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SEC Football Preview 2014: Florida Stays on Schedule in a Crucial Year for Will Muschamp

There's nothing too out-of-the-ordinary in the Gators' slate this season, with the possible exception of the importance of the results to the head coach

Sam Greenwood

Like more than a few SEC teams, Florida's schedule has developed a kind of rhythm over the last several years. Some cupcakes join Kentucky early to make up most of September, there's a game against Tennessee somewhere in the first several weeks of the season, and then the game against Georgia to kick off November, with the South Carolina game often serving as the SEC finale and Florida State representing the last game of the regular season. That's pretty much how things shape up this year, though there's at least one opponent ready to spice up the normally sluggish September.

Lopsided. Hey, errbody, it's the long-awaited first gridiron meeting between Florida and Idaho. Don't worry, Gator fans -- Idaho is not an FCS team. That's later. Eastern Michigan occupies Florida's semi-regular MAC conference slot. Then comes the game against Kentucky, a team that last beat the Gators a few days after news of the Iran-contra scandal broke. This year also marks the 35th anniversary of Kentucky's last victory in Gainesville. Barring something extraordinary, 2016 will mark the 37th anniversary of Kentucky's last victory in the Swamp. Florida's been less successful against Alabama; the Tide has won six of the last eight meetings between the two teams stretching back to 1999.

Rivals. A lot of people have underlined the Tennessee game as a possible upset, and it is probably the most dangerous game for Florida among the games in which they'll be favored. But Florida also gets a helpful post-Alabama bye, meaning the biggest external factor in that game is the possibility that Florida looks ahead to the game against LSU. Still, Tennessee hasn't beaten Florida since 2004. The game against LSU could end up playing a large role in how both teams' seasons play out. Missouri is the homecoming game; the Tigers lost their first trip to Gainesville two years ago.

Trying to avoid deja vu. This schedule really hasn't changed since last season -- just substitute Eastern Kentucky for Georgia Southern -- and this is really where the wheels came off in 2013. After dominating what is still the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party for 20 years, Florida has now lost three straight editions, one of the reasons that Will Muschamp is on the "hot seat" this year. Losses to Vanderbilt and an FCS team last year didn't help, and those games are once again sandwiched around the game against South Carolina, which has suddenly won three of the last four in the series. Not coincidentally, Florida State has the same mark over the last four years. If Muschamp is looking for a few wins that could dramatically change his standing with Florida fans, November is a good place to start.