It’s time to make travel plans. The SEC announced the conference schedule rotation Monday through the 2025 season, giving you plenty of time to make those plans accordingly. In April, it was announced the SEC would keep an eight game league schedule, with a 6-1-1 format. That meant Florida would play the other six SEC East teams, their permanent cross division rival LSU, and another SEC West team on rotation. On Monday, the conference announced the rotation the Gators will play.
This season, Florida get’s the nerve-wracking task of heading to Tuscaloosa to face likely top-five Alabama. That’s been known for months. But future SEC West opponents were unknown. That is, until now. Starting in 2015, the Gators will host Ole Miss for the first time since Tim Tebow’s “The Promise” in 2008, travel to Arkansas in 2016, and welcome Texas A&M to The Swamp for the first time in 2017. In 2018, Florida will go to Starkville to take on Mississippi State, a team that has given them fits at Davis Wade Stadium. They host former rival Auburn in 2019, then go back to Mississippi in 2020 to face Ole Miss. Florida plays host to Alabama in 2021, goes back to College Station, TX in 2022, hosts the Razorbacks in 2023, heads to Auburn in 2024, and finishes up the current schedule plan in 2025 by hosting Mississippi State. All this is, of course, in addition to alternating home and away with the six other SEC East teams and LSU. This season, that means Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, and LSU play in Gainesville, while Florida goes on the road to Tennessee and Vanderbilt, and will be the away team for the annual tilt with Georgia in Jacksonville. Those sites will flip next year.
Some obvious things come to mind when you see the schedule. It’s going to be a tough forseeable future in SEC play for the Gators with Alabama, an improving Ole Miss squad, Texas A&M’s strong recruiting classes, and former Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen putting together a solid team with Mississippi State. Who knows what these teams will be beyond those years, but it’s certainly going to be a tough run.
Another thing that pops out is Florida’s closest meeting with Auburn, unless they play in the SEC Championship, comes in 2019. That seems like light-years away given the heated rivalry that used to exist between the Gators and Tigers. Auburn is definitely a game that I’m sad to see will not be played with any frequency. Auburn’s campus is wonderful, beautiful, hospitable, and a place I’d like to visit more often.
Florida’s recruiting footprint in Texas also takes a hit with the next trip to College Station occurring in 2022. Recruits always want to play close to home and now the Gators can’t really offer that option during conference play for the next four to five recruiting cycles. Florida does get to say they’ll play in Texas in 2017 when they open the season against Michigan in the Cowboys Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Hopefully that will be enough to get some of the blue chip talent from one of the most productive states in the union.
The release of the schedule through 2025 also signals that we’re stuck with the 6-1-1 schedule for at least the next 11 years. I’m personally not a fan. I like to travel across the Southeast and take in the sights and sounds of college football’s greatest conference. At least now I have an idea of when must-see destinations will occur.