How did the season end for the Sunshine Seven? Read the recaps below to find out!
1) Florida State, 9-3, beat Florida 31-13
This game was all about a handful of plays that decided the game. Deandre Francois and Dalvin Cook, going against a stout defense across from them did just enough to put this game out of reach late. Francois had a minuscule 138 yards throwing and had one touchdown through the air and on the ground. However, that rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter gave the Noles breathing room to put away the Gators.
Looking back at the season that was for the Noles it’s kind of hard to say they really “failed” as a program. They had three losses, all to top level competition (Clemson, North Carolina and Louisville) and in the case of the UNC loss they got beat at the gun by a 50+ yard field goal. Nole fans will probably be miffed by the end results of the season though. Their defense was leaky throughout and one has to wonder a year removed without Jameis Winston at the helm and now Dalvin Cook in all likelihood going pro after the bowl game, how will Jimbo Fisher do without those supremely talented players to lean on during crunch time? Francois has done really well for them as a freshman, we’ll all have to see how he progresses in 2017 and beyond to see if he picks up the slack that Dalvin Cook leaves behind.
2) Florida, 8-3, lost to Florida State 31-13
Read the above highlights for the Noles and also watch the youtube clip and you’ll see all you need to know. The Gators yet again were stymied on offense as Austin Appleby again was limited to just 149 yards passing with no touchdowns or interceptions.
The Gators have one more game in-season left as they are to take part in the potential blood bath at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Head Coach Jim McElwain has dismissed doubters of his program in this contest but it’s hard seeing Florida really be competitive in this game as they’ve struggled on offense all year.
Overall this season I’d call the Gators success “luke warm.” Similar to Florida State, Florida beat the teams they were supposed to beat but lost to the higher level competition in conference as well as their rivalry game previously discussed against FSU. It’s interesting that the Oregon head coaching job has come open the last 24-48 hours. McElwain is from the west coast and has lots of experience in the region. For Miami fans, this is similar to the “Al Golden to Penn State” situation. He may want to get out of Gainesville as he’s still a hot commodity in the coaching ranks. His offense the last two years has been nothing short of abysmal and he’s an offensive minded coach. What happens when previous head coach Will Muschamp’s defensive players graduate? McElwain may very well be on the hot seat next season if progress isn’t made or the win/loss record dips.
3) South Florida, 10-2, beat UCF 48-31
South Florida again outpaced their opponent on the offensive side of the ball. This time it was the UCF Knights. Heisman candidate Quinton Flowers had a relatively quiet day as he only accounted for two touchdowns on the afternoon. He did however amass over 300 all-purpose yards while commanding the Bulls to again scoring 40+ points. The defense was again pretty much non-existent. At one point UCF ran a trick play where the running back threw deep downfield to a wide receiver. The pass was woefully underthrown but the corner in coverage wasn’t looking back for the ball. The safety also whiffed on the tackle of the ball catcher which went for a deep score.
Unfortunately, due to their sole loss in conference play coming against division leader Temple, the Bulls cannot play for their conference championship game against the Navy Midshipmen. It could be a slight blessing in disguise though. Even though the Bulls would love to play for a conference championship they now get to sit back and wait to see if they can be placed in one of the big bowl games close to the new year.
For the season wrap up, the Bulls have to be beyond ecstatic for what they were able to accomplish up to this point. They’ve amassed their most wins in a season and are very much “trending up” heading into the 2017 season. Coach Taggert has a resume of rebuilding Western Kentucky and now USF. It’ll only be a matter of time before a power conference (and probably a perennial power program) comes calling for his services to turn around their program. He should be rated at the same level, if not higher than the likes of the Herman’s and PJ Fleck’s of the college football coaching world in terms of the “up and coming” candidates in my opinion.
