With the state’s entire 2021 college football schedule released, let’s indulge in a much-needed jolt of optimism. Maybe the coronavirus pandemic will have subsided enough by September for the sport to enjoy a (relatively) normal season, unlike the stop-and-start mess of 2020.
Prepare for a long, high-profile opening weekend
It begins with USF on a Thursday night (Sept. 2) against the ACC’s North Carolina State and ends with a Sunday night clash of two big-name programs, Notre Dame and Florida State. In the middle, Miami faces Alabama in Atlanta, Willie Taggart gets another crack at the Gators and UCF hosts Boise State in a battle for potential Group of Five supremacy. We’ll see whether the Hurricanes and Seminoles are up for the challenge, but this has a lot of promise.
Make sure you’re free on…
Oct. 16. Florida travels to LSU in the latest in a rivalry that is never, ever boring. Please keep your cleats double-knotted. North Carolina hosts Miami in a showdown between two Coastal Division contenders. And UCF-Cincinnati is probably the AAC’s marquee game of the season.
Most interesting weekend
After a pair of Group of Five tune-ups (Florida Atlantic and USF), the Gators open SEC play against reigning national champion Alabama. It’s not exactly a referendum on the Dan Mullen era, but it will tell us how much closer the Gators are after their 52-46 loss in the SEC championship? Assuming FSU’s first two games (Notre Dame and Jacksonville State) are as lopsided as we expect, a visit to Wake Forest will be our first real sign of Mike Norvell’s progress in Year 2. Michigan State-Miami is an intriguing, brand-name matchup, and UCF has a chance to earn a Power Five victory at Louisville. That’s a nice slate.
The early rivalry weekend
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I feel confident that one game on Oct. 30 (Florida-Georgia) will be big and important. I’m much less certain about FSU’s chances at Clemson, although that rivalry will have a little more spice after last year’s back-and-forth over a positive test with the Tigers.
Schedule your fall wedding on …
Oct. 9. The Bulls and Hurricanes are both off, while the Gators host Vanderbilt and its first-year head coach (Clark Lea). UCF shouldn’t have a problem with East Carolina, either. The only good thing about this weekend is FSU’s trip to North Carolina, whom the Seminoles upset last year.