Sport Talk Florida’s College Football Preview

Heading Into the 2018 Season, the state of Florida Could Feature Seven Ten-Win Teams

It’s not a secret that Florida is lush with talent from its high school football programs. Teams love coming to the Sunshine State trying to lure top-notch players away to their college programs. However, over the past couple of years, kids from Florida are starting to pick schools in Florida more often.

Now, Florida teams are seeing the fruits of their labor as the seven FBS programs try to reach ten-win seasons for the first time ever.

Three Bold Predictions

  1. Miami Will Reach The CFP: The Hurricanes have the perfect schedule to represent the ACC in the CFP. Equipped with a ball-hawking defense and an experienced offense, look for the Canes to make a serious run. Head Coach Mark Richt will finally win that elusive “Big Game.”
  2. Canes, Noles, and Gators Will Go To New Year’s Six Bowls: With Miami reaching the CFP, Florida State and Florida will not be far behind. The Noles and Gators will reach NY6 Bowl Games as first-year head coaches Willie Taggart (FSU), Dan Mullen (UF), will look solidify their place in college football.
  3. Head Coaches On The Move: Lane Kiffin (FAU), Charlie Strong (USF), and Butch Davis (FIU) will accept Power Five head coaching jobs heading into the 2019 season. These coaches are already proven at Power Five Schools and will look to get back to programs where they can win National Titles.

Top Florida Inter-Squad Games

vernoncroy.com
  1. Florida State at Miami: A rematch of last year’s thriller as Miami won on a GW touchdown. FSU will try to ruin Miami’s CFP chances.
  2. Florida State at Florida: A raw deal for the Noles as they face Miami and Florida on the road. Florida is looking to end a five-year losing streak to FSU.
  3. FAU at UCF: A Group of Five game with huge implications as the winner of this will have the inside track to NY6
  4. UCF at USF: A rematch to one the best games in all of college football last year. The War on I-4 will be very interesting, this time in Tampa.
  5. FIU at Miami: Miami’s little brother isn’t so little anymore as FIU looks to gauge their progress at Hard Rock Stadium down the road.
  6. FAU at FIU: Another revenge game as the Owls beat the Panthers soundly in the midst of their ten-game win streak.

Season Previews

#8 Miami Hurricanes

Hurricanes
MIAMI HURRICANES

Head Coach: Mark Richt – 3rd season

Last Year’s Result: 10-3 record; loss to Wisconsin in Orange Bowl.

At three seasons, Richt is the longest-tenured amongst FBS head coaches in Florida. Richt has #8 Miami with its highest preseason ranking since 2004. 14 years later, the Canes look to regain the swagger that dubbed them “The U.” In 2018 Miami has one goal, the College Football Playoff.

  • Senior QB Malik Rosier retained his job after a poor ending to the 2017 season, three-straight losses. However, Miami has loads of talent and depth at RB and WR. Tight end is a cause for concern with a couple of true freshmen leading the way.
  • Defensively, Miami has one best and fastest defenses in the Nation. Equally deep as the offense, the Canes will be led by experienced upperclassmen at all three levels.
  • Miami will be favored in every game on their schedule in 2018. However, week one’s matchup with LSU in Dallas will be one for the ages. After the annual showdown with Florida State on Oct. 6th, all roads lead to Clemson in an ACC Championship rematch.
  • Preseason Bowl Prediction: Capital One Orange Bowl – CFP Semi-Final

#19 Florida State Seminoles

In this Sept. 5, 2016 file photo, Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois (12) warms up before an NCAA college football game against Mississippi in Orlando, Fla. Francois led FBS freshmen quarterbacks in passing yards last year and led Florida State to a 10-3 record despite being constantly under pressure in the pocket. Francois is firmly in control of the Seminoles’ offense and hopes that last year’s lessons pay off into a successful season. Photo: AP Photo/John Raoux. File.

Head Coach: Willie Taggart – 1st season

Last Year’s Result: 7-6 record, win over Southern Miss in Independence Bowl.

It seems Taggart is a perfect fit after Jimbo Fishers’ departure to Texas A&M. Taggart couldn’t have asked for a better situation, with the talent, fertile recruiting grounds, and a quarterback — or two. Expectations are high in Tallahassee, Taggart’s handling of the QB situations is vital. What does success look like for the Noles in 2018?

  • Monday, FSU tabbed Deondre Francois the starter week one vs. Virginia Tech. Francois fits Taggart’s scheme better than James Blackman. Running back Cam Akers looks to have a breakout year as the featured back in Tallahassee.
  • Defensively, the Noles are replacing a lot of talent. However, FSU is hoping guys from the #3 ranked recruiting class in 2016 will step up.
  • Florida State has one the toughest schedules in the county, week one, #20 Va. Tech. Louisville, #8 Miami, and #12 Notre Dame all on the road. Also, #2 Clemson and Florida at home.
  • Preseason Bowl Prediction: PlayStation Fiesta Bowl

#21 UCF Knights

UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton (10) looks to pass on the run in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Cincinnati, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, in Cincinnati. Photo: AP Photo/John Minchillo.

