As if his first Florida schedule isn't tough enough with LSU, Auburn, Alabama and Florida State among the opponents, Florida coach Will Muschamp will have another issue to deal with several times this season: watching friends become foes. Throughout the course of the season, Muschamp — a former Georgia player and LSU and Auburn assistant — will spend a lot of time preparing for teams coached by personal friends Nick Saban, Derek Dooley and Jimbo Fisher, just to name a few.
"I've got great respect for those guys," Muschamp said. "They're all outstanding coaches. They do a great job with their programs. I think when you spend as much time as we do as coaches with each other, working through from a coaching standpoint, a recruiting standpoint, you spend an awful lot of time with those guys. You get to know those guys and their families. So I'm looking forward to all those rivalries."
Dooley, now in his second season at Tennessee, was one of the people Muschamp contacted when deciding whether to take the Florida job.
"Of course, I had mixed feelings," Dooley said about Muschamp's hiring. "I was proud of him. He deserved it. He's earned it. But I'd rather him be at Texas because he's a friend of mine. I mean, that's just how it is."
As for the Florida-Tennessee game, Dooley's friendship won't mean a thing on Sept. 17.
"I don't think it has any impact," Dooley said. "I really don't — on the game. I don't know him in a way and he doesn't know me in a way that's going to be this differencemaker on game day. We're certainly not going to be concerned about the other's well-being on game day."
The Gators have an all-time record of 77-27 on opening day, including 62-6 in Gainesville. Florida is looking to extend its SEC-best opening day winning streak, which is 21 games — the second-longest current streak in the nation. South Carolina is the only other SEC school to win its past 10 or more openers.
Words of wisdom
Last year at this time, Urban Meyer was the coach at Florida, preparing for his sixth season. Today, he's an ESPN analyst preparing for his first game in the TV booth. Nobody knows better what Muschamp is facing as Florida's coach, and the two have talked often about the joys and pitfalls of the job.
"I said that's probably the loneliest chair," Meyer said. "There's a lot of head coaches in this country sitting in that lonely chair because there's only so many guys you can talk to. All your colleagues now are basically your enemies. Because in the recruiting circus, you can't call a guy up with an issue of what you're dealing with, or staff issues, or player issues or whatever is going on. So you have to have a relationship. And those are really, really hard to find. … I told him I was there for him."
Meyer, who has visited his old school several times, said Muschamp is doing just fine.
"Obviously he hasn't coached a game, but he's got a handle on it," he said. "I'm really impressed that with the magnitude of the job that he is so focused. He hired some really good guys, and they're trying to help him as well. So he's really focusing on the defensive side of the ball. He trusts D.J. Durkin with special teams, and he trusts Charlie Weis on offense. So I'm real impressed with the people he's put around him."
Season-opening win streaks (national)
Southern Cal 13
Season-opening win streaks (SEC)
South Carolina 11