The waves were down for most of August so I took some time to break down the college football teams from the great state of Florida. But wait, I thought this was a surf blog. It is... but it's my blog so I'll say what I want. And I actually have a lot to say about this topic, so here's my opinion, based on actually watching the games... and yes I am a biased Knight fan.
CFB All-Florida Predictions - Week #5
Saturday September 28, 2019
To be honest, I was in Pittsburgh to cheer on the Knights last Saturday, so I did not watch any other games. The hangover from a tough loss lasted a little longer than usual, but here’s what I think went wrong for UCF, as well as a short take on the other Florida matchups.
#1 GATORS… The Gators might be better off without QB Franks in the line up. It’s forcing Mullen to rethink his approach, which was clearly not working with Felipe at the helm. But the offense had no problems against the Vols and the game was never a risk for the Gators from start to finish. With an FCS opponent in Towson coming to the Swamp this Saturday, it should be a good tune up before Auburn visits the following week. PREDICTION: Gators big in this one, but Coach Mullen doesn’t show much, holding back some tricks for the Tigers. UF 48-3
#2 KNIGHTS… The Knights would probably beat the Gators head-to-head right now, but in this poll, wins and losses carry more meaning… so I’m dropping UCF a slot until they prove they’ve grown from this loss (or at least until the Gators lose one). But It was a tough day in Pittsburgh. I was there. Five rows up from the Knights bench I saw some things in person that I’m not sure the television viewers could see. Everything just seemed off. And yet, despite a dozen weird and uncharacteristic plays, in all three phases of the game, the Knights still had a ten point lead in the fourth quarter. The deep ball was there for most of the afternoon because of the talent the Knights have at WR. QB Dillon Gabriel was spinning them high and deep and the Pitt DBs could not keep up as the UCF receivers ran behind them. But that’s the only game UCF brought to Heinz Field. For most of the day the Panthers defense in fact had their way up front, stuffing the Knight’s run game and causing problems behind the line of scrimmage. Gabriel was hurried or pressured on nearly every pass play even though he was still able to launch and land several deep balls. WRs Gabiel Davis and Tre Nixon both went well over a hundred yards each. But that was it. No run game to speak of. And no plan from Coach Heupel for when things go wrong. Pitt seemed extremely motivated and aggressive on defense and UCF had no answer to stop them. It was clear to me that the read option wasn’t really an option for the Knights as QB Gabriel gave the ball away EVERY SINGLE TIME. This must’ve been coached because Dillon had plenty of opportunities to run yet he chose to give to the RB who then ran into a stacked wall of Pitt defenders. Perhaps the Knights wouldn’t have been so behind on down and distance if the QB ran the ball a few times. I honestly can’t remember a game where KZ had no rushing attempts. So it is totally reasonable to ask why. I don’t know. This was a huge difference in the game in my opinion. If Dillon Gabriel runs 5 times for 25 yards, at the right moments, the Knights win. I guess it’s difficult to question the coach. The deep ball WAS working, and if a catch or two in the endzone that were wide by an inch were actual TDs, then nobody is questioning anything, right? The three penalties for 45 yards that led to a crucial Pitt scoring drive might not have mattered at that point, who knows? I was listening to the Sons of UCF podcast earlier this week and Mike Espinosa summed it up nicely when he said “There were about ten things that went wrong in that game, and if just one of them goes our way, it’s a win”. Well, hopefully Coach Heupel and the Knights learn from this loss, and they come out fired up to run the table for the rest of the season. It’s going to be difficult to get into a New Year’s Six bowl with a second loss in-conference. Up next, Uconn comes to the Bounce House and this game needs no preview. With the Huskies leaving the AAC after the season, this could be the last time these teams meet for a while. PREDICTION: Heupel won’t need judgement and play calling this Saturday because every play he calls is going to work. The Knights come out angry. The Huskies take a beating. UCF 70-3
#3 CANES… Miami is off this week, but they barely scraped by Western Michigan last Saturday down in South Florida. This team really needs the BYE week to figure out what they’re going to do with this offense. Because they stink. It’s not like the ACC is a juggernaut for defense, so they still have a chance to score some touchdowns and make it a season.
