The Flora-Bama bar alone is reason enough for Florida and Alabama to play football more often.
It is quite possibly the greatest bar in America. Located just steps from the sugary beaches and sky blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico in the back and the Florida-Alabama state line in the front, it has the best royal red shrimp in either state. It also pairs rednecks and blue bloods in and from various states next to one another.
It also has the perfect name – Flora-Bama. It just flows together like the waves and the sand, and the rum and the amaretto in a Bushwacker.
And just four miles into Alabama at Ono Island is where one of the first Florida-Alabama skirmishes took place over, predictably, land, which is what football is all about.
As the story goes, a hurricane in 1916 ripped a strip from the Alabama mainland, forming a small island toward the Florida side. When Florida officials decided to claim the territory, Alabama officials said “Oh, no,” and a name was born. Alabama kept the land.
If somebody made that up, it’s better than most of what the SEC football schedulers make up.
The University of Alabama and the University of Florida played football for the first time in 1916, and the Crimson Tide won 16-0 in Jacksonville, Florida. But the border states’ flagship institutions have met only 30 more times in the regular season over the last 100-plus years.
They will play for the 32nd time in a regular season on Saturday in Gainesville, Florida, (2:30 p.m. Central, CBS). Bama is a 14.5-point favorite on FanDuel. There have been only 12 games in Tuscaloosa with the 12th meeting coming up in Gainesville, which will host these two SEC titans for the first time since 2011. Yet, these two have combined to win 16 of the 29 league championships since 1992.
Meanwhile, Mississippi State and Kentucky – you know, that great Delta-Blue Grass Classic — will meet for the 49th time this season and 32nd regular season in a row since 1990. Mississippi State and Kentucky are permanent West-East opponents, like Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, which have met 93 times and every year since 1945. And why is that?
“If we got rid of some of the permanent games in the SEC, you would have more opportunities to play these games, which the fans love,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said.
Mullen sounded extremely enthused about hosting the Tide, even though he is 0-10 against Alabama coach Nick Saban.
“I mean, I didn’t know the last time they were here was 2011,” Mullen said. “That’s a long time between playing a conference team at home.”
That’s a conference team in a state that touches yours.
“If we create more of these games, it’s really good for the fans, good for the players and good for the conference,” Mullen said. “The more you get to play different teams within your league, the better it is for the fans and the players. And if they don’t play every single year, that makes it an even bigger game.”
Florida and LSU are also permanent East-West opponents, as are Tennessee and Alabama. The Florida-LSU game still has a lot of sauce. The Tennessee-Alabama series has been flat since before craft beer.
“I know there are rivalries that have kind of come and gone,” Mullen said.
It made sense to try to keep the older rivalries like the two above and Auburn-Georgia when the SEC had just 12 teams, but the league has been at 14 since 2012 and will be going to 16 soon with Texas and Oklahoma.
“I’ve always said it would be great if every player got to play every school in the SEC in his career,” Saban said. “In the present format (six division games, one permanent foe from other division, one rotating foe from other division), that’s just not possible. The only way to play everybody is to play more SEC games.”
Saban has preached for nine or 10 SEC games for years.
“With very little support,” he said. “So, I don’t know how you do it when you only play eight SEC games.”
Schedule the next SEC Spring Meetings at the Flora-Bama, and it could happen.
1. Alabama 2. Georgia 3. Florida 4. Texas A&M 5. Arkansas 6. Ole Miss 7. Auburn 8. Kentucky 9. Mississippi State 10. 10. South Carolina 11. LSU 12. Tennessee 13. Missouri 14. Vanderbilt
SEC SCHEDULE (All times central, FanDuel point spreads):
Southeast Missouri (0-2) at Missouri (1-1, 1-0 SEC), 11 a.m., SEC Network+/ESPN+
New Mexico (2-0) at No. 7 Texas A&M (2-0, 30.5-point favorite), 11 a.m., SEC Network
Chattanooga (1-1) at Kentucky (2-0, 1-0 SEC), 11 a.m., SEC Network+/ESPN+
Tennessee Tech (0-2) at Tennessee (1-1), 11 a.m., SEC Network+/ESPN+
No. 1 Alabama (2-0, 14.5-point favorite) at No. 11 Florida (2-0), 2:30 p.m., CBS
Georgia Southern (1-1) at No. 20 Arkansas (2-0, 23.5-point favorite), 3 p.m., SEC Network
Mississippi State (2-0, 3.5-point favorite) at Memphis (2-0), 3 p.m., ESPN2
South Carolina (2-0) at No. 2 Georgia (2-0, 31.5-point favorite), 6 p.m., ESPN
No. 22 Auburn (2-0) at No. 10 Penn State (2-0, 4.5-point favorite), 6:30 p.m., ABC
Central Michigan (1-1) at LSU (1-1, 18.5-point favorite), 6:30 p.m., SEC Network
Tulane (1-1) at No. 17 Ole Miss (2-0, 14.5-point favorite), 7 p.m., ESPN2
Stanford (1-1, 12.5-point favorite) at Vanderbilt (1-1), 7 p.m., ESPNU
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Welcome to the league.”
@RazorbackFB tweet after 40-21 win over Texas.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Alabama has won 31 straight against the SEC East entering Saturday’s game at Florida. The Tide’s last loss to an East team was 35-21 at South Carolina in 2010.
(Glenn Guilbeau is OutKick’s newest college football writer. This week he was honored by the Football Writers of America for “2021 Best Game Story” for this piece about LSU’s upset of Florida.)