Head Coach: Josh Heupel – 1st season

Last Year’s Result: 13-0; AAC Champions, win over Auburn in Peach Bowl.

The only undefeated team from 2017 returns to defend its “National Title.” With no notable power five teams on UCF’s schedule, it’ll be hard to attend the College Football Playoff. However, the Knights are favored in all 12 games; will winning their last 24 games (including #9 Auburn) have an impact on the committee?

  • The offense won’t change much as Heupel loves to run tempo with a lot of space. QB McKenzie Milton returns to lead an explosive group.
  • Defensively, Shaquem Griffin and Mike Hughes are huge losses for the Knights. However, new defensive coordinator Randy Shannon has loads of experience.
  • UCF’s best case scenario is FAU beating Oklahoma in week one, then beating FAU in a Florida Group of Five showdown on September 21st in Orlando.
  • Preseason Bowl Prediction: Birmingham Bowl

NR – Florida Gators

Courtesy: FloridaGators.com

Head Coach: Dan Mullen – 1st season

Last Year’s Result: 4-7 record; fired head coach Jim McElwain after 42-7 loss to Georgia.

Mullen’s stint in Starke, Mississippi is considered successful. However, Mullen only went 33-39 vs. SEC opponents. The SEC East will prove much easier than the SEC West. How long will it take for Mullen to get the Gators back on track? How long is acceptable?

  • Feleipe Franks will start the season at quarterback after fall camp’s QB competition. However, the offense will be run-heavy with RBs Malik Davis, Jordan Scarlett, and Lamical Perine behind a very good offensive line.
  • Florida’s defense was a concern last season; seemingly giving up countless big plays. Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham will have his work cut out.
  • The Gators have a tough stretch in the middle of the season: Tennessee, Mississippi State, LSU, Vanderbilt, and Georgia. A stretch of games will define Florida’s season.
  • Preseason Bowl Prediction: Allstate Sugar Bowl

NR – USF Bulls

Photo: USF Athletics

Head Coach: Charlie Strong2nd season

Last Year’s Result: 10-2 record; win over Texas Tech in Birmingham Bowl.

2018 will be Charlie Strong’s toughest coaching job to date. Strong’s ability to coach performance and production out of players will be on full display as the Bulls replace quite a few talented players including quarterback Quinton Flowers.

  • Filling the holes offensively is a tall task for offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert. Blake Barnett will get the nod at QB; he’ll have plenty of weapons at running back and receiver.
  • USF’s defense has fewer questions as they’ll rely on their athletic secondary and edge rusher, Greg Reaves.
  • The Bulls will look to avenge two one-possession losses vs. Houston and UCF.
  • Preseason Bowl Prediction: Military Bowl

NR – FAU Owls

Lane Kiffin gestures as he speaks after being introduced as the new Florida Atlantic head football coach, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Boca Raton, Fla. The school announced the move on Twitter on Tuesday, a day after Alabama coach Nick Saban said his offensive coordinator was leaving to take over the Owls. It’s the fourth opportunity for Kiffin to be a head coach, after an NFL stint with the Oakland Raiders and college ones at Tennessee and USC. Photo: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee.

Head Coach: Lane Kiffin – 2nd season

Last Year’s Result: 11-3 record; C-USA Champions, win over Akron in Boca Raton Bowl.

After a 1-3 start to the 2017 season, many questioned the Lane Kiffin hiring. However, over the next ten games, the Owls proved to be one of the best teams in college football.

  • The offense will go thru running back Devin Singleton, one of the top RBs in the nation who will play on Sundays.
  • The defense returns ten starters, building continuity as they convert to a more attacking style of defense.
  • FAU will have to chance to prove they belong in the CFP conversation within the first four weeks; two games vs. #7 Oklahoma and #21 UCF.
  • Preseason Bowl Prediction: PlayStation Fiesta Bowl

NR – FIU Panthers

PHOTO: FIU PANTHERS

Head Coach: Butch Davis – 2nd season

Last Year’s Result: 8-4 record; loss to Temple in Gasparilla Bowl.

In Davis’ first year, he doubled FIU’s win total from 2016, then signed the Panther’s best recruiting class ever. The Panthers look to improve on 2017 with a lot of new faces on offense and defense.

  • FIU’s defensive line will be the strength of the Panthers. Lead by seniors to go along with some nice junior college transfers.
  • The Panther’s offense will lean on the running game as their new signal-caller gets acclimated after the departure of Alex McGough.
  • With games at Miami and FAU, the Panthers will look to leave their mark on the 2018 college football season.
  • Preseason Bowl Prediction: Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl
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