The 2017 college football season in the state of Florida was... interesting. The Canes took their next step to ascending to the heights they were used to in the college football landscape whereas other powers got stuck in a rut almost for the entirety of the campaign. Besides the usual dominant teams struggling, programs that are often the butt of jokes around college football circles made bowl games and even secured double digit win totals. Lets take a look at who did what this season.
UCF, 13-0, defeated Auburn in the Peach Bowl
The Knights had a dream season that ended in a huge upset of Auburn in the Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl. Their sensational season landed Coach Scott Frost a “promotion” to once formidable Power 5 program, the Nebraska Cornhuskers where he’ll be tasked with breathing in life to a hapless offense.
Next season UCF looks to keep the good times rolling with their returning starting Quarterback McKenzie Milton who will probably start to garner national attention as a Heisman candidate. Incoming Head Coach Josh Heupel has to be excited with what he has to work with on both offense and defense.
Miami, 10-3, lost to Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl
Coach Mark Richt and his Canes seem to like going streaking.. in the sense of winning and losing games. Last season in his first year as head coach, Richt and the Canes broke out strong from the gates and went 4-0, their next four contests they lost and then finished up the 2016 season with five straight victories and a bowl win. In 2017 they kept the good times rolling through the first ten contests and finished the season on a losing streak of three which concluded with a disappointing loss to the Wisconsin Badgers in their home stadium.
Looking ahead to next season the Canes have a lot to look forward to but also have lots of answers to find as well. Will much maligned redshirt junior Malik Rosier stay QB1 or will the underclassmen snatch the job from his grip in the spring? Will the defense keep the turnovers (and the Chain) coming as they ranked near the top of college football or will they take a step back? We’ll have to see next season as the Canes open up the year in Dallas against the LSU Tigers.
USF, 10-2, defeated Texas Tech in the Birmingham Bowl
Coach Charlie Strong has to be excited for how his maiden season ended for the Bulls. He was able to snag 10 victories on the season, win a bowl game and keep the offensive firepower potent even after the departure of former Coach Willie Taggart. However, as Coach Taggart’s players start to peel away from the program we’ll see if Coach Strong and his Bulls can keep thundering along into 2018 and beyond. His number one priority will be to find a new quarterback after all-everything player Quinton Flowers graduates after the season.
FAU, 11-3, defeated Akron in the Boca Raton Bowl
Similar to Coach Strong ranked above him in this article, Lane Kiffin also had a tremendous opening season at the helm of the FAU Owls. At first the year started out kind of slow for the Owls as they played tough out of conference foes Wisconsin and Navy but after the first month of the season, the Owls soared and never looked back. Even in their bowl game where they were matched with what many thought to be an equally talented team in Akron, FAU simply destroyed them to the tune of 50-3. Kiffin was thought to be on the minds of many AD’s this offseason for a few of the Power 5 coaching vacancies but in the end he stayed put at FAU. One has to wonder what will be in store for his second act next season as he brings in more players that fit his high octane offense and opportunistic defensive tendencies.
FSU, 7-6, defeated SMU in the Independence Bowl
Not much went right for the Noles this year. They lost their season opener to Alabama and also their starting quarterback, Deondre Francois for the season. They then went on to have a season that could best be described as “frustrating” to say the least. The Noles had their winning streak against bitter rival Miami snapped and had to reschedule a game from early in the season that had been postponed due to a hurricane to one week after the regular season ended just to get their record up to six wins to become bowl eligible. Before their last game there were rumors swirling about how Coach Jimbo Fisher would be leaving the program for Texas A&M and the media attention got to be so bad about the subject coach Fisher decided to confirm the information and then leave abruptly just a few days before the makeup game.
The Noles played in their last game of the year and bowl game under an interim coaching staff but now turn their program over to new head coach Willie Taggart of previous USF fame. We’ll have to see how his first season at the helm of the once proud program goes come 2018.
FIU, 8-5, lost to Temple in the Gasparilla Bowl
Coach Butch Davis came out of retirement to spark life into the butt-of-jokes program and in his first year came up with nothing but spades. Even though FIU lost their bowl game to Temple, the Golden Panthers have to feel confident with Davis at the helm. Looking forward to next year, similar to both Miami and USF, FIU has to find a new signal caller at quarterback with Alex McGough graduating. Hopefully the bowl game is not a foreboding look into the future. McGough got hurt at the beginning of the contest and the Panthers had to send backup Maurice Alexander into the game and he left a lot to be desired in the passing department (16-33 for 162 yards and 2 interceptions).
UF, 4-7, no bowl game
The Gators seemed to have “a cloud” hover over their program all season. Coach McElwain was brought into Gainesville to clean up the offense that previous head coach Will Muschamp seemed to never be able to sync up. Through two seasons and heading into 2017, the results on the offensive side of the ball still hadn’t bared fruit for coach Mac. It only took about halfway through this season before the Gator faithful and than the Athletic Department said “no mas” and fired coach McElwain. The Gators then played under interim head coach Randy Shannon until the season concluded.
Looking ahead to 2018 and beyond the Gators have brought in well respected coach Dan Mullen from Mississippi State. Starkville is a tough place to coach due to being in the SEC West but Mullen made the Bull Dogs competitive with the likes of Alabama and LSU and that’s really all you could ask for. Now that’s he’s swapped the SEC west for the east, Mullen now has a chance to build on that success with his new team, the Gators.
Well, the 2018 season is over for the Sunshine Seven. Overall the seven teams got better as the season went on. FSU and UF were really the only two teams that floundered throughout the year. I’d put the state of Florida programs up against any other state in regards to players and programs. With FIU and FAU building hopefully a stable foundation, the instate competition should be strong for years to come.
See you next year!