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Important games on the Florida Football 2024 schedule

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Florida football starting quarterback Graham Mertz is looking forward to a 2024 schedule that is as demanding as any in college football.

Of the 12 games scheduled for the Florida Gators, 11 are against Power Conference opponents. This also includes non-conference events with opponents Miami State (August 31), UCF (October 5) and Florida State (November 30).

“That’s why you play in Florida,” Mertz said on the Paul Finebaum Show last month. “It’s about these encounters. You want to play at the highest level against the greatest competition. We know what lies ahead. We see it every day when we go into the locker room. And that excites us.”

The home stretch of UF's 2024 schedule is daunting as UF's final five opponents (Georgia at Jacksonville on November 2nd; at Texas on November 9th, LSU on November 16th, Ole Miss on November 23rd and at FSU on Nov. 30) all finished within minutes of the top 13 in the College Football Playoff rankings at the end of last season.

Here are five crucial games for UF in the 2024 season:

August 31, Florida Football vs. Miami

Florida will have to face its upstate rival immediately. Although UF and Miami no longer play regularly, tensions between the two schools remain high. Florida and Miami engaged in a Bourbon Street Brawl before the 2000 Sugar Bowl. In 1971, the infamous Florida flop occurred, in which UF defenders allowed Miami to intentionally score a TD to get the ball back to quarterback John Reaves so he could set an NCAA career record.

Miami leads the all-time series 29-27, although Florida won the last match 24-20 on August 24, 2019 in Orlando. It's a big game for both head coaches to build momentum and confidence leading their respective programs. Billy Napier is 11-14 starting his year at Florida, while Mario Cristobal is 12-13 in two seasons at Miami.

The Hurricanes will bring in a new quarterback – highly touted Washington State transfer Cameron Ward, who passed for 3,735 yards and 25 TDs while rushing for 8 more TDs last season. Florida will return starting quarterback Graham Mertz, who threw for 2,903 yards with 20 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions in his first season as UF's starting QB in 2023.

September 14, Florida Football vs. Texas A&M

Florida will host the Aggies in their SEC football opener at The Swamp. Texas A&M is led by first-year coach Mike Elko, who worked wonders at Duke and won the 2022 ACC Coach of the Year award. Considered a strong defensive player, Elko hired former Florida Linebackers coach Jay Bateman as his new defensive coordinator and former defensive line coach Sean Spencer as his new defensive coach.

Texas A&M powerhouse quarterback Conner Weigman missed most of the 2023 season with a foot injury and will no longer have standout receiver Evan Stewart since Stewart transferred to Oregon. It's another game where Florida will have to capitalize on the home crowd's momentum and minimize mistakes on both sides of the football.

October 19, Florida Football vs. Kentucky

The Gators host the Wildcats at The Swamp and will look to break their three-game losing streak in the series. At least UF no longer has to deal with former UK running back Ray Davis or former UK offensive coordinator Liam Coen since both have gone to the NFL. Last season, with Davis in charge and Coen calling counterattack after counterattack, the Wildcats rushed for 334 yards in Kentucky's 33-14 win in Lexington. Florida must first stop the run this season and force Georgia transfer quarterback Brock Vandagriff to beat the Gators through the air.

November 2, Florida Football vs. Georgia, Jacksonville

It's not an out-and-out win for the Gators, but Florida needs to show it has somewhat closed the gap with a competitive game after losing by 23 points last season and 22 points in 2022, which cost UF a bowl for the first time since 2017 -Trip.

Keeping Mertz upright will be one of the keys of the game, as he was sacked five times last season and lost a fumble against a relentless Georgia pass rush. Former UF running back Trevor Etienne, who will face the Gators for the first time in a Georgia jersey, will add even more spice to the match.

November 23, Florida Football vs. Ole Miss

Senior Day (or Night) at The Swamp will usher in the Lane Train as Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin will field a team that could compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff in late November. Florida could be playing the role of spoilsport at this point in the season and will look to field a strong offense led by returning starting quarterback Jaxson Dart of OleM. to break. Former Florida edge rusher Princely Umanmielen will also return to the Swamp in an Ole Miss uniform after sharing some thoughts about how he was coached at UF last season. They were not flattering and Umanmielen was treated to some boos as a result.

Florida Football 2024 Schedule

August 31st – Miami

September 7th – Samford

September 14 – Texas A&M

September 21 – at Mississippi State

Oct. 5 – UCF

Oct. 12 – in Tennessee

Oct. 19 – Kentucky

November 2nd – Georgia, Jacksonville

November 9th – in Texas

Nov. 16—LSU

November 23 – Ole Miss

November 30 – at Florida State

Kevin Brockway is a beat writer for The Gainesville Sun Florida. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @KevinBrockwayG1