Florida Gators’ Dan Mullen on USF series, Charlie Strong

“People in the state of Florida can be excited about that game,” Mullen says of UF playing at Raymond James Stadium.
Dan Mullen thinks it'll be a big deal when his Florida Gators return to Raymond James Stadium to play USF in 2023. (TIMES 2017)
Dan Mullen thinks it'll be a big deal when his Florida Gators return to Raymond James Stadium to play USF in 2023. (TIMES 2017)
Published May 16

TAMPA — Once the off-field questions about the Gators’ turbulent three weeks subsided during a stop at Armature Works on Wednesday night, Florida coach Dan Mullen was asked about scheduling.

UF has recently announced upcoming home-and-home series with Texas and Colorado. But Mullen also brought up another important series in this state.

“The opportunity to come here and play South Florida, to come play here at Raymond James Stadium ... ” Mullen said.

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“I think that most people in this room would agree that’s a really great deal for us. Now, again, people across the country might not be excited about that game, but people in the state of Florida can be excited about that game.”

I don’t know how excited people across the country will be about the game, or how it will be viewed by the College Football Playoff committee (whatever that looks like) and pollsters. Who knows what the landscape will be when UF plays at Raymond James Stadium in 2023, and when it hosts the Bulls in ’22 and ’25?

But it’s a more exciting matchup here than UF-Idaho or USF-Georgia Tech.

It makes sense geographically for both teams. It makes sense financially — it’s a cheaper game for the Gators than some other non-conference payouts. It makes sense on the field for UF, assuming the Bulls remain one of the better Group of Five programs six years from now.

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In a stunning turn of events, USF has taken some heat from fans of rival UCF about scheduling two-for-one series with Power Five programs after the Bulls announced a deal with Miami earlier this week.

But Mullen thinks that type of scheduling is a smart move for USF, too.

“I think Charlie (Strong) is doing a great job at USF and is a great football coach,” Mullen said. “They are looking at what is the best benefit to their program. One, to get to play high-profile games helps them in recruiting. (It) gives them the opportunity to get signature wins. But also, what’s the best position for them to help develop their team to go win the conference championship?”

Winning a conference championship, Mullen said, is all a coach can control. And growing your players by scheduling strong non-conference opponents is one way to help boost your team’s odds of winning a title.

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