#4 OWLS… Owls go to Charlotte to play the 6th best team from the Tar Heel state. They need this win to start off conference play and take command of the Conference USA East Division. Coach Kiffin will have them ready and the Owls make the argument that they are the third best team in the Sunshine State. PREDICTION: FAU 24-14
#5 NOLES… The Noles are difficult to predict this year. They play well at times, but look inept at others. With a win over Louisville last week and a record of 2-2, the Noles can still make it a season. A trip to #1 Clemson next week might be ugly, so FSU needs this win to keep the season on the positive side of a winning record. But NC State isn’t just going to roll over and die. They are not a bad team and while they might not have the talent pool the Noles have, they MIGHT come to Doak Campbell Stadium and extend their FSU winning streak to three in a row. But I’m not sure that’s going to happen. PREDICTION: The Wolfpack comes out throwing against a lame Noles secondary and takes the lead into halftime. But the Noles rally and get a win at home on the back of Cam Akers and a solid day of running the ball. FSU 31-24
#6 BULLS… USF played well against South Carolina State last week and clobbered them by nearly 40 points. Redshirt freshman Jordan McCloud got his first start and he made this team look like they had some life. Some are saying that the Bulls have found a legit answer at QB in McCloud. I just think he has the mobility and gunslinger mentality that this team needs given their lack of blocking on the offensive line. The Bulls defense was dominant too grabbing turnovers and causing problems in the backfield of the Bulldogs. This week USF opens conference play against SMU, and the Mustangs surprisingly look like they could be the second best team in the AAC. Coming off a huge win against rival TCU, the Mustangs will present a huge challenge for Charlie Strong and the Bulls. PREDICTION: The Bulls come out tough on defense and keep the game close into halftime. Then SMU finds their footing in the second half and takes care of business. SMU 36-10
----------------------------------------------------CFB All-Florida Predictions - Week #4
Friday September 20, 2019
#1 KNIGHTS vs Pitt... The Knights are on a roll. They made the P5 Stanford Cardinal look like an FCS team. It was over in the first quarter at 28-7. True freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel was on target early and often finishing with 347 yards on 22 of 30 throws. Knight WR Gabe Davis cost the NFL first-round Stanford DB Paulson Adebo some money when he made him look silly on several double moves. The Knight wide receivers feasted on the Cardinal defensive backs, the running game didn’t have 300 this time, but they grabbed a few chunks when it was needed. My favorite play is the roll out toss to the tight end. It’s sneaky and good for a first down every time. Honestly, the UCF offense looked unstoppable and even though the score didn’t end up as lopsided as the game actually was (the Cardinal put up a late garbage TD and another defensive score after a weird fumble by 3rd string backup qb Quadry Jones) it was a solid win that got some critics talking. I know It’s only been three weeks, but this team looks as good as any and has exceeded preseason expectations. And it’s not just the offense. I love seeing this defense get pressure behind the line of scrimmage and tackles for a loss. I feel there is some attitude there and it’s fun to watch. Stanford’s supposed power 5 line should've been able to stop a lowly UCF rush, right? If there are still any doubters about this team, I don’t know what to tell you. They would be good in ANY conference you put them in, their stats and style of play back that up, and the eyeball test indicates they are for real. This week is the second matchup of a one-and-one series with the 2018 ACC Coastal Champion Pitt Panthers. This is only the third time the two schools have squared off with the series tied at 1-1. I’m not sure Pitt will ever schedule UCF again after the pounding they received last year and probably the one they’re going to get on Saturday afternoon. It doesn’t help that Pitt coach gave the Knights some bulletin board material when he made a stupid comment about our golden boy’s injury last season. The Panthers played the #13 Nittany Lions of Penn State last week in a renewed rival matchup that was only decided by a touchdown. This week won’t be like that, and I’m thinking the Knights roll big. PREDICTION: Panthers try ball control but the Knights score on their first 7 drives making time of possession a mute point. Coach Heupel shows no mercy and runs the score up into the 60's. Panthers score their paltry average. UCF 65-14
#2 GATORS… Once again, last week I nailed the Gator game score almost on the button. I was sorry to see Gators QB Felipe Franks go down the way he did. I mean, I’ve been very critical of his play, but he is a kid and I never want to see them get hurt or into trouble. But I think Coach Mullen is going to really have to earn his money now. With injuries to key players and a question mark at QB, this team might be ripe for an upset against rival Tennessee. I wouldn’t hold it too much against Mullen either if the happened because it’s just a tough position to be in right now with a daunting schedule lying ahead. I heard on a podcast somewhere that he’s considering a 2-quarterback approach this week. Maybe that’s just talk to make the Vols watch extra film. But I don’t think a 2-quarterback system is something that works too well. I guess Mullen does have experience calling games with two active QBs, going back to the Tebow/Leak year that was actually pretty fun to watch. And when I really start to ponder this game, I think 2 QBs can work to defeat the Vols... but that strategy may not be optimum against the Tigers and Dawgs. The Vols actually could present some problems for the UF offensive line, they’re not terrible up front. And they’ve been embarrassed just enough lately that they may play hard enough to right their season with a big win in the swamp. Good thing for the Gators, their defense is so good that probably won’t happen. PREDICTION: Gators in a nail-biter. Special teams and a big turnover at the wrong time makes the difference. UF 17-10
Canes, Noles, Owls, Bulls… I did not watch these games last week. Can you blame me? Have you seen these teams play? But I did watch a ton of other games. So instead this week I’m going to give you the Jebshred Top-25 after three weeks, based on what I’ve seen so far, and with a fairly adjusted strength of schedule for all teams… this list is not based on brand name recognition and past success. I’m tired of America Athletic Conference teams not getting respect in general. They are better than the AP and Coaches Polls indicate.
