An early look at the best college football games in 2018 in Florida

Palmetto native Willie Taggart, a Manatee High graduate, was hired at Florida State after Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M. Despite a late start, Taggart and the Seminoles finished with the nation’s No. 11 recruiting class.
Palmetto native Willie Taggart, a Manatee High graduate, was hired at Florida State after Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M. Despite a late start, Taggart and the Seminoles finished with the nation’s No. 11 recruiting class. AP

The University of South Florida and UCF released their 2018 college football schedules on Tuesday, meaning fans of all of the state’s Big Five programs know what’s ahead in the fall.

So, with the start of the season still more than six months away, here’s an early look at the premier games that will be played in the Sunshine State involving Florida, Florida State, Miami, USF and UCF.

Oct. 6: FSU at Miami

The “U” is back, right?

The 2017 season – at least the first 10 games – was a magical ride for Miami fans as coach Mark Richt had the Hurricanes ahead of schedule.

The Miami Hurricanes beat rival Florida State in Tallahassee last season en route to a 10-0 start. Steve Cannon AP

Manatee High alumnus Willie Taggart was hired as Florida State’s coach in December and he quickly assembled a staff that drove FSU’s recruiting class to No. 11 in the nation by National Signing Day.

We might be getting closer to the 1990s heyday of this rivalry.

Oct. 27: Clemson at FSU

This ACC tilt has gone a long way to determine a representative in the conference title game and the national college football playoff.

Clemson has gotten the better of Florida State each of the past three seasons en route to reaching the College Football Playoff. Rainer Ehrhardt AP

Clemson has gotten the upper hand the past three seasons. FSU won each meeting from 2012-14 and there aren’t many blowouts in recent meetings between these rivals.

The last time this game was held in Tallahassee, in 2016, the Seminoles lost by three points and Clemson went on to win the national title.

Oct. 27: Georgia vs. Florida (in Jacksonville)

After a dominating run in the series, Florida has won just three times in the past seven meetings.

Georgia had its way with Florida during last season’s meeting in Jacksonville, rolling to a 42-7 victory. Curtis Compton AP

That said, Georgia has just seven victories over Florida since 1990, though the Bulldogs were a national title contender in 2017 after blowing out the Gators, 42-7.

Georgia lost to Alabama in overtime in the national title game and is expected to contend again in 2018.

Nov. 23: UCF at USF

The annual War on I-4 was a key victory for UCF last season – 49-42 in what some called the game of the year – when the Knights went unbeaten and proclaimed themselves national champions.

USF and UCF played what some considered to be the game of the season in 2017, with the Knights pulling out a 49-42 victory. John Raoux AP

Scott Frost is no longer the head coach, bolting for his alma mater, Nebraska, after winning the American Athletic Conference crown, and the game saw Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn lose a friendly wager with Orlando’s mayor in 2017.

The game also pits former Manatee County high school stars such as UCF’s Sam Jackson against USF’s Darrien Grant, Michael Gulati, Greg Reaves and Brooks Larkin.

Nov. 24: Florida at FSU

If you’re not from South Florida, there usually are two types of college football fans who are Florida natives: Gators or Seminoles.

FSU UF football file
Florida and Florida State had little at stake when the teams met last season. Under new head coaches, both programs are looking to rebound in 2018. John Raoux AP

The longstanding rivalry game didn’t have national implications last season, as both struggled and failed to love up to expectations.

That said, both programs have new coaches (Dan Mullen in Gainesville, Taggart in Tallahassee), which should help bring the fierce rivalry back to national prominence.

Florida’s 2018 schedule

Sept. 1 vs. Charleston Southern

Sept. 8 vs. Kentucky

Sept. 15 vs. Colorado State

Sept. 22 at Tennessee

Sept. 29 at Mississippi State

Oct. 6 vs. LSU

Oct. 13 at Vanderbilt

Oct. 27 vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville)

Nov. 3 vs. Missouri

Nov. 10 vs. South Carolina

Nov. 17 vs. Idaho

Nov. 24 at Florida State

Florida State’s 2018 schedule

Sept. 3 vs. Virginia Tech

Sept. 8 vs. Samford

Sept. 15 at Syracuse

Sept. 22 vs. Northern Illinois

Sept. 29 at Louisville

Oct. 6 at Miami

Oct. 20 vs. Wake Forest

Oct. 27 vs. Clemson

Nov. 3 at N.C. State

Nov. 10 at Notre Dame

Nov. 17 vs. Boston College

Nov. 24 vs. Florida

Miami’s 2018 schedule

Sept. 2 vs. LSU (in Arlington, Texas)

Sept. 8 vs. Savannah State

Sept. 15 at Toledo

Sept. 22 vs. FIU

Sept. 27 vs. North Carolina

Oct. 6 vs. FSU

Oct. 13 at Virginia

Oct. 26 at Boston College

Nov. 3 vs. Duke

Nov. 10 at Georgia Tech

Nov. 17 at Virginia Tech

Nov. 24 vs. Pittsburgh

USF’s 2018 schedule

Sept. 1 vs. Elon

Sept. 8 vs. Georgia Tech

Sept. 15 at Illinois

Sept. 22 vs. ECU

Oct. 6 at UMass

Oct. 12 at Tulsa

Oct. 20 vs. UConn

Oct. 27 at Houston

Nov. 3 vs. Tulane

Nov. 10 at Cincinnati

Nov. 17 at Temple

Nov. 23 vs. UCF

UCF’s 2018 schedule

Aug. 30 at UConn

Sept. 8 vs. South Carolina State

Sept. 15 at North Carolina

Sept. 21 vs. FAU

Sept. 29 vs. Pittsburgh

Oct. 6 vs. SMU

Oct. 13 at Memphis

Oct. 20 at ECU

Nov. 1 vs. Temple

Nov. 10 vs. Navy

Nov. 17 vs. Cincinnati

Nov. 23 at USF