincinnati went 10-2 in UCF’s American Conference. The Buffalo Bulls of the MAC went 10-2. Among power conference teams, however, the 10-2s were hard to find. The playoff contenders live in their own realm, but after that small cluster, there wasn’t much of an upper middle class.

The ACC had only one team with fewer than three losses. Same in the Big 12. Same in the Pac-12. The Big Ten had only two teams with fewer than three losses.

Going 9-3 this season put Florida and many other teams into a rather large basket. Florida benefited from its brand name and its SEC identity… and it also touted the poker-chip win over LSU.

Kentucky fans will say that they defeated Florida and should be in the NY6 instead of the Gators, and they have a reasonable point.

The counterargument: The Wildcats merely needed to beat 5-7 Tennessee — non-bowl-game Tennessee, not-very-good Tennessee — to make a New Year’s Six game. They not only lost, but got blown out.

If you do not live in the state of Florida or don’t care what happens to teams in the state of Florida, I totally understand why you might be upset that Florida will play in a New Year’s Six bowl… but the Gators are NOT the example of what’s wrong with the bowl system.

It’s Penn State.

The Nittany Lions, like Florida, went 9-3, but they don’t have anything close to UF’s win over LSU. Penn State’s best road win: at 7-5 Pittsburgh. Florida won at 8-4 Mississippi State. The Gators’ resume is clearly and objectively better than the Lions’ portfolio. Yet, PSU is — based strictly on Tuesday’s new playoff committee rankings — in line for an NY6 bowl, quite possibly as Florida’s opponent in the Peach Bowl if certain results occur on Conference Championship Weekend.

If you are a Washington State fan or any person upset that the 10-2 Cougars might get left out of the NY6 dance card, be upset at Penn State. This — unlike national elections — is NOT a Florida problem.

The Gators simply picked the perfect year to go 9-3… and they received timely help from Tennessee, of all teams. Imagine that.

When this regular season is remembered, Florida will look back on it and realize that it made a New Year’s Six game because it didn’t get down on itself in its worst moments.

The Gators lost to Kentucky and looked like a 6-6 team in the making. They dusted themselves off and won at Mississippi State, followed by the LSU conquest.

The Gators trailed Vanderbilt by 18 in a classic ambush game. They didn’t pout. They got mad, got even… and then won.

The Gators played those 10 terrible quarters against Georgia, Mizzou, and South Carolina, but stormed back against the Gamecocks to dig out a 35-31 win which ultimately made the difference between a great bowl and a good bowl.

In most seasons, this would not have been a New Year’s Six-worthy campaign, but with only two 10-2 teams in the realm of the Power Five conferences, the Gators — clearly better than the Penn State team they might face one month from now — put themselves in position to benefit.

Seven is supposed to be a lucky number, but the Gators’ No. 9 ranking has them in position to experience the sweet smell of six-scented success. Don’t blame the Gators for collecting this prize — this year in college football, other teams simply weren’t ready to claim it.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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Florida Gators

Gators and Canes- It’s complicated

Matt Zemek



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



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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