Photo courtesy of Alex de la Osa/Florida athletics
The University of Florida released its 2021 football schedule on Tuesday. After three straight New Year’s Six appearances, the Gators will open their season on Sept. 4 against Florida Atlantic.
The Gators’ schedule features games against SEC opponents Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, and Missouri. It also features a game against in-state rival Florida State and fellow in-state foe, South Florida.
Florida will face the following opponents at home at “The Swamp” in Gainesville: Florida Atlantic (Sept. 4), Alabama (Sept. 18), Tennessee (Sept. 25), Vanderbilt (Oct. 9), Samford (Nov. 13) and Florida State (Nov. 27).
The Gators will hit the road in 2021 for games against South Florida (Sept. 11), Kentucky (Oct. 2), LSU (Oct. 16), South Carolina (Nov. 6), and Missouri (Nov. 20).
And as always, the world’s largest tailgate party in Jacksonville will be happening in 2021. The Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs will face off in their annual rivalry match-up held in neutral territory at TIAA Bank Field on Oct. 30.
Florida and USF
One unique game that should be fun for Floridians this year is the start of the home-and-home series between Florida and South Florida. The two schools initially announced a three-game series in 2018 and it was originally scheduled to start in 2022.
However, the universities announced later that year that the series was going to begin one year earlier. The first of the three games played over a five-year span will be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa — home of the 2021 NFC champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“We are excited to get the Gators in Tampa two years earlier than originally scheduled and to add to our 2021 non-conference schedule that also includes games at NC State and BYU,” USF Vice President of Athletics, Michael Kelly said in a statement.
This will be just the second time the Bulls and Gators have met for a regular season match-up. The first time the two teams met was in 2010 as the Gators defeated the Bulls, 38-14. USF will make trips to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2022 and 2025.
The SEC East Championship?
Another big match-up for the Gators, as always, is the annual rivalry game with Georgia in Jacksonville. This rivalry is one of the most historic in all of college sports, if not all of sports in general, dating all the way back to 1904. This yearly meet up between the Gators and the Bulldogs brings “tradition, rivalry, and excellence,” per the game’s motto.
This year, the game will be played on Oct. 30. It was the Gators who prevailed in 2020, defeating the Bulldogs 44-28 under the lights in Jacksonville. Still, the Bulldogs lead in wins in the storied match-up. The Gators have 44 wins, 52 losses, and two ties against the Bulldogs.
Florida will look to beat Georgia in consecutive years for the first time since winning three straight from 2014 to 2016. The winner of the rivalry contest has won the SEC East in each of the last six seasons.
Sunshine State Rivalry Returns
As long as COVID-19 allows, the 2021 season will feature the return of the rivalry between the Florida Gators and the Florida State Seminoles. This match-up is one that fans look forward to each season, and this season, it will be the Gators with home-field advantage as they look to defeat the Seminoles at home in the Swamp. As always, this game concludes the two schools’ regular season schedule.
Throughout the years, it is the Gators who lead this series, with 36 wins, 26 losses, and two ties. They have won two in a row, with their latest win coming in 2019 when they defeated the Seminoles 40-17 in Gainesville.
The annual rivalry game was cancelled in 2020 when the SEC eliminated non-conference play from schedules. It marked the first time the teams did not meet since 1957. But as long as COVID allows, this season will see the return of the annual historic rivalry game.
Other Notable SEC Match-ups
As noted above, the Gators will face some of their typical SEC foes, as well as one they don’t see every year. In addition to the SEC East and annual crossover opponent LSU, Florida will take on Alabama in an SEC Championship rematch. It is the first regular season meeting between the schools since 2014.
Florida will be looking for a comeback and an upset of Alabama when the two teams face off on Sept. 18. Alabama defeated Florida 52-46 in the 2020 SEC Championship — a game in which the Gators, at times, looked like they were going to defeat the Crimson Tide. Florida ultimately came up short.
The Gators will also be seeking revenge against their rivals from the bayou of Louisiana on Oct. 18. LSU defeated the Gators 37-34 in 2020 in a heartbreaker at the Swamp. This year, the rivalry heads to Baton Rouge, where the Gators will hope to defeat the Tigers on their home territory — a place known to be difficult for visiting teams to play.
This is an exciting schedule for the University of Florida and Gator nation. It will be a challenging one for the Gators, but one that will be a lot of fun.
The Gators will have work to do with quarterback Kyle Trask and tight end Kyle Pitts entering the 2021 NFL Draft. The Gators, however, still have a lot of great talent on their roster and are expected to make another run to the top of the SEC East. Florida hasn’t won the conference since 2008, but if it can, it has the potential to compete for the program’s fourth national championship.