CFB All-Florida Rankings - Week #3
Friday September 13, 2019
#1 KNIGHTS… So the Knights are off to another fast start this year handling the FAU Owls pretty easily. It probably didn’t help when students burned the Knightro mascot at the stake for some sort’ve pep rally. Hello, ever hear of social media? What a bunch of idiots. They might’ve had a chance sneaking up on the Knights, but instead their fans gave ‘em bulletin board material. So UCF ran angry and often racking up more than 300 yards on the ground using four different running backs and a solid front who had no problems pushing the Owls off the line. Freshman QB Dillon Gabriel was announced the starter just hours before the game and he shared no time with Notre Dame senior transfer Brandon Wimbush. Coach Heupel said after the game that Wimbush was held out because he was not 100%, and then he offered up no elaboration. Gabriel was 7-19 for two TDs. He also ran another in for a score. He did have a little dry spell at the end of the first quarter going three-and-out three times which impacted his completion percentage. But there never was any worry because the simple answer to the Owls blitz packages was standing right next to Gabriel in the backfield. The Knights might have the most talented RB group in the country, someone please name one better. Overall it was a thorough beatdown down in Boca Raton on Saturday night. The game was called 4 minutes early due to weather. This week, the weather could be a factor AGAIN as the Stanford Cardinal make their first visit ever to the bounce house. Stanford hasn’t played in the state of Florida since Andrew Luck and the boys stomped Virginia Tech in the 2011 Orange Bowl. But this isn’t the same caliber team that Luck played on, and coming off a loss to USC which resulted in their booting from the Top-25, I’m not sure this is the team that gives the Knights their first defeat this season. I know it’s only two games, but the Knights look very fast and very athletic on defense. Which is a surprise to me because this was suppose to be a rebuilding year. Instead they’ve reloaded and Randy Shannon has them playing fast and ferocious. The defense had 16 tackles-for-a-loss, and 5 sacks at FAU. They were in the backfield causing problems on nearly every play, and they looked more dominant than Ohio State only one week earlier against the same opponent. I can see that with my eyes, I don’t need analysts for that. Now, the Power 5 homers will claim that it’s only been two games and against weaker opponents… but hey, they have no problem rewarding their OWN teams for blowout losses against inferior talent as evidenced by the polls (See UF #9). But I think people are just going to have to admit, the Knights are capable of beating anyone in any conference. And this weekend, it’s the PAC-12’s turn to taste the pain. Because this Knights team is actually better than the past two seasons, and they’re going to continue to prove it this weekend. Remember back to last year’s Pitt game when they visited Orlando? Expect a similar result with Stanford. PREDICTION: The Knights come out, score fast, and by halftime the game is basically over. UCF spends the day wreaking havoc on Stanford’s pro-style offensive attack. Stanford QB K.J. Costello gets knocked out of the game, the Cardinal flies home wondering how in the hell UCF even wound up on their schedule. UCF 45-14
#2 GATORS… The Gators took care of business and made my prediction look pretty good last week against UT-Martin. I’d say I’ve got them pegged, I wish coaches who vote in the poll would actually WATCH games before they cast their ballots, but they don’t, and that’s a blog for another time. Felipe Franks looked good though, I think he hit 15 passes in a row at one point going 25-27 and 270 yards. That’s actually normal for him against inferior talent. Franks has no problems finding open dudes when they’ve got several steps on the coverage and nearly all of them are open. He does throw a pretty deep ball. But the Gators looked so much faster than the Skyhawks and that was the real difference here. I was surprised that Florida couldn’t put more points up in the first half only leading 17-0 after two quarters. This week is going to be a lot more challenging having to go to Kentucky and if it’s close at half, this thing is going 4 quarters. Wildcat nation is still pretty pumped after a 10-win season last year. And while some of the skill players will be different this time around, the Gators could find themselves in a seriously hostile environment. This is where Franks does not play well. Coach Mullen needs to ground this kid if he wants to win on Saturday. The Cats aren’t very good in the secondary, so if Felipe can connect on a couple passes early, that could quiet things down at Kroger Field. I do think that UK is going to have some offensive wrinkles the Gators haven’t seen on tape. The Cats quarterbacks coach and former UCF QB legend Darin Hinshaw says he’s been trying to prepare senior transfer and new starter Sawyer Smith for the problems that the Gator defense is going to try and cause. But nothing can really prepare him for the defensive mayhem that the Gators will unleash. His one saving grace may be that the Kentucky offensive line is much better than any line the Gators have seen since the meat of their SEC schedule last fall. And Smith is in fact a decent passer who’s got just enough experience to not lose the game. I think there is too much parody in this match-up, and that’s going to cause another nail-biter for these two teams.
