It looks like what turned out to be the most hyped up Gator football game that was never played will have to wait even longer to be settled.
Idaho has removed Florida from its 2017 schedule, and replaced the Gators with Missouri. There are going to be a lot of disappointed Gator fans upon reading this (particularly the ones who stuck it out in a mini hurricane), but, well, there’s no doubt Idaho AD Rob Spear was enticed by the $1.3 million Mizzou offered to host the Vandals, as it’s a substantially larger payout than the $975K Florida offered. It’s also a much shorter trip for the Vandals, and to a far less hostile environment no less. Spear has said that the game will be played in an “undetermined season.”
Florida now has three contractually obligated games to play that are in limbo, the first of which is the back end of a two game series with South Florida, and the other of which is the game against Colorado State Florida agreed to host in exchange for poaching McElwain out of Fort Collins (plus another $5 million). That game is slated to be played between 2017 and 2020, and this open date Idaho has created in 2017 makes it plausible that the game will take place then. Typically, when teams agree to play “between this year and that year”, both sides want to play it sooner rather than later, because open dates are much easier to fill the farther down the road they are. We knock on FSU’s out of conference schedule a lot- and rightfully so, because it’s downright laughable- but this is what happens when you’re suddenly forced to scramble to fill a date on your schedule with time, and not quality of opponent, as your top priority.
Florida’s 2017 schedule is already pretty daunting as it is, though, so if replacing Idaho with Colorado State is indeed what happens, it could make it the toughest in recent memory. The Gators are already slated to take on Michigan in the 2017 Cowboys Kickoff Classic in Dallas to complement the always tough SEC schedule, and then there’s the annual showdown with FSU. Florida is certain to make that fourth non conference team a true cupcake, but remember that the Gators usually play three cupcakes a year, of which at least one is an FCS team, plus FSU. For example, in 2009, Florida played Charleston Southern (FCS), Troy (Sun Belt cellar dweller) and Florida International (Conference USA cellar dweller). Compare that with what could be in 2017: Michigan (powerhouse Big 10), Florida State (powerhouse ACC), Colorado State (traditionally one of the best in the Mountain West) and one cupcake.
Before you get irritated with Idaho for backing out, remember that Florida basically did the same thing with its second game against USF, for reasons I can’t really understand. The Gators also repeatedly shy away from playing Miami on a yearly basis, and while playing in Sun Life Stadium is more of a 50/50 Gators/Canes split, that’s about as good of odds as you could possibly ask for when playing a road game at another BCS conference school. Plus, it’s a fantastic recruiting opportunity. So don’t criticize Idaho for not wanting to travel some 2,700 miles to take a beating they know damn well is coming.
Instead, let’s just take the opportunity to be grateful that Florida will be playing a better schedule than it has in years past. Let’s be honest, what’s the fun/gain in pummeling Eastern Michigan or Appalachian State? Playing tougher teams on a week to week basis will give us a better indication of where the team stands heading into the real important piece of the schedule, the SEC slate. And on another note, tougher schedules is exactly what the College Football Playoff wants to see. What if, in 2017, Florida goes 10-2 and finishes second in the SEC East to a team that gets pummeled in Atlanta- with Michigan, FSU and Colorado State on its schedule? That certainly would work in the Gators’ favor.
So yes, while Idaho backing out likely makes Florida’s 2017 schedule a war zone, it’s really not such a bad thing. Florida football teams since 2010 have lost virtually every major battle (rivalry games and big bowl games) they’ve been a part of, so stacking more battles in front of them will only help them get ready for the ones that really matter.