The Sunshine Seven have officially entered the heart of their conference schedule. This will be the time when teams rise to the occasion or get bogged down in a forgettable season.
Let’s get to each teams updates!
USF, 5-0 (2-0)
Last week the Bulls had a bye week due to ramifications of moving around their schedule earlier in the season due to the hurricane that impacted Florida a few weeks prior. This weekend USF takes on in conference opponent Cincinnati at 7:30 pm.
Miami, 4-0, (2-0)
One ESPN article accurately calls the win against FSU “getting over the hump.” Miami played a wilting Florida State team at their home confines of Doak Campbell Stadium and even though the first half was a snoozer the second half performance by both teams added another chapter to this storied rivalry. Miami was able to march down the field twice at the end of the fourth quarter to score two touchdowns, one to Braxton Berrios and the second to Darrell Langham that sealed the savory victory against the instate rival Noles. The game results were not all sweet, however. Star running back Mark Walton was lost for the year to a broken ankle and hobbled wide receiver Ahmmon Richards may not be able to play verse Georgia Tech next weekend due to his gimpy hamstring.
UCF, 4-0 (2-0)
As noted in last week’s installment and will be highlighted again, UCF and USF are routing people. Even in conference opponents aren’t standing a chance against the fast paced, spread option attack. The quarterback for the Knights, McKenzie Milton completed 16 of 19 passes last weekend which is amazing; he totaled 375 passing yards and 5 touchdowns. That’s “Madden-on-Rookie-Mode” type statistics. Oh, by the way, this game was suspended due to weather at the end of the third quarter.
Scott Frost and his offense is rolling. Can anyone stop them?
Florida, 3-2 (3-1)
This contest for both LSU and Florida was… ugly… Both teams needed a win to keep pace in the SEC for at least viability for the rest of the season and LSU was the team that wanted the victory more and pulled out the result at The Swamp. Both teams leaned (almost fell?) on their run game specifically. The Gators ran the ball 38 times for 194 yards and two touchdowns. The Tigers ran the balls 48 times for 216 yards and one score. Besides those stats, there wasn’t much else going on. Both teams barely threw for over 100 yards in this contest.. Have to wonder if Gator nation is starting to feel that McElwain may only get one more season to turn around his beleaguered offense. The first three years of his version have been dreadful.
FSU, 1-3 (1-2)
The Noles are 1-3 and potentially are looking at not making a bowl game this season.
How the mighty have fallen.
Not to kick the Noles while their down, as noted above, they lost to Miami on a last second touchdown pass but they have lots of soul searching to do to finish out the season. Can Jimbo Fisher right the ship in Tallahassee? It’s a viable question after a brutal opening game loss to powerhouse Alabama and then somewhat surprisingly losing to an upstart NC State team at home (who has turned out to be quite good in 2017) and then last weekends “rip your heart out” loss to the Canes.
FAU, 3-3 (2-0)
Each program goes about building themselves in different ways. In some cases the easiest way to get the infrastructure built on campus is to play “money grab” out of conference opponents so that the budget and also future improvements to facilities can be financed. These games often result in resounding losses for the underdog teams. FAU’s first two opponents this season were Navy and Wisconsin and both results were the same for the Owls: a dominating loss. Since then though? The Owls under Lane Kiffin are 3-1 with a narrow loss to Buffalo away from their friendly confines. Now that they’re in the soft underbelly of their season, playing conference opponents, the Owls are simply grounding and pounding their foes.
Last weekend was no different in their new found offensive approach. Led by a game manager at quarterback (Jason Driskel) the Owls stuck to the ground attack with 69 rushes (nice….) for 453 yards (!!) and eight touchdowns (!!!!!). The defense was opportunistic by picking off ODU four times and the rout was on from the get-go.
FAU had won 3 games each season the last few years. We’re almost halfway through the 2017 season and Lane Kiffin and his squad already have matched that average. There’s a real shot the Owls go to a bowl game their first season under their mercurial leader and that would be nothing short of a major accomplishment by Kiffin and his staff.
FIU, 3-2 (2-1)
As much as the Owls were able to get going on the ground against an overmatched team, FIU did the exact opposite and got stomped by their opponent last weekend. Butch Davis has made this team more competitive than the previous year’s teams but overall, they’re still lowly FIU. By halftime the score was already 17-3 and the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders were on their way to a resounding victory.
The biggest take away I have from this week is that we start to see overall team outlooks being formed for the rest of the season. When you look at FAU and UCF for example, they both thought they could get a few good results from this season and hopefully get a bowl game. Now that their offenses are both on rolls heading into the meat of their conference play, they’re starting to have aspirations for more, maybe even a conference title? Potentially trending in the opposite direction could be FSU and Florida who are both not only fighting for conference victories but possibly bowl consideration as well. Will the players stay focused on the task at hand or will they start to dwell in the failed aspirations of the current season and look to the future? We’ll have to see as the season churns ahead for the Sunshine Seven.