PREDICTION: The Cats come out strong and the Gators trail at halftime. Coach Mullen realizes the temperature of the moment and rallies his team in the second half tying things up before regulation expires. Florida sacks the Wildcat backup QB only three times all game, but the last one seals the victory. UF 28-21
#3 Canes… So it’s going to be difficult for the Canes to win the coastal division of the ACC if they can’t beat North Carolina. I’m sorry, but nobody is convincing me that Mack Brown turned a 2-10 team into a winner in his first two games. This seems more like an inept UM offensive problem. But this week the powerhouse that is Bethune-Cookman College is visiting Miami where they will play to a gigantic crowd of four. OK, there’s going to be more than four people at this game, but seriously, the combination of an uninspiring Canes team and an opponent that might not be as good as some high schools in the state… yeah this stadium is going to be empty. PREDICTION: Diaz gets the Canes offense rolling and they hang 4 TDs on the Wildcats before the 4th quarter begins. The only fans left in the stadium when the final whistle blows are people related to the players on the team. UM 38-14
#4 Owls… This team might be better than their 0-2 start, but not by much. Having to open the season against two national power houses, they shouldn’t have expected more. I think critics gave them too much credit for hanging with the Buckeyes in the second half. But the Knights showed them how far off they actually are from being good. The defense was bad and they committed a ton of penalties. The teachable moments that these two beat downs provided however, should give the Owls the experience to make an in-conference run. With a loss in the last four games, going back to last season, Kiffin and his troops should be able to end that streak and get some things going against Ball State.
PREDICTION: FAU 31-14
#5 Bulls… The Bulls didn’t totally embarrass themselves and again I had a prediction that wasn’t too far off base. Backup QB and redshirt freshman Jordan McCloud came in and actually gave them a spark. Charlie Strong might have a QB controversy brewing if Barnett has another bad game. South Carolina State should be a matchup they can handle, but this team is reeling.
PREDICTION: Bulls struggle again, but MCCloud comes in and saves the day. USF 24-13
#6 Seminoles… OK, I was way off on last week’s prediction. Mainly because I expected to see the FSU offense that came out and surprised Boise State two weeks ago for half a game. You have to think there’s got to be some improvement this year under Taggert, right? But nope. This team stinks. I feel bad for the few good skill players they do have. What game is winnable at this point? And now they have to go and play #25 Virginia on the road. Yeah no.
PREDICTION: The Noles get embarrassed in Charlottesville. UVA 24-7
CFB All-Florida Rankings - Week #2
Friday September 6, 2019
#1 KNIGHTS at the #4 OWLS… I was impressed with UCF’s performance in their game-opener. And though it’s difficult to really know how good this team is because the Rattlers of FAMU are hardly a worthy opponent, the Knights did look crisp and organized on most downs. On offense, Brandon Wimbush looked like what everyone thought he would… 50% passer, solid game manager, electric runner. I think the Knights can win most of their games with Brandon at the helm, but I’m not going to lie... when Dillon Gabriel was throwing it around the yard, it just looked prettier. It looked like the Knights offense led by KZ. Maybe it’s just a perception thing, because the style is so similar. But I’m just going to say it… I won’t be surprised if Gabriel is leading this team full-time come November. On the other side of the ball the defense looked lights-out. But again, the Rattlers were not a threat and their offense didn’t even look as good as some high schools in the state. The only thing I can say here is that the Knights did what they were suppose to do... they dominated a lesser opponent. The loss of CB Bam Moore was huge, given his leadership role in the secondary, but I think the Knights will be ready this week with a next-guy-up mentality. If FAU thinks they’re going to pick on Moore’s replacement, I think they’re going to pay for it. This defense looks opportunistic and hungry to me. I just hope they stay that way facing stiffer competition. Kiffin and the Owls will have some tricks up their sleeves and they’re going to try and build off last week’s second half momentum against the Buckeyes. After getting gashed for 21 points in the first quarter, the Owls settled down and played a decent game. FAU actually outscored Ohio State for the last 45 minutes and played some decent defense well into the 4th quarter. The Owls did not give up. But I’m not sure renewed FAU pride will be enough for them to overcome the adversity they will face against Orlando’s hometown team. I think it’s a really big ask for Kiffin to expect his kids to hang with UCF in a points race and they don’t have a run game to slow things down since Devin Singletary left at the end of last season for the NFL. I als won’t be surprised if Knight Nation completely takes over the Owls stadium down in Boca. Burning the Knight mascot at-the-stake, in a large bon-fire Friday night? Yeah, super classy move Owls. PREDICTION: The Owls play some defense in the 1st quarter sending Wimbush to the bench. But then UCF steps on the gas with Dillon Gabriel and doesn’t look back. What seems like a manageable halftime deficit for the Owls gets uglier fast in the 3rd quarter. FAU scores late during garbage time, but the Knights roll with 7 TDs and a field goal, UCF 52-10. Charge On!
