On Dec. 19, 2013, the San Francisco 49ers and head coach Jim Harbaugh were preparing for a big Week 16 game against the Arizona Cardinals. Concurrently, the University of Michigan — his alma mater and future employer — was announcing a 2017 football game that would prove to be as big — if not bigger — than that Week 16 game.
Florida and Michigan will play at AT&T Stadium on Saturday, 1,353 days after the game was scheduled. Not only was Harbaugh still in San Francisco, current Gators' head coach Jim McElwain was wrapping up his second of three years at Colorado State.
"We are excited to make a return trip to Dallas for the Cowboys Classic against Florida," Hoke said, referencing Michigan's 2012 loss to Alabama at AT&T Stadium. "This is a great way to reach our fan base in the south and to continue to expand our recruiting efforts in the state of Texas. Our goal is to have as many Michigan fans at the game as possible."
The stage for the 2017 season was set long, long ago — nearly a decade in some cases. Here are the scheduled dates and some notes for six other huge non-conference games this season.
Alabama vs. Florida State – Week 1
Scheduled: July 2015
Alabama and Florida State were officially announced as participants in the 2017 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game on July 9, 2015. The Crimson Tide were eight months removed from their national semifinal loss to Ohio State, while the Seminoles were entering year one of the post-Jameis Winston era.
“With two teams of this caliber, it really is going to be a bowl-game type atmosphere and an epic celebration of college football,” said Percy Vaughn, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl chairman.
Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia – Week 1
Scheduled: July 2014
One year after announcing a two-game home-and-series for 2021 (Morgantown) and 2022 (Blacksburg), Virginia Tech and West Virginia agreed to play a game at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
"We are excited to welcome Virginia Tech and West Virginia to FedExField in 2017,” said then-Washington Redskins chief marketing officer Mitch Gershman on July 15, 2014. “We are proud to continue the commitment to our season ticket holders and fans to host the most competitive and nationally acclaimed matchups in the country.”
Scheduled: July 2014
In July 2014, Clemson and Auburn agreed to renew their all-Tigers series with a two-game home-and-home series in 2016 and 2017. Clemson beat Auburn last year in Alabama, their 50th all-time meeting.
Despite the loss, Auburn still holds a significant edge in the series with a 34-14-2 record.
Oklahoma at Ohio State – Week 2
Scheduled: January 2008
This home-and-home series was announced a long, long time ago — eight days after Ohio State lost the 2008 BCS National Championship to LSU.
Ohio State beat Oklahoma last year in Norman, 45-24, in their first meeting since 1983. It was also just their third meeting all-time (1977).
Georgia at Notre Dame – Week 2
Scheduled: June 2014
Georgia and Notre Dame have never played in the regular season and only have one all-time matchup (1981 Sugar Bowl). That will change in Week 2 after the schools agreed to a home-and-home series for 2017 (South Bend) and 2019 (Athens).
"Playing Notre Dame will be an honor and a great challenge for us," said then-Georgia head coach Mark Richt. "I have a lot of respect for the job Coach Kelly is doing there and I'm sure college football fans across the country will enjoy watching our two teams compete."
Scheduled: August 2010
Nearly five years after Texas beat USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl to win the national championship, the teams scheduled a home-and-home series.
“USC versus Texas is a classic match-up and I’m sure fans from both schools, as well as all college football fans, will look forward to these games with much anticipation,” then-USC athletics director Pat Haden said. “It’s been a long time since USC has played Texas in the regular season, and of course we all remember how exciting the recent bowl game meeting was between the teams.”
Their last regular-season meeting came in 1967, a Trojans' win in Los Angeles. USC leads the all-time series 4-1.