Florida Rankings – Can A Smaller School Be The Best Team In Florida?

UCF tops first week Florida Championship rankings

In our first edition of the Florida Rankings, it became painfully obvious that there was a rift in how our voters see the seven programs.

At issue is the difference between the Power 5 conference schools and the “Group of 5” conferences.  More to the point, the question centers around the University of Central Florida in a very unsurprising twist.

Several of our rankers placed the Knights at the top of the Florida power poll, citing both their walloping of the University of Connecticut in Hartford on Thursday as well as their winning streak dating back to last season’s undefeated run.  UCF, the logic goes, would have won any Florida championship in 2017 on their unblemished record and Peach Bowl victory, so an emphatic win on Thursday would therefore give them a firm grip on #1.

Others saw things much differently.

Central Florida’s win streak is undoubtedly impressive, but a few of our voters believe that their overall talent level just does not match up with Miami and Florida State, potentially even Florida as well.  The Knights were ranked as low as #4 in those voters’ eyes, the best team in a group of conferences that might as well be I-AA compared to the ACC and SEC.

This is just week one of a debate that dominated the late schedule last year, became a talking point in the offseason after UCF declared themselves national champions, and looks to be a major issue throughout this season.  Can a school that does not and cannot recruit as well as FSU, Miami, and Florida truly be better than those schools?

The Rankings

1:  University of Central Florida Knights (5 first place votes) – “McKenzie Milton finished the night with a line of 24-32, 346 yds, 5 TDs, and 0 INTs. Tre Nixon led the Knights in receiving yards, with 101 yds on five catches, two for touchdowns. Mack’s 70 yard run led all UCF rushers for the game. The next closest was Milton, with 50, and Greg McCrae with 43. Eight runners combined for 296 yards on the night.” –Chris Lynch

2:  Miami Hurricanes (3 first place votes) – In every poll that did not name UCF as the top team, Miami was at the top of the heap.  It should be noted that some of these polls came in before they played their opener with LSU, but even after the loss some placed them on top of the Florida heap.

3:  Florida State Seminoles – “Willie Taggart has a loaded team in Tallahassee. But if FSU is to return to the top of the ACC then it will because of their defense which is along with Miami the best in the ACC. But IF the Seminoles hope to get back top then it will depend on an offensive line that can protect the very talented QB Deondre Francois who if he can stay healthy could push them by Miami and challenge Clemson again for the top team in the ACC. Prediction – A ten-win season and second in the ACC Atlantic Division.”  -Jim Williams

4:  Florida Gators – “Some people celebrate a new job with sheet cake, but Dan Mullen sank his teeth into a cupcake on Saturday.  Florida looked impressive, but keeping in mind that anything short of total domination would have been mildly embarrassing it’s hard to give them bonus points.  A Kentucky team that is supposed to be better than Kentucky football typically has been awaits, and we will learn more about Mullen and his new-look Gators then.”  -Tim Williams

5:  USF Bulls – “I’m not looking for a big season from Charlie Strong’s USF squad. They will be entertaining locally and will compete against teams of similar ilk, but Blake Barnett and company will not be pushing for a big bowl spot come season end. Losses to Georgia Tech and Illinois will put a quick damper on the season for the Bulls but they will have a chance at revenge on the UCF Knights on November 23 at Raymond James.”  -USF Alum Steve Kinsella

6:  Florida Atlantic Owls – “The start to the season in Norman was a disaster. Even with a new QB, Lane Kiffin’s team should have shown a stronger sense of competitiveness. They did kick things into high gear following a 1-3 start last season and there is time before conference play to settle down. The roof has not caved after one week. Still, the hope was for a much better performance against a national power.”  –Tom Layberger

7:  Florida International Panthers – “Butch Davis did a very nice job with the Panthers last season thanks in large part to a stable situation at quarterback. Now, he is playing two QBs (grad transfer James Morgan and Christian Alexander) because there is little separation between them. While that may not hurt the offense, and they fared well against Indiana, you would think Davis would prefer one to stand out and become the face of the program.”  -Tom Layberger