#2 GATORS… The Gators defense looked like a top unit in the country against Miami. They caused a lot of problems behind the line of scrimmage, and the linebackers and secondary made a lot of great tackles as they bullied a young Miami unit. I’m not sure there are a whole bunch of teams out there with Gator type defensive talent. But the Gator D did commit some penalties which nearly cost the team the game against the Canes. The offense was unequivocally a huge disappointment. They couldn’t get anything going, and QB Franks made more poor decisions than good ones. The fact he was carrying-on and making a display on the sidelines as if he was playing well, was a bad look. His lack of class and discipline just isn’t in-line with how a Gator QB should behave. Now, I’m not going to totally blame players for being undisciplined… kids rarely discipline themselves. This is a coaching problem and Mullen needs to understand he’s leading young men and there is a responsibility to teach them character. A lot of the penalties on defense, along with the ineptitude of the offense might’ve been avoided with a better vision from the head coach. Mullen did not have this team ready to represent Gator Nation and as a result they were unable to maximize their abilities. It’s a shame because this team is filled with blue chip athletes and thoroughbred talent. They are big, strong, and fast at every position. Figure it out coach or these underachieving games will be your demise. It’s time to check egos and buckle down to do some real work. This week Coach Mullen has a great opportunity to work out some of these issues with a cupcake team visiting the swamp. The players need to learn how to channel their emotions and since the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks won’t present too much adversity, the Gators can concentrate on discipline, because it matters. Dudes would not act like that on a Saban sideline. Get this team under control Coach Mullen and you still have a chance.
PREDICTION: Gators go big and win by nearly 50 points with 400+yards on the ground. Perine is a beast. But penalties and the same old same old from QB Franks in the passing game won’t cure any anxiety over the looming SEC schedule. UF 49-3
#3 CANES… So Miami was just a few stupid plays away from upsetting the so-called #8 team in the country. Had they not been so young, perhaps they pull it off. The Gators gave them every opportunity to win, and yet they walked away losers. But this is just the type of learning experience Coach Diaz needs to help sell his program on how close they are. IF they can keep improving each week, and IF they can learn how to finish when opportunity knocks, they’re going to get their shot at a championship. And they can accomplish this goal this season given how weak the ACC Coastal division is this year. But UM has to get past a newly energized UNC team this week who are coming off an upset win of the South Carolina Gamecocks from the mighty SEC. Mack Brown had an unlikely homecoming game to kick off the Tarheel season and he delivered a big win after inheriting a team who only won two games in all of last season. PREDICTION: The Tarheels come back to earth this week and Miami reminds them why the talent pool in the great state of Florida is far superior to anything the mid-atlantic coast has to offer. The Canes clobber the Tarheels, which makes ESPN happy so they can cram this team down our throats with lopsided coverage of the Canes all season. UM 31-7
#5 NOLES… I’m not going to lie. The FSU offense surprised me in the first half of their opening game against Boise State. Enough that they are going to pass the struggling Bulls on my All-Florida list. And while the second half was embarrassing for both sides of the ball, I think it gives Coach Taggert something to build on. I honestly think this guy is a good coach and he’s probably inherited some problems that are going to take some time to fix. And since the FSU athletic department is basically broke, they couldn’t buy out his contract if they wanted to. They stuck with each other for now. But The Noles have the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks visiting Doak Campbell this Saturday, and that’s actually the perfect prescription for this team’s ills. And like the Gators, they can concentrate on growing up and acting like an elite team. I believe that was what happened last week. They got punched in the mouth by a freshman and they weren’t man enough to respond. PREDICTION: The Noles roll and put up some points. The defense shuts out the Warhawks and Taggert has his team’s attention. FSU 31-0
#6 BULLS… This team is bad. You almost have to feel sorry for Charlie Strong. No matter where he goes adversity follows. They looked bad against Wisconsin, and not just because the Badgers are Power 5. The Bulls have enough talent to hang with them, but they looked like they didn’t know what they were doing. Secretly, if the Bulls were going to have success this year, I wanted it to be because new offensive coordinator and former Gator QB great Kerwin Bell was at the helm. But I’m sorry to say his unit could not get anything going. It just seemed apparent that whatever Kerwin dialed up, the Bulls could not execute. On top of that USF could not tackle anyone. Dudes were bouncing off Badger RB Jonathan Taylor and the Noles could barely get him down with 2-3 guys chasing. Some NFL scouts say Taylor is the second coming of Hershel Walker, so maybe the Bulls aren’t as bad as they looked. But personally I think this game looked like a typical FCS team getting throttled by a big boy team. How were the Bulls even 7-0 to start last season? Things don’t look better this week as Charlie and his boys cross state lines for a match-up against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are going through a lot of changes of their own this season with new head coach and former Temple guy Geoff Collins. The AAC coaching product did a nice job the past few years with the Temple offense, but overhauling the Georgia Tech Triple option attack is a little more than what most first-year coaches are asked to do. I actually think Charlie Strong is thanking his lucky stars that he won’t have to face a full-bore triple option attack in this game, because that would require tackling and other fundamentals his team seems to lack.
