Well ladies and gentlemen, the end is here (unless you're in the AAC, but whatever) and if you would have told me the final rankings at the beginning of the season, I probably wouldn't believe you. We've had a coach fired in mid-season just to see his team regroup and go on a nice four game win streak. We also had a storied program lose to a middling 1-AA triple option team so we saw our fair share of ups and downs this season. Now, it's time to see where I ranked the teams to start the season and witness where they ended up when all the dust settled on our 14 week journey (15 if you're the AAC but I digress).
Preseason Number 1: Florida State
Post Season Ranking: 1
I think if I had a term/phrase to use to describe the season for FSU it would be that they simply steamrolled their competition. Their most competitive game was a 48-34 contest at Boston College. Let me do the basic math (just in case).. THEIR CLOSEST COMPETITION THIS SEASON LOST TO THEM BY 14 POINTS!
Their success could be spread to any number of players/units of the team. The defense had beasts all over the defensive line and ball hawking corners to boot. Their stable of running backs on the three deep could be starters for any numbers of teams and their QB is a pretty good ball player.
Even the most loyal UM fan should be rooting for the Noles in the ACC Conference Championship and if they win in that game, the National Title as well. It would be great for at least one year for the National Title to reside somewhere else then the SEC. Plus, it will piss them off so there's that too (Roww Tide, Roww).
Preseason Number 2: Florida
Post Season Ranking: 5
Just like FSU rolled through their schedule the Gators, it could be argued, did the polar opposite. Every game was a struggle and in the end the season turned into a catastrophe. The nadir was losing to Georgia... wait it gets better I promise... Southern. Georgia Southern, a 1-AA team. Here's what I had to say in week one about the Gators and their offensive philosophy heading into the season:
"Florida emphasizes a power rushing attack and a smothering/speedy defense so it'll be interesting to see how they grow this season because their leading rusher Mike Gillislee has moved on to the pro ranks and they only return 3 starters along the defense. However, similar to FSU, Florida has recruited tremendous talent for the past decade (and beyond) so filling the vacancies that have been made by those before them shouldn't be a question; it's just a matter of how long it takes the new players to feel comfortable."
It turned out that the power running game could not be effective with the new faces along the offensive line and the Quarterback play became a complete disaster as the season progressed. The last few games, due to injury, their third string redshirt freshman Quarterback had to come in and help "manage" the offense. Yea, it got ugly.
Now the Gators aren't going bowling for the first time in what seems like forever and many fans are wondering the very apparent and logical question: what next? As of right now, it looks like the answer is that Coach Muschamp has his job for another year and they're looking for another Offensive Coordinator. Gator fans may not want to stomach it, but they may have to put up with Coach ‘Champ for another season.
Preseason Number 3: Miami
Post Season Ranking: 3
It seems crazy to think that I ranked them at 3 going into the year and that's exactly where they ended up at in the conclusion of the season. What really to say though? The offense preformed a little less effectively compared to last season and the defense... Well, they "performed" and I'll just leave it at that.
The ‘Canes are going bowling which is great and look to reach 10 wins for the first time in 5+ years. They have a lot of players coming back next season and hopefully a lot of new reinforcements to join the ranks that can make an instant impact (like this guy!!).
Preseason Number 4: UCF
Post Season Ranking: 2
Powder puff conference? So what, they won. Mediocre out of conference schedule? In hindsight, yes but winning at Happy Valley and playing a tough Gamecocks team is nothing to sneeze at. The Knights had three keys to posting a 10+ victory season (they still have another game to play).
1) Tough Defense: They gave up only 20.2 points per game which puts them at 17th best in the country
2) Don't turn the ball over: Their Quarterbacks only gave the ball away 9 times through the air compared to dishing out 23 touchdown passes.
3) Pound the rock: They only averaged 157 yards on the ground per game but their leading running back, Storm Johnson, yes, THAT Storm Johnson had a healthy 978 yards and 11 TDs for the season (remember, they still have another game)
In the end, to be honest, this ranking is more about Miami having mental lapses and just not being ready for the lime light as it is for UCF dominating their conference. If both teams played it would be a really interesting match-up. One team (Miami) who when they're really rolling can put up points. The other team (UCF) who doesn't make mistakes and can grind out victories if need be. Interesting comparison.
Preseason Number 5: USF
Post Season Ranking: 6
The wheels came off this bus a long time ago for the Bulls. We give "Coach T" a pass this year because Skip Holtz left the program in such disarray post his firing last season but you have to wonder what's going to happen in the future for the Bulls. It seems like there are more questions than answers at this point. Will their true freshman Quarterback develop into the pocket passer Taggert needs in his pro-style offense? Will the players be disciplined enough to run his offense (I still can't shake the 19 penalty game against Houston)? Many questions and the only logical answer is "we will have to wait and see."
Preseason Number 6: FAU
Post Season Ranking: 4
Everyone was talking about Coach Orgeron and the masterful job he was doing at USC post Lane Kiffin's dismissal but little did the rest of the college football world see that Coach Brian Wright was able to coax the fledgling Owls into bowl contention by going 4-0 down the stretch.
At the beginning of the season FAU had a three headed Quarterback battle competing and it just wasn't good for overall team chemistry. As the season developed the competition whittled down from 3 to 2 to eventually 1 and once they settled on Jaquez Johnson the offense settled in and slowly started to pick up the pace.
Just like Florida had tons of injuries all over their two deep, FAU seemed to lose in the most bizarre ways possible. Two drives ending on back to back fumbles (one was a scoop and score) to lose and even a last second 30+ yard field goal were gut wrenching games to stomach for the fans and the players. As noted previously, you have to feel good that they were able to go out on a high note, that's assuming they don't get a bowl bid.
Preseason Number 7: FIU
Post Season Ranking: 7
Easily, EASILY one of the worst teams in College Football. This team only got out of the cellar 4 out of the 14 weeks this series ran and when they did they were only able to advance north one spot. No Bueno. I believe in tough love so I'm not designating anymore of your time or mine to discuss this team. Run Turner has a lot of work if he wants to turn this ship around. I wish you luck good sir!
Here's the ticker of our power ranks through the season:
Well.. That's all folks! I'd just like to say thanks to all the readers who popped in and gave comments throughout the year. It was really great covering these teams (most of the time anyways) and your words of encouragement/correcting my mistakes were always much appreciated.
Thanks for your time and I hope to be back covering the Sunshine Seven for you guys next year!