Florida CFB Predictions


Art by Andy Marlette, Editorial Cartoonist for the Pensacola News Journal

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.

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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.

  1. LSU

  2. Wisconsin

  3. Ohio State

  4. UCF

  5. Oklahoma

  6. Alabama

  7. Georgia

  8. Utah

  9. Clemson

  10. Notre Dame

  11. Temple

  12. Auburn

  13. Penn State

  14. Oregon

  15. Boise State

  16. Appalachian State

  17. Tulane

  18. Florida

  19. Texas

  20. Memphis

  21. Texas A&M

  22. Michigan

  23. Maryland

  24. Washington State

  25. Arizona State

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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

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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