Is Florida on its way to ruling college football again?

by Gary Shelton on June 24, 2016 · 0 comments

in College football, College Sports in Florida, Florida, Florida State University, general, University of Florida

Friday, 6 a.m.

It was Sept. 23, 2006, for all of you keeping score at home.

That's when Paul Finebaum officially ran out of guests.

Finebaum, the king of Alabama sports, has become a media star as of late. Always opinionated, always acerbic, he took his sharp wit and observations about college football to be a success. I knew Paul years ago, when I covered Bear Bryant's last two national titles. Even then, Finebaum was approaching legendary status.

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We discussed an article I had written for Wednesday after the way Florida used to rule college football. For a 25-year period, from 1983-2008, the teams in the state won nine national titles, lost the title game eight times and had 11 Heisman winners. It was Wide Right and The Miami Swagger and the Gator Chomp and Uncle Bobby and Steve's Visor and Jimmie Johnson's energy and the Steak Fry and the Choke at the Doak and the Fifth Quarter in the French Quarter.

Excellence came on us so fast. You have to remember: Florida football had been, well, okay. But it didn't need trophy cases.

Then, suddenly, there was Fun 'N Gun. There was Derrick Brooks and Danny Wuerffel and Jerome Brown and Ray Lewis and Warrick Dunn and Tim Tebow. There was Urban Meyer and his bail-bondsman, and Bowden and his Polish Rules and Dennis Erickson.There was Vinny Testaverde and Peter Warrick and Michael Irvin. It seemed like it would last forever.

For 11 years, from 1990-2001, all three teams made the top 20 every year except UM in 1997.

So what happened? Spurrier left and Bobby got old and Johnson joined the Cowboys. UM tried to de-swagger its program. And time passed. (Hey, Princeton used to be the dominant school in the country. And Minnesota. And Army. And so forth.)

Starting with 2006, UM checked out of the Top 20. It's appeared only once (2009). FSU missed four straight years (it's made the last six). Florida has been in two of the last six top 25s, but last year's finish was only 25th.

And so you wonder: Can the state get it back?

Maybe. Fisher has things going pretty well. Florida's Jim McElwain is in his second year, and he's making some noise. Miami loves Mark Richt.

Once McElwain and Richt have some time, once Florida finds a quarterback, once UM gets teeth back in its defense, how good can the college football be in this state?

Enough to make Finebaum pay attention.

Everyone else, too.

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