They'll Have To Wait A While, But SEC Fans Have Some Fun Road Trips Coming Up

When Georgia went to Notre Dame for the first time in 2017, over 40,000 Bulldogs fans invaded South BendMatt Cashore/USA Today

Tony Barnhart

Recruiting is (mercifully) over. Spring practice is still several weeks away. So let’s have a little fun with scheduling.

It went pretty much unnoticed with all of the hype surrounding the second national signing day. But last week Florida announced that it had added a home-and-home series with California to its football schedules. The Gators will host the Bears in 2026 and return the game at Berkley in 2027.

Remember when the Gators were getting criticized all the time because they didn’t play any strong non-conference games, except for Florida State and Miami, on the opponent’s campus? In fact, you could say that about a lot of teams in the SEC.

Consider this: Steve Spurrier’s second Florida team in 1991—an SEC championship team--lost at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse 38-21. Florida has not been back to the campus of a Power Five non-conference opponent not named Florida State or Miami since. That will finally change in 2023 when Florida goes to Utah. Utah will come to the Swamp in 2022.

And there will be more good trips coming up for Gator fans as Florida has also booked home-and-homes with Arizona State (2028 in Tempe, 2031 in Gainesville), Texas (2030 in Gainesville, 2031 in Austin), and Colorado (2028 in Gainesville, 2029 in Boulder).

“Our season ticket holders have told us they want these games,” Florida athletics director Scott Stricklin said when we discussed this a few months ago. “We listened.”

But Florida is not alone in this scheduling trend.

Many schools in the SEC have also booked good non-conference home-and-homes way into the future. Remember, we’re not counting non-conference rivalry games like Georgia-Georgia Tech and Florida-Florida State. And we’re not talking about neutral site games.

What we’re talking about, as Coach Spurrier used to say, is “going to the other guy’s ballpark.”

Here are a few more SEC schools that are going to do this in the future. Mark your calendars:

ALABAMA

Texas (2022 at Austin, 2023 in Tuscaloosa)

Wisconsin (2024 at Madison, 2025 at Tuscaloosa)

West Virginia (2026 at Morgantown, 2027 in Tuscaloosa)

Florida State (2025 at Tallahassee, 2026 in Tuscaloosa)

Notre Dame (2028 at South Bend, 2029 in Tuscaloosa)

Georgia Tech (2030 in Atlanta, 2031 in Tuscaloosa)

Oklahoma (2032 in Norman, 2033 in Tuscaloosa)

Virginia Tech (2034 at Blacksburg, 2035 in Tuscaloosa

GEORGIA

Oklahoma (2023 in Norman, 2031 in Athens)

UCLA (2025 in Pasadena, 2026 in Athens)

Florida State (2027 at Tallahassee, 2028 in Athens)

Texas (2028 in Austin, 2029 in Athens)

Clemson (2029 in Clemson, 2030 in Athens, 2032 in Athens, 2033 at Clemson)

Ohio State (2030 in Athens, 2031 in Columbus)

TENNESSEE

Oklahoma (2020 in Norman, 2024 in Knoxville)

Pittsburgh (2021 in Knoxville, 2022 in Pittsburgh)

Nebraska (2026 at Lincoln, 2027 in Knoxville)

LSU

Texas (2020 in Baton Rouge; return of 2019 game in Austin)

UCLA (2021 at Pasadena, 2024 in Baton Rouge)

Clemson (2025 at Clemson, 2026 in Baton Rouge)

Oklahoma (2027 in Norman, 2028 in Baton Rouge)

Arizona State (2029 in Baton Rouge, 2030 in Tempe).

AUBURN

Penn State (2021 at State College, 2022 at Auburn)

California (2023 at Berkley, 2024 at Auburn)

Baylor (2025 at Waco, 2026 at Auburn)

UCLA (2027 at Pasadena, 2028 at Auburn

So what’s going on here?

Two things:

One deals with what the Florida athletics director said at the top. Fans to who invest a lot of money in college football want to have some unique experiences.

A school like Georgia plays eight of its 12 regular-season games against the same teams every season. (Seven SEC games and Georgia Tech). Fans want to go places and have experiences they have never had before.

For example: When Georgia went to Notre Dame in 2017 for the first time ever over 40,000 Bulldog fans found their way to South Bend. Some made a weekend of it by going to the Cubs game in Chicago on Friday and then to the Falcons game at Soldier Field on Sunday.

“That woke a lot of people up,” one SEC athletics director told me.

The other factor is that while our friends at the College Football Playoff won’t say it, we’re going to have an eight-team playoff when the current contract comes to an end after the 2025 season.

Right now it’s practically impossible for a two-loss team to get into the four-team playoff. When we go to eight teams the pool of candidates will be larger and two-loss teams will be able to get in. But to be considered as a two-loss team, you’d better play somebody on your non-conference schedule.

That’s why so many of these high-quality games are booked so far into the future.

So, dear friends, take care of yourself. College football fans in our part of the world have a lot to look forward to.

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