When talking football, there are few states, if any, that compare to Florida. From the Friday nights in front of sold out crowds, to the Saturdays around the state that are met with hopeful teenagers and high expectations, football in Florida means more than anything. Those Saturdays are statewide, from the Miami mentality of speed to the state capital’s football culture and NFL talent, no place is quite like college football Saturdays around Florida. However, with all the talent the teams posses come debates as to who the best team is each week and season. It’s a question that is buried in the minds of so many students, alumni and analysts and it’s often an answer with preconceived biases. That conundrum is one that will be answered this season. Each week, power rankings will be released for each of the seven FBS programs: Florida, FAU, FIU, Florida State, UCF, USF and Miami.
With such, let’s cover the preseason rankings. These rankings will be used mostly as a base for the beginning of the season, where it’s most difficult to judge teams.
#1. #8 Miami Hurricanes (10-3 last season, loss in Orange Bowl to Wisconsin)
In 2017, the Hurricanes finished 10-3 and won the Coastal division. The Hurricanes return multiple starters on both sides of the ball and 8th best recruiting class last season according to 247Sports. It’s hard to put anyone over Miami as they’re likely the most talented team in Florida. The Hurricanes will open up their season in Dallas against #25 LSU.
#2. #21 UCF Knights (12-0 last season, win in Peach Bowl against Auburn)
2017 was a surprise for head coach Scott Frost and the team as a whole. The Knights went from 0-12 to 12-0 in the matter of just two seasons, a feat that’s impressive for any team. While the Knights lost linebacker Shaquem Griffin, cornerback Mike Hughes and receiver Tre’Quan Smith to the NFL, the team returns quarterback McKenzie Milton, an outside candidate to win the Heisman. The Knights also lost head coach Scott Frost, who moved to Nebraska following the season. The Knights will kick off Week 1 of the regular season on Thursday against conference opponent UConn.
#3. #19 Florida State Seminoles (7-6 last season, win in Independence Bowl against Southern Miss)
Despite the disappointing 2017 season, the Seminoles are still one of the powerhouses in Florida. The Seminoles return quarterback Deondre Francois, who was injured in the first game last season. Like UCF, the Seminoles were forced to replace longtime head coach Jimbo Fisher with Willie Tagartt, who moves to Tallahassee from Oregon. The Seminoles will start their season on Labor Day against Virginia Tech.
#4. Florida Atlantic (FAU) Owls (11-3 last season, win in Boca Raton Bowl against Akron)
The 2017 campaign was one of the most successful that the Boca Raton based school has seen. In what was supposed to be a turnover year, first-year head coach Lane Kiffin led the Owls to a 11-3 record, winning the C-USA for the first time in program history. For 2018, running back Devin Singletary will return for his Junior season after lighting the NCAA by fire last season. The Owls will travel to Norman to open up their 2018 campaign against Oklahoma.
#5. South Florida (USF) Bulls (10-2 last season, win in Birmingham Bowl against Texas Tech)
It’s hard to find negative things about the 2017 season for the Bulls. The Bulls finished 3rd in the American behind Memphis and UCF and could’ve beat the latter if it wasn’t for a kick return touchdown late in the 4th quarter. As for the 2018 campaign, there are question marks that will have to addressed. The Bulls will be without electrifying quarterback Quinton Flowers and will likely replace him with Brett Kean. Charlie Strong and company will open up their 2018 season in Tampa against Elon.
#6. Florida Gators (4-7 last season)
Last season was one of many disappointments for the Gators. After finishing the season 4-7, the Gators cleared house and hired an all new staff starting with head coach Dan Mullen. The Gators won’t quickly turn it all around and finish atop this power rankings but they could climb up with a few quality wins. The Gators will open up their 2018 campaign in Gainesville against Charleston Southern.
#7. FIU Panthers (8-5 last season, loss in Gasparilla Bowl to Temple)
Placing FIU at 7th seems unfair but it’s how the cookie ultimately crumbles. Last season, the Panthers exceeded a lot of expectations, finishing 2nd in the C-USA East. Finishing 8-4 was impressive but the Panthers will have to replace quarterback Alex McGough and question marks remain if their 2017 season was a fluke or truth. Much like the Gators, Panthers could climb up these rankings with a few quality wins. The Panthers will open their season against Indiana in Miami.