PREDICTION: The Bulls’ offense has a solid game on the ground against an under-sized Yellow Jacket defensive line. Ball control keeps the possessions down and the game closer than the experts think. GT 17-10
CFB All-Florida Preseason Rankings
Tuesday August, 20
#1 UCF KNIGHTS… Right now, it’s hard for me to gauge them with Coach Heupel not naming a starting QB yet and only 9 days until gameday. Quoted yesterday about the QB competition “We’re still not where we need to be and we have a short amount of time to get there”. Yeah so that’s not a good sign in my opinion. But I think the Knights could lean on the run game more this year anyway with Greg McCrae and Adrian Killins. The Knights defense will have a new group up front but according to defensive line coach Shane Burnham they might be a little faster and athletic than last year. Cam Goode, Va Tech transfer became immediately eligible to play so that should help with depth. I think the UCF defense could surprise some folks this year with more than just an elite secondary. It will be interesting to see if UCF can work themselves into top-5 defensive categories within the conference such as sacks and tackles for a loss. Coach Heupel remarked after fall camps closed how excited he is to see the defense play this year. If AAC teams have problems scoring on the UCF Defense, things could get ugly with shut-outs and embarrassingly lopsided scores. But something tells me that's a pipe dream. The schedule is also tougher outside the conference this season with two Power-5 matchups in back-to-back weeks against a ranked Stanford, and last year’s ACC Coastal Champion Pitt. After that the Knights go on the road to play Cincinnati at night on ESPN followed by a probable undefeated showdown in early November with Heisman hopeful QB D'Eriq King and the Houston Cougars. If UCF makes it through that part of the schedule unscathed, with a new QB, the Knights still have their rival to play to end the season! Sweet! The reward for wining the War on I-4 will be a birth in the conference championship game and a probable re-match with Houston. But too much uncertainty at QB and a young defense adds up to a year of nail-biters, close-calls, and heart attack finishes in my opinion. There’s no more KZ the gunslinger back there working his magic and that's going to be a huge void that the Knights will struggle to fill. While I do think UCF is capable of running the table again in the regular season, I’m not going to bet on it. They’re probably going to drop one somewhere in the middle and then go on a tear. For the record, I think UCF takes care of both Power 5 teams as well as wins the war on I-4, but I’m seeing a stumble in-conference, maybe at Cincinnati, or at the hands of D’Eriq and the Cougars.
