With one month of college football down it’s time to rank the state’s FBS programs from 1-7.
1. Miami Hurricanes – The Hurricanes rise to the top behind an emotional win against Florida. The other three opponents (FAU, Savannah State and USF) were expected to provide little resistance and delivered. Offensively the Hurricanes were very good in three games but their struggles against Florida, especially on the lines, mean that question marks remain as the schedule gets tougher starting with Saturday’s contest against Georgia Tech. There’s no question the Miami defense has improved from last season’s poorest unit. Even though detractors might point to Florida gaining over 400 yards against them, I point to the five turnovers the defense caused with its athleticism and improved schemes. There’s a long way for these Hurricanes to go but the month of September proved that Al Golden’s path of success is working.
2. Florida State Seminoles – It’s been all about Jameis Winston and the offense in the first month of the season and good thing because the defense is still trying to figure out Jeremy Pruitt’s scheme. What makes the Seminoles so dangerous is that they score quickly and last week turned a 17-3 deficit against Boston College into a 38-20 lead in less than a quarter of elapsed time. That ability takes some of the heat off of this defense because the unit doesn’t have to be great all the time, just in the same spurts when the offense is rolling. All eyes are on the Oct. 19 game at Clemson. It could decide the ACC’s pecking order in 2013.
3. Florida Gators – The Gators defense has been one of the best in the country and even though Dominique Easley is done for the season I don’t expect too much of a drop off. Few, if any, programs can say they have three underclassmen with the talent of Dante Fowler, Brian Poole and Vernon Hargreaves starting or getting major playing time. The offense is still a work in progress and although Tyler Murphy seems more comfortable than the injured Jeff Driskel was right now the film on Murphy is just starting to circulate and when LSU and Georgia and South Carolina roll around believe that the redshirt junior will have his troubles. This team is going to have to win ugly, low-scoring contests but with that defense the Gators can do it.
4. UCF Knights – The Knights were so close to pulling a big upset over South Carolina but still they might have the best shot of any team making a BCS bowl. Everything is pointing to a Friday night contest at Louisville in two weeks and a Nov. 21 home date against Rutgers. If the Knights can win those two games they would be in the driver’s seat for the AAC bid even if they suffered an unlikely upset along the way. The offensive line, anchored by Torrian Wilson, remains strong and quarterback Blake Bortles clearly has NFL talent. As long as UCF can stay healthy they will be in the mix.
5. Florida Atlantic Owls – I give Carl Pelini credit, he’s got the Owls playing some decent football despite the 1-4 record. One of the losses was an overtime loss to Middle Tennessee and the other came last week when FAU failed to hold a late lead on the road against Rice. Jaquez Johnson made his debut at quarterback against USF and he has the talent to lead the team to victory. The close losses will have to turn it wins as this team matures but they are close.
(FWIW, I would rank Bethune-Cookman ahead of both of these final two teams right now).
6. USF Bulls – It’s been a tough first year for Willie Taggart, there’s no way around it. The quarterback position has been in shambles, the wide receivers can’t get open and the offensive line struggles in pass protection. The defensive line has gotten pushed around at times and the true freshmen in the secondary are making true freshmen mistakes. The bright side comes with the performance of Marcus Shaw at running back and true freshman Nigel Harris on defense. I still feel like the Bulls have 2 or 3 wins in them now that conference play has begun.
7. Florida International Golden Panthers – Running clock or not that Golden Panthers are arguably the worst team in all of the FBS. The firing of Mario Cristobal raised plenty of questions to begin with and with the team being outscored 187-23 in September those questions have gotten louder. The Panthers are young but they are also not very good. Unless things improve in the next two months this could be a very short coaching stint for Ron Turner.
Now its Picks time!
Last Week: 12-3
Around the State: FSU over Maryland, 34-17; Miami over Georgia Tech, 35-28; Florida over Arkansas, 17-13; Cincinnati over USF, 20-13; UCF over Memphis, 38-17; FAU over UAB, 33-20; Southern Miss over Florida International, 27-6.
Around the Region: Georgia over Tennessee, 35-24; Auburn over Ole Miss, 28-24; Alabama over Georgia State, 55-0; Clemson over Syracuse, 48-17; South Carolina over Kentucky, 28-10.
Elsewhere: Ohio State over Northwestern, 48-38; Stanford over Washington, 31-21; Arizona State over Notre Dame, 34-20; Oklahoma over TCU, 24-20.