Gators to open 2014 with three home games, then at Alabama

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Gators will open the 2014 football season with three consecutive home games the way they did in Will Muschamp’s first season two years ago.

However, instead of playing their first road game at Kentucky like in 2011, Florida’s first away game next season will be at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The SEC released its 2014 football schedule Wednesday and one of the highlights is the renewal of the Florida-Alabama rivalry.

Florida coach Will Muschamp and his former boss, Alabama coach Nick Saban, will meet for the second time as head coaches on Sept. 20. The two programs have combined to win five of the last seven national championships.

Florida won the national title in 2006 and 2008, and Alabama has won three of the last four national titles, including two in a row.

The Gators open the 2014 season at home against Idaho on Aug. 30 in the first meeting between the schools. Idaho is set to join the Sun Belt Conference next season after playing as an independent this season.

Florida then welcomes Eastern Michigan to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Sept. 6 before opening SEC play against Kentucky at home on Sept. 13 to cap a three-game homestand to open the season. The Gators play at Miami in the second game of the 2013 season and traveled to Texas A&M in the second game of last season.

The game against Kentucky kicks off a stretch of eight consecutive conference games until Eastern Kentucky visits The Swamp on Nov. 22 in the Gators’ home finale.

The SEC is currently reviewing its football scheduling format with the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri to the conference in 2013.

At SEC Media Days last month, conference commissioner Mike Slive said the current format is set for at least the next two seasons.

“The end result was a decision to commit the conference to a review of our scheduling format in anticipation of the 2016 season,” Slive said. “This review will include whether or not to play an eight- or nine-game conference schedule and whether or not to retain permanent non-divisional opponents.

“In the meantime, until that review is complete, we will continue to schedule based on the current 6-1-1 format pending the results of that review.”

Under the 6-1-1 format, each team plays six games against teams in its own division, one permanent cross-divisional game, and one rotating cross-divisional game. The Gators continue to face LSU as their cross-divisional game and drew Alabama for 2014 as their SEC West rotating opponent.