FINAL PREDICTION: Knights go 13-1, Threepeat the AAC Championship, then redeem themselves in a New Year’s Six Orange Bowl by destroying a 1-loss Notre Dame team in sunny South Florida using the Irish’s own throwaway QB. Charge On! UPDATE 8/22: Knights name QB Brandon Wimbush Game 1 Starter
#2 UF GATORS… I’m not a total believer in Coach Dan Mullen. I was happy to see him take a hard line on discipline recently. It sucks that one of them was Jalon Jones. Let that guy be some other team’s problem. But I haven’t seen Coach Mullen do anything special to validate his reputation as being an offensive guru. He's only won 10 games one time in his head coaching career before becoming the Gators head coach. He left Urban Meyer in 2009 when he took the job at Mississippi State. He ran some pretty vanilla offenses as a coordinator in the Tebow days, but they worked because he was a stud with stud receivers. He wasn't able to duplicate that until Dak Prescott came along 5 years into his Bulldog tenure. Thinking back, I also remember Mullen’s initial offensive plan at Florida not working with the Heisman caliber drop-back passer Chris Leak. It was such a bad fit that Head Coach Urban Meyer had to step in and tweak what Mullen was doing in order to play to Leak’s strengths. The following year the Gators won a National Championship with Chris Leak as the starter running a unique hybrid offense. I don’t give Mullen credit for that. He would’ve preferred Tebow and a full-time read-option-spread offense... which is what he got when Leak departed. But Tebow and Dak are special quarterbacks who were built to execute that type of scheme. And I’m sorry, but these read option offenses are super boring. The jump pass was cool, but that was ten years ago. Time for some ingenuity. Tebow is gone. This team needs some offensive identity to go with this insanely talented defense. But the Gators are putting out Felipe Franks as their guy. He’s not a good QB. He’s immature and emotional, which then impacts his decision making during critical times in the game. To his credit, and with Mullen calling simple plays, Franks finished pretty strong last season. But the competition was garbage since the SEC schedule had already passed and Michigan seemed hardly thrilled to play the Gators once again in a bowl game. This season, the schedule is tough with LSU, Auburn, and Georgia. And unfortunately they’re probably going to lose all three of those games. So who can the Gators beat? Miami. I tell you why when I cover them below. But they desperately need good quarterback play... if Florida can figure that out, they have the defense to hang with any team in the FBS. I just don’t think Mullen has the coaching chops to guide the Gators through their difficult schedule with this offense that struggles to put up points. It’s going to be another year of predictable play calling and 3-and-outs for the Boys of 'Ole Florida... which will probably induce a nap a lot quicker than get me excited to watch.
FINAL PREDICTION: The Gators win 8 or 9 games, and end up in Tampa for the Outback Bowl where they lose to Wisconsin. Florida ends up unranked before the year ends, but they do land a top-5 QB recruit for next season. Mullen is officially on the hot-seat. Go Gators!
#3 UM HURRICANES… Manny Diaz is a great motivator and a decent defensive coach as evidenced by the Canes’ turnover chain campaign during the past couple seasons. Does that mean he will be a great head coach? I think so. I think he rights the ship. But not all in his first year. This team is way too young for big things right now. Freshman QB, young O-line. It stinks that they renew the Gator rivalry in a year where they clearly don’t match up on a talent level, but that might be the motivation coach Diaz needs to get his young team’s attention.The Canes ACC schedule isn’t a total cakewalk, but I can’t really find a team on there that the Canes can’t beat. I think being young is going to cost them at least 2 more losses, but despite this they still may stumble into the championship game representing the Coastal division (Pitt did it with 5 losses in 2018). With Diaz at the helm this young team could eventually evolve into a contender in a year or two given the easy navigation of the Atlantic Coast Conference and the access that gains them to the College Football Invitational. Couple that with their historical pedigree and Miami might become part of the playoff discussion sooner than later.
FINAL PREDICTION: Canes win 9 games when it’s said and done, they win the coastal division but get dismantled by Clemson, then end up in Nashville for the Music City Bowl to avenge their SEC loss to the Gators with a matchup against another SEC-East team. The Canes will take care of the hillbillies from Tennessee sending them back to Knoxville after a shutout and no opportunities to sing that obnoxious rocky-top song
#4 FAU OWLS… Lane Kiffin is not my favorite football coach. He's just got that quality you love to hate. The former Raiders-Vols-USC frontman was hired in 2017 by the Owls in what seemed like his last chance at being a head coach. I feel like he did earn the opportunity by helping Saban win some championships as the offensive coordinator at Alabama, so I'm interested to see how this FAU adventure unfolds. While Kiffin did post an 11 win season in his inaugural year, the Owls took a serious step back winning only 5 of their games last season. With only the throwaway recruits in Florida to pick from it was going to be difficult to build a competitive team, Lane knew that coming in. On top of that the other schools in Conference USA aren't necessarily pushovers. Middle Tennessee, Marshal, North Texas can play some offense. So I'm sure it was a difficult season and probably the first time in Laney’s head coaching career that he’s had a losing record... but I’d have to check on that stat. Kiffin is used to winning most of his games and I respect his ability to get guys up to play. Look for the Owls to bounce back this year, in this decent, but manageable conference. They’re going to need to win most of their conference games because outside of the conference they’ve scheduled a couple of power houses. Lane is going to have to wait to start his winning ways again. His Owls kick off week 1 traveling to AP#5 The Ohio State Buckeyes followed by a in-state match up with the AP#17 UCF Knights in week 2... who are visiting Boca Raton for the first time in program history.