4) Miami, 8-4, beat Duke 40-21
I don’t follow Duke on a week in and out basis but apparently they’ve lost a tremendous amount of talent to injury over the course of the season. It was readily apparent in the early evening hours last Saturday as Brad Kaaya and the Canes carved up the Duke secondary mercilessly to the tune of 396 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions through the air. On the day as a whole the Miami offense gained 568 yards and had the contest in hand entering the fourth quarter. The defense on the day was gashed in the first half but went into halftime and made a few tweaks to hold the Duke offense to just seven points in the second half (touchdown was given up in the final moments of the fourth quarter).
Miami now awaits their bowl destination just like USF. Many of the potential landing spots have intriguing matchups that could pit the Canes against a Big 12 opponent (WVU) or SEC teams (Kentucky, Al Golden Lite, Georgia or Florida). Whomever the Canes play they’ll look to finish the season riding a five game win streak and hope that in 2017 they can keep the forward momentum rolling.
5) Central Florida, 6-6, lost to USF 48-31
The Knights were able to score enough points to beat USF but they weren’t able to keep up, unfortunately. McKenzie Milton, the last few weeks anyways, has seemed to hit a freshman wall. He attempted 42 throws yet only amassed 225 yards and gave away two interceptions and a fumble. Maybe the time off between now and the bowl game can give him time to regroup. One has to wonder if his psyche has been rattled the last month or so based on his overall “meh” numbers.
For the year though, Scott Frost and his first year staff have to be really excited with what they were able to accomplish with the players they had on hand. Remember, UCF used to be a slow, plodding, methodical offense with a grind it out defense before this season. Frost inserted a few freshmen (namely at quarterback, running back and wide receivers) and the philosophy change with the results have been night and day from last season to now. The biggest hindrance at the moment though has to be the coaching rumor that Coach Frost might head back to his former employer who just fired their head coach, the Oregon Ducks (haven’t we heard about that already…?). UCF has a good thing marinating; we’ll see if next season is a continuation or a second reset in three years.
6) Florida International, 4-8, lost to ODU 42-28
Well, at least interim head coach Ron Cooper can say that his team gave good effort in the eight games he coached and were relatively competitive in all the contests. This game was all about the third and fourth quarters for FIU. ODU and FIU were trading scores back and forth during the first half of the contest and settled at 14-14 heading into the break. In the third quarter FIU and ODU again notched scores at 21 all. That was about all the Golden Panthers could muster the rest of the contest. In the last 12 minutes of the third quarter through to the end of the game ODU went on a 21-7 run to seal the victory and a 9-win season.
With no bowl game in sight for FIU it’s now time for the Panthers to look ahead to the Butch Davis era. Davis currently is filling out his staff as well as recruiting players he thinks can make instant impacts for FIU in 2017. Odds are lots of freshmen will play next season and a true “Year 0” scenario will be happening for the Golden Panthers. Davis is going to need at least three years before the pundits can start judging his initial results. We’ll see if there are any flashes of hope before that though. Stay tuned!
7) Florida Atlantic, 3-9, lost to Middle Tennessee, 77-56
Unlike Ron Cooper’s squad who were fighting for pride most of the season and in the last contest, FAU got gashed for most of the season and in this last game to close out the year got throttled. I’m not going to lie, when I first saw this score I thought somehow this contest was actually meant for the basketball team page. Wow, 77 points is A LOT in college football. You can imagine the box score for the Blue Raiders’ side of the ledger is gaudy and it is. MT threw the ball just 16 times but they amassed 262 yards and one touchdown. “Only one touchdown you ask? Where are the rest?” Oh, we haven’t gotten to the running game. MT ran away with 495 yards and 9 touchdowns. Each of the top three rushers scored three TD’s apiece.
This latest setback was enough for the AD at FAU apparently and he fired head coach Charlie Partridge after the game. FAU now heads into an offseason of uncertainty. There are a lot of good candidates out there who could be head coaches. We’ll have to see who they select. If it were me that candidate would have to know the Boca Raton area very well, scout and find gem recruits and then develop that talent from freshman level to redshirt senior. This job doesn’t have a quick fix and you only hope the FAU Athletic Department gives the next candidate more than three years to turn the ship to the right course.
What do you think of the final thoughts for the year? Should USF be higher than the Gators? Post your comments below!