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Our early 2020 Florida college football viewing guide

Make sure you’re free on Oct. 10, take Sept. 12 off, and why Week 1 is weirder than usual.
Florida Gators running back Lamical Perine (22) smashes into LSU Tigers safety John Battle (26) in the second quarter. (Bronte Wittpenn, Times) [Times]

Now that the AAC has released its 2020 schedule, let’s take a big-picture look at the state’s football calendar. Here’s a quick viewing guide for this season. Plan your out-of-town trips accordingly.

Make sure you’re free on

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Florida State, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro) [RICHARD SHIRO | AP]

Oct. 10. LSU will probably regress without Joe Brady and Joe Burrow, but the Tigers will still be a formidable rival when they come to Gainesville. That same day, Clemson visits Florida State. I’m not expecting the Seminoles to be able to hang with those Tigers yet, but the presumptive national title favorite coming to the state is still a big deal. This isn’t the deepest weekend on the calendar, but it still has two marquee matchups. Or two matchups with marquee names, at least.

Related: The good, the bad, the ugly: Revisiting Matt Baker’s preseason college football picks

Most intriguing weekend

December 12, 2019: Willie Taggart is introduced at a press conference in Boca Raton, Florida as the Florida Atlantic Owls new head football coach.(Credit Image: © JC Ridley/CSM via ZUMA Wire) [JC RIDLEY |]

Sept. 26. Tennessee is no longer a shipwreck, so Florida’s trip to Knoxville won’t be a cakewalk. I have no idea what to expect from Miami or coach Manny Diaz. I also have no idea what to expect from Michigan State and new coach Mel Tucker. But one of them will get a nice victory in their meeting in East Lansing. And the matchup of Willie Taggart’s old team (USF) facing his new one (Florida Atlantic) in Boca Raton is juicy.

Schedule your fall wedding on

MONICA HERNDON | Times Florida Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks (13) watches the jumbo tron while the final play of the game against the Kentucky Wildcats is under reviewon September 8, 2018 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. The Florida Gators lost 16 to 27. [MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times]

Sept. 12. Yeah, it’ll still be scorching, but you probably won’t miss much action, unless Kentucky can hang with (or upset) Florida again at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The rest of the day has three Division I-AA opponents (Wagner at Miami, Bethune-Cookman at USF, Samford at FSU) and Florida International at UCF. Yawn.

Group of Five statement day

Boise State Broncos players greet fans after the Florida State Seminoles game against the Boise State Broncos at Doak Campbell Stadium on August 31, 2019 in Tallahassee, Florida. Florida State Seminoles lost to Boise State Broncos, 31 to 36. [MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times]

Sept. 19. I would not be surprised at all if Boise State beats FSU on the blue turf. Or if UAB knocks off Miami at Hard Rock Stadium. Or if UCF beats Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Related: Pooping rhinos, profanity and fan ultimatums: Inside FSU’s Bob Stoops emails

Toughest November

New University of South Florida football coach Jeff Scott, left meets with players Darrian Felix, 20, a red shirt junior running back from Ft. Myers, center, and Cade Fortin, 20, a red shirt sophomore quarterback from Suwanee, GA., right, Thursday, January 16, 2020 during a team meeting at USF, Tampa. [SCOTT KEELER | TAMPA BAY TIMES]

USF. The Bulls start the month at Memphis, which should again be a Group of Five heavyweight. Then USF goes to Houston, who won’t be as good without D’Eriq King but is still formidable. Then always-tricky Navy visits Raymond James Stadium before a Black Friday game against UCF. Oof.

Week 1 weirdness that might only interest me

Miami head coach Manny Diaz reacts to a call during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Louisville, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) [WILFREDO LEE | AP]

When the FSU-West Virginia opener in Atlanta was announced, it had a cool storyline of West Virginia native Jimbo Fisher facing his home-state team. Fisher, of course, is no longer coaching the ’Noles. Likewise, it made sense for the Gators to schedule I-AA Eastern Washington so coach Jim McElwain could face his alma mater. It doesn’t make as much sense now. USF’s trip to Texas was going to be the Charlie Strong Bowl … except ex-Texas coach is now an ex-USF coach, too. At least we get the Manny Diaz Bowl when Diaz’s Hurricanes host Temple, the school Diaz coached for 18 glorious days before leaving for Miami.

Related: Miami Hurricanes’ Manny Diaz is in danger of becoming another Willie Taggart