FINAL PREDICTION: After the 0-2 start the Owls begin conference play where they take their lumps. Owls finish with a winning record and then play giant killer in a lesser tier bowl against a power 5 opponent. Kiffin jumps ship to the NFL as an Offensive Coordinator.
#5 USF BULLS… It’s clear which Florida directional school is on the right trajectory at the moment and that school isn’t in Tampa. Why are they even in Tampa? It’s suppose to be the University of SOUTH Florida, someone please explain this to me. Anyways, Charlie Strong did manage to score some transfers last season, so the offense still has plenty of potential. Former Alabama QB Blake Barnett and former Gator RB Jordan Cronkrite have big play potential, but they are basically scabs more or less. It’s very possible this team loses 6 or 7 games this year and they could miss the bowl season entirely. I’m not sure who they can even beat for sure, every game is going to be a struggle with a defense that has really struggled recently. They haven’t proven they can tackle anyone… except for the Knights QB McKenzie Milton, when they destroyed his knee and possibly his career during their season finale last season. But It’s hard to believe this defense is part of a Charlie Strong coached team. The Bulls got literally punched in the throat for 7 games in a row to end last year. I think It’s going to be more of the same this season. The rivalry match-up with the Knights at the end of the schedule is pretty much the only thing USF has to look forward to… they’re going to be at home where Raymond James stadium holds 85K (Bucs stadium). The Bulls could rub the lamp and pull some magical upset, but realistically, I think they’re in for a long night.
FINAL PREDICTION: The Bulls finish 6-7, go to some Cracker Barrel Bowl where they lose to an ACC or Big 12 bottom dweller in a game nobody shows up to. Charlie Strong gets fired. He lands a defensive coordinator job in the SEC.
#6 FSU SEMINOLES… Not many things in CFB pleasures me more than watching the team from Tallahassee fall from the rafters. Coach Willie Taggert and the 'Noles might take another step back this year and fall even further into the abyss. They’re going to be quite possibly the worst FBS team in the state of Florida when this season comes to an end. They’re not beating the Gators. They’re not beating the Canes. They’re not even going to beat Florida International. They stink on offense. They stink on defense. They don’t recruit as well as the “directional” schools in the state. Their roster is hot garbage. I hope the Seminole tribe decides they’re too much of an embarrassment and sends FSU a cease and desist on using their image as a mascot.
FINAL PREDICTION: The Seminoles go 5-7 and miss bowl season again. Coach Willie gets fired and they back to square one. I’m willing to start a petition for them to just cancel football at that school altogether.
College Football Invitational Champion... Clemson or Bama, just pick one… if these teams are 2-loss or better, despite winning a conference championship or not, they’re going to go to the College Football Invitational, the cartel will see to that. Then, we’ll get another amazing year of this contrived BS. There are 130 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), but this self-appointed, non-ncaa recognized, group of blue blood coaches, athletic directors, and corporate sports minions want me to believe that Clemson and Alabama are just BETTER than everyone every year? Nah. I believe this attempt at a playoff, while good-intentioned, gets hijacked by Big TV and the corporate alliances they’ve formed with the self-proclaimed Power 5 football conferences. Money is flowing to the programs in these elite conferences and in return they are expected to produce a competitive product from which a national champion television show can be produced. So they aren’t going to give up a spot, in this playoff they’ve created, for any teams outside of their Power 5 group. That would not be a return on their investment. They believe making a good tv show (Alabama vs Clemson) is a more reliable product. They don't care who is the actual "best". And While I agree it is awesome to see these elite teams play each other, I would argue they need to earn it on the field. The 2017-18 polls were laughable and the committee’s actions un-defendable. UCF could and would have had success in the playoff had they been admitted in Scott Frost’s last season. There are quite a few dudes from that team playing in the NFL right now that prove they had the talent to pull off an upset… but we will never know. You see there’s a reason why the same team doesn’t win the NCAA Basketball tournament with any type of frequency… because it’s a fair contest, and teams like UCF are given the opportunity to earn their shot. UCF had a legit chance to beat #1 Duke in the March Madness tournament this past spring, and had that ball bounced the other way... oy. I’m getting anxiety thinking about that shot right now. But I can live with the outcome… because it’s REAL. And UCF Basketball can grow from the experience. No different from when FSU, UM, and UF football came of age in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. College football has no real champion, it never has, and this FBS 4-team power-5 playoff is a sham. Bowl games are boring to fans because nothing is on the line and all of these ridiculous sponsor names just make the entire thing so confusing. All of this is deliberate because commissioners and television executives know a playoff system would disrupt their cash flow by forcing them to share with teams outside of their Power 5 circle.