Florida, FSU sink in the world of college football

by Gary Shelton on October 18, 2017 · 0 comments

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

Florida coach Jim McElwain's team struggling on offense./CARMEN MANDATO

Florida coach Jim McElwain's team is struggling on offense./CARMEN MANDATO

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

The big guys have turned into little guys. The little guys have become big. Footballs now come with training wheels attached. The world is upside down.

Welcome to Florida, the land that big-time football forgot.

Quarterbacks are equipped with scatterguns. There are too many bulbs for the scoreboards. Coaching seats are warming up.

Football? Yeah, they used to play it around here.

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You know about Florida and college football, right? It's the home of Heisman trophy winners, although there is a tinge of gray in the winner's hair. It's the home of national championships … or at least it used to be. These days, it's where punters live.

Yeah, yeah. Time was, this was the time of the season when the crowing would start. Florida State was a top 10 program. Florida was a top 10 program. Miami was a top 10 program. Everyone was a touchdown hero.

These days? Not so much.

Oh, you can't blame USF, which despite its sputtering is 7-0 and ranked as high as 13th. And you can't blame UCF, which is 5-0 and leads the nation in scoring.

And to be honest, we don't know much about Miami, which is eighth in the AP Poll. Miami has one win you want to count, a come-from-behind victory over  Florida State, which seems to leads the nation in come-from-ahead football games.

Except for FSU, UM has beaten a murderer's row of Bethune-Cookman, Toledo, Duke and a nail-biter against Georgia Tech. Yeah, winning is winning, but this isn't the old days of the Canes.

But everyone else? It's an ugly contest, and everyone wins.

Of course, in this state, you generally start an evaluation with Florida and Florida State, two teams that look more and more like panhandlers at the country club. Maybe that's why the state seems so out of sorts.

Remember, FSU was supposed to be in the playoff conversation this year. Well, unless some people are shouting into megaphones, that isn't happening. True, the Seminoles lost quarterback Deondre Francois, but the rest of the team has underachieved, too. FSU still has the sixth-ranked defense in America, but it can't finish an opponent.

So far, FSU has wins over – get this – Wake Forest and Duke. Those are programs that used to get trapped in FSU's cleats. Now, they're “as least we beat Wake and Duke.” FSU lost big to Alabama, and it has lost to N.C. State and Miami.

Then there is Florida, which still can't pass the ball across your dining room table. The Gators beat Tennessee – the worst-coached team in America – and Kentucky and Vanderbilt (which is a Kentucky program with players who can read Chaucer). It has lost to Michigan, LSU and Texas A&M.

Kentucky? Vandy? Duke? Wake Forest? What? Has it come down to being the toughest kid in math class? Those games are the pelts won by Florida and FSU. Those guys were punchlines for years. Now, FSU and Florida are glad they're on the schedule.

What? Did someone forget about third down?

Of course, these things are cyclical, and no one ever said that Florida's football had to be superior in the power conferences. Alabama ruined Florida's run, and Clemson is threatening to do the same to FSU.

What I want to know is this: When did Florida turn into the state of North Carolina?

This is the state of Tim Tebow and Charlie Ward and Jameis Winston and Emmitt Smith, of Steve Spurrier and Michael Irvin and Alonso Highsmith and Peter Warrick. These days, the first down marker seems about a mile away.

Check out the rankings. Neither Florida nor FSU is anywhere close to the AP Poll, but even the computers seem to take their shots. The Colley Matrix has FSU at No. 42, and Florida at No. 44, in America. The College Football Poll has FSU No. 39 and Florida No. 50.

Why? Neither of them are particularly offensive teams. Well, not in the football sense of the word.

Florida is No. 112 in total offense; FSU is No. 125. Florida is No. 108 in passing; FSU is No. 116. Florida is No. 66 in rushing; FSU is No. 113. Florida is No. 91 in scoring; FSU is No 120. Get the picture?

Let's face it: Even USF has doubters, perhaps because its keeper win is over 96th-ranked Cincinnati. This week, USF won by 30 and fell out of the College Football Poll.

It doesn't matter, of course. If USF keeps winning – and it should – it'll face a battle-of-the-unbeatens against UCF in the season finale.

As for FSU and Florida, how about a bowl rematch in the St. Petersburg Bowl. Just for laughs.

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