We’re coming down the stretch of the season and all but two of our teams in the Sunshine Seven are bowl bound. The last few weeks of the season are all about playing to get better bowl bids so that come the end of December or early January each of the teams in our ranking is playing in a sunny, relaxing environment instead of the frozen tundra’s of the less notable bowls that happen early on in bowl season.
Lets get to our seven!
The Canes didn’t necessarily start out slow against the Wahoo’s, it was more that UVA came out of the tunnel scorching hot. Led by quarterback, Kurt Benkert, the Hoo’s charged out to an early halftime lead of 21-14. UVA even had at two junctures in the second half, a two-touchdown lead until the Canes turned it on by scoring 30 unanswered points.
The Canes look to finish out the season in the north east against their “Thanksgiving Rival” the Pittsburgh Panthers. If the Canes are able to complete the season undefeated they’ll have one more game (the Conference Championship) to stamp their ticket to the college football playoff held in the beginning of January.
The Knights “only” scored 45 in their contest against Temple but still came away with an easy victory in the city of brotherly love. Paced by McKenzie Milton through the air, (208 yards and four TD’s) the game was pretty much decided by halftime.
UCF has had a dream season so far but two specter’s hover over their program; one in their immediate future and another that could potentially unhinge their long term goals. The first is that they play in the rivalry game against USF known as the “War on the I-4.” Both teams have been dominant this season and this game looks to be one of the potentially better games of the college football season this weekend. The second is the fact that because of the success Head Coach Scott Frost has had at UCF the last two years all the Power 5 coaching vacancies that are available seem to have his name tied to the vacant positions. We’ll have to see if he stays put in Orlando or decides to move on to potentially greener, more profitable pastures.
In a game where everything was going the Bulls’ way through the first two quarters, things got a little too close for comfort in the end for USF as they beat the Golden Hurricanes 27-20. Each week Quinton Flowers and the offensive unit seem to morph into whatever type of offensive attack can work against their opponent. Sometimes he’ll sling the ball through the air for touchdowns but it seems that as the season has turned to fall, Flowers has resorted to himself as well as the offense as a whole have stayed on the ground to bludgeon opponents.
As noted above, USF and UCF tangle in the last game of the season to see who reigns supreme in the AAC. One of these two teams will likely be in a New Year’s Day bowl pending the outcome of “The War on I-4.”
USF and UCF are going to “duke it out” for the top spot in their conference. FAU and North Texas have already settled their divisions in Conference USA and are penciled in to the “defacto” Conference Championship game in two weeks. However, even though the Owl’s have a lot to look forward to, their last nine weeks or so have been something almost only seen in a dream. After getting bounced by both Navy and Wisconsin in the opening weeks of the season, the Owl’s have ripped off eight wins in nine games. Last weekend they took on FIU in the “Shula Bowl” and promptly handled the Golden Panthers 52-24.
Similar to Head Coach Scott Frost, Lane Kiffin is also seeing interest pick up in his talents when it comes to open positions across the college football landscape. In an odd course of events (with Kiffin, this is the new norm) that broke early on the 21st, Kiffin dispelled a rumor made by the media (#fakenews) that he planned on being back as the head coach at FAU. He restated that he enjoyed his time in Boca Raton and would definitely be back in the area next year one way or the other…. Okay then.
One Coach you could argue who is happy and firmly planting his roots into his program (besides Mark Richt of course) is Butch Davis at FIU. Both he and Kiffin have worked wonders in their first year at their programs but one (Kiffin) may be looking towards higher ambitions early in his career whereas Davis is towards the twilight of his and simply is happy to be back in college football after a long drought outside the coaching realm.
FIU has Western Kentucky next weekend at home so we’ll see if the Golden Panthers can back to their winning ways.
FSU and Florida
We’re putting these two teams together because they both have similar story lines. Both are 4-6, the Noles have to win out to go to a bowl game. The Gators have only one game left on their schedule (against the Noles) coming up this weekend so they could thwart the Noles’ plans of getting to 6-6 and automatically qualifying for a bowl spot.
However, there is one loop hole for the whole “getting to a bowl game” plan: the NCAA allows teams with 5-7 records to become eligible for bowl games if their Academic Progress Rate (APR) is higher than other institutions that are also 5-7. So, who knows? Maybe the Gators win this weekend and then the Noles beat ULM in the last week of their season to get to five wins? Either way, huge changes will (or should) be coming for both programs post the bowl game season.
FIU and FAU had their big rivalry game last weekend and look forward to finishing off their season over the next two weekends. UCF, USF, Florida and FSU all play in rivalry games this weekend that have two drastically different connotations for each of the four squads. UCF and USF are playing for a potential January Bowl bid while the Noles and Gators are simply looking to stay relevant.
Wouldn’t have expected that last sentence to be muttered this season in regards to Florida and FSU but 2017 hasn’t been a “normal year” by any stretch of the imagination. Onward we march.