The Gators enter 2021 with high expectations after an 8-4 season and an appearance in their first SEC title game since 2016.
They’re going to have to earn their way back to Atlanta because their fall schedule, which was released Wednesday, gives Florida no room for error.
After a COVID-riddled season limited non-SEC opponents, Florida will open up 2021 against back-to-back Group of Five opponents with its first game againstFAU Sep. 4. The Gators will then drive down I-75 to Tampa to battle USF Sep. 11.
After two games against lesser opponents , UF will be thrown into the fire, opening its SEC slate in The Swamp against the Alabama Crimson Tide Sep. 18. A rematch of the 2020 SEC Championship game, this will be the Tide’s first trip to Gainesville since 2011, when Trent Richardson and company bulldozed the Gators 38-10.
The Tennessee Volunteers will come to town Sep. 25 — led by a new head coach: Josh Heupel, who previously worked at UCF. Florida carries a four-game winning streak in this matchup with Tennessee and has a 15-5 home record against the Volunteers.
The Gators will leave the Sunshine State for the first time Oct. 2, heading north to Lexington, Kentucky, to play the Wildcats. The last time Florida played Kentucky in Lexington, the legend of Kyle Trask was born. UF has historically owned this matchup, boasting a 53-18 record against the Wildcats since their first matchup in 1917.
Florida will return to Gainesville Oct. 9 for a date with the Vanderbilt Commodores before going to Death Valley to take on the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a week later.
The Tigers have taken the last two matchups in dramatic fashion. Florida arguably gave the buzzsaw that was the Joe Burrow-led Tiger offense its toughest test. Last season’s game will live in Florida fans’ minds for the rest of eternity. Ranked by ESPN as the No. 1 college football game of the season, LSU spoiled Florida’s senior night, upsetting the Gators 37-34 on a 57-yard field goal. And, a now infamous cleat was thrown.
After a bye week, Florida will travel to Jacksonville to write another chapter in one of the greatest rivalries in sports at the annual Florida-Georgia game. The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party will take place on Halloween Eve. The Gators were able to end a three-year losing skid last year against Georgia, beating the Bulldogs in a 44-28 shootout.
Florida will follow up one intense SEC game with another, as it will go up to Columbia, South Carolina, to battle the Gamecocks Nov. 6. The Gators have historically dominated the Cocks, with a career record of 29-9-3 and three wins in a row.
After a brief pitstop in Gainesville against Samford University Nov. 13, the Gators will hit the road to Columbia, Missouri, for a matchup with the Missouri Tigers Nov. 20.
Mizzou has given Florida some trouble since it made the move from the Big-12 to the SEC. Since 2012, UF is 5-4 against the Tigers and 2-2 in Columbia.
The Gators will conclude their regular season the only way they should — through a post-Thanksgiving battle with rival FSU. The last time these two teams met was a 2019, 40-17 thrashing in The Swamp. Despite COVID-19 cancelling their 2020 matchup, this year’s game will be played in Gainesville Nov. 27.
Contact Michael Hull at Mhull@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @Michael_Hull33
Michael Hull is a fourth-year journalism sports & media major and a sports writer at The Alligator. He hosts the weekly sports podcast and has worked on staff for five semesters. In the past, Hull has served as the sports editor, the men's and women's golf beat writer, the volleyball beat writer and the football beat writer.