We turn our attention today to Florida’s 2011 schedule as Will Muschamp takes over in Gainesville:
Nonconference opponents (2010 records)
Sept. 3: Florida Atlantic (4-8)
Sept. 10: UAB (4-8)
Nov. 19: Furman (5-6)
Nov. 26: Florida State (10-4)
SEC home games
Sept. 24: Tennessee
Oct. 1: Alabama
Nov. 5: Vanderbilt
Oct. 29: Georgia (in Jacksonville, Fla.)
SEC road games
Sept. 24: at Kentucky
Oct. 8: at LSU
Oct. 15: at Auburn
Nov. 12: at South Carolina
Gut-check time: The Florida-LSU series has been one of the most physical in the league, and that 2007 head-knocker might have set the standard. The Tigers will again be a load defensively this season and get the Gators in Baton Rouge on Oct. 8. It’s also the first of three straight games for Florida away from the Swamp.
Trap game: Tennessee last beat Florida when Ron Zook was coaching the Gators (2004), so it’s been a while. The two teams meet in their traditional third Saturday in September spot this season, and Florida will still be finding out a lot about its football team at that point. Tennessee is probably a year away from contending in the East, but has played Florida tough each of the past two years. It won’t be an easy SEC opener for the Gators.
Snoozer: Take your pick of those first two, which is an annual ritual with the Gators. They open the season with Florida Atlantic and UAB.
Telltale stretch: A pretty easy call here. Florida gets Alabama at home on Oct. 1 and then hits the road the next week to face LSU. The Crimson Tide and Tigers will both open the season ranked in the top 5 in the country. And after that harrowing two-game swing, Florida will remain on the road to face defending national champion Auburn.
Final analysis: The Gators catch a lot of grief nationally for never leaving the state of Florida to play anybody in their nonconference slate, but that’s probably not fair since they play Florida State every year, especially now that the Seminoles are on their way back under Jimbo Fisher. Taking on an archrival expected to start the season in the top 10 after grinding your way through the SEC would be a daunting task for anybody. The month of October will tell us a lot about where this program is headed under Muschamp. Over and above games against Alabama, Georgia and LSU, a trip to Auburn is included in that brutal stretch, and the Tigers have had the Gators’ number. Florida has lost three of its last four games to Auburn, and the only win came in overtime. Florida also has to travel to South Carolina on Nov. 12, which will be the Gators’ fourth game away from home in five outings. There’s some tough sledding ahead for Muschamp in his debut season.