After being rumored for a while, the news became official today that Florida will open the 2017 season in the Cowboys Classic in JerryWorld against Michigan.
It is a significant departure for the Florida program, which (in)famously hasn't played a non-conference road game outside its home state since 1991. In that year, the one before the SEC schedule expanded from seven to eight with the expansion of the conference, Florida played and lost at Syracuse.
I covered all the reasons why Florida doesn't go out of state in depth a while back, but in short it is partially a quirk of geography and history. UF has played plenty of road games at Florida State and Miami in the meantime, and until Texas A&M joined the SEC, no other major program had more than one major program in its home state that isn't also in its conference. Plus, the state is just big. Michigan gets credit for an out-of-state road game when playing Notre Dame, despite South Bend, Indiana being 136 miles from Ann Arbor. By comparison, Gainesville is more than twice that distance from Miami Gardens at 286 miles.
In the official press release, UF AD Jeremy Foley cited the game as a special opportunity but not something the team will do very often. He prefers the team to have seven home games, a number most other major programs try to hit as well, and the combo of the neutral site series with Georgia and rivalry with FSU means he can't schedule non-conference road games without falling short of seven. The big factor here, almost certainly, was the reported $6 million payout. That chunk of change will salve the wound caused by missing the revenue of a seventh home game.
In any event, the game is four season away. Anyone want to bet on whether either Will Muschamp or Brady Hoke will be around for it?