Week 14 is already here, signaling the end of the regular season. It seems like just yesterday; we had the week zero Florida vs. Miami game. A lot has changed in that time for all of the programs around the state. Last week, we saw some surprising results in both college and the NFL.
The Hurricanes lost embarrassingly against cross-town rival FIU. While the Buccaneers won impressively against the Falcons, USF took another loss to the chin in what was possibly Charlie Strong’s last home game. UCF took care of business on the road and Lane Kiffin and his FAU team also moved one step closer to becoming champions.
With all of that happening, last week, here is how our top 5 looks this week.
Florida Gators- The Gators keep the top spot again this week coming off of a bye week. They will now face rival Florida State, who is coming into the game with some confidence. The Noles have been a different team under Odell Haggins and are hungry for the upset.
The Gators, however, will be the second-best team FSU will face this season. The defense ranks 12th overall in the Nation and figures to give the shaky FSU O-line problems. Dan Mullen has had a week to prepare Kyle Trask and his receivers on how to exploit the FSU defense that ranks 114th in the nation against the pass.
At home, expect the Gators to take control of this game early to avoid any upset.
FAU Owls- The Owls kept doing their job for weeks, and that was winning football games. They could only control what they did, and it has paid off. With Marshall losing to Charlotte that pushed FAU in first place outright in the C-USA East. They were able to defeat UT-SA with comfort 40-26. They did so, with a balanced attack on offense three different players went over 50 yards rushing while scoring touchdowns. QB Chris Robinson tossed one touchdown and threw for 336 yards.
“Do it all” tight end Harrison Bryant led the team in receiving with 182 yards. Next, the Owls will face Southern Miss, a team also looking to make the conference title game. The Golden Eagles are in a three-way tie for the West lead. The Eagles have the 17th best run defense and the 18th best passing offense.
FAU likes to throw more than they like to run, and the defense has stopped the pass better than the run. This should be an interesting close game as both teams want to play for the conference title.
UCF Knights- UCF bounced back with a road win over Tulane Saturday. QB Dillon Gabriel played much like his early-season self with 317 yards passing and one touchdown. Backup Darriel Mack Jr. also contributed with a passing and rushing touchdown. UCF led this game 24-7 at one point before the Tulane offense could get going. Next, UCF will face “War on I-4” rival USF. The Bulls have not been good on offense this year while the defense does all it can.
A win will give UCF nine regular-season wins with a chance for double digits in a bowl game. It isn’t the New Years’ Six they wanted, but if they can land an in-state rival in a bowl game, the team and the fan base will surely take that.
Florida State- FSU has been playing inspired football under Odell Haggins. The inspired ball worked against Boston College and Alabama State, but can it work against Florida? We know about the offensive line struggles for FSU and the reliance on RB Cam Akers and WR Tamorrion Terry. To win this game, it will probably need to come down to the final few minutes forcing the Gators to make a big play late.
The offense will need other role players to step up and for Kendal Briles to get creative with his play calling.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- The Bucs actually won a game in impressive fashion, as the defense played great, and the offense was on fire. The 35-22 win was one needed for the Bucs as well, having only won a single division game. Chris Godwin had a monster game with two touchdowns and 184 yards.
The defense forced two turnovers and racked up six sacks on the afternoon. Next, the Bucs will travel to face an in-state opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Bucs QB Winston still not throwing football Thursday
All eyes continue to be on Buccaneer quarterback Jameis Winston’s injured thumb and while for the second straight day at practice he was unable to throw a football, he was seen at least throwing a ball of some kind.
First, Winston injured the thumb late in the first half of Sunday’s wild 38 – 35 win over the Colts and after having two opinions on what to do, was once again on Thursday, at least in the portion open to the media, he was going through reps without holding or throwing the ball.
Some good news on the Jameis Winston injury front: He's not throwing a football yet but he has progressed to throwing a tennis ball. Here’s some video of today’s practice… https://t.co/ymMDtFXTUg pic.twitter.com/2OOGhNKvAg
— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) December 12, 2019
Coach Bruce Arians admitted after the game Sunday that Winston had suffered what he termed “a slight slight fracture of the thumb” on his throwing hand just before halftime. When the team came out to warmup for the second half, Winston was unable to grip the football and went back inside for an x ray.
Backup quarterback Ryan Griffin worked the first series of the second half and the Buccaneers got one first down before punting. Griffin is in his sixth season, but Sunday was his first action for the Bucs in a regular season game.
Winston came back and threw for over 200 yards and two more touchdowns, as the Bucs put on a rally after trailing 35 – 21. He threw the game winning TD pass to WR Breshad Perriman with under five minutes remaining.
Wednesday, Winston met with the media at his usual news conference, and repeated twice that he is “day by day” with the thumb.
Arians said he believes the 5th year quarterback will play Sunday at the Lions. And more than likely, Friday’s practice will be the critical day to see if Winston can grip the ball and throw it, especially with some velocity down the field.
The Bucs still have to decide whether they will get a third quarterback to have, just in case Winston cannot play, to be Griffin’s backup?
Winston has been a lightning rod of both praise and criticism, as he currently leads the NFL with 23 interceptions, including three more Sunday. However, he is also second in the NFL in touchdown passes (26) and total passing yards going into play in week 15.
Tampa Bay is on a three game winning streak and gets to play two-win Detroit Sunday.
Bucs moving up in our latest power rankings
With conference championships now over, all focus will shift to bowl games in college. Florida Atlantic was the lone state team playing for a title last week, defeating the UAB Blazers in blowout fashion. In the NFL, the Bucs made it three straight victories.
The Dolphins almost made it two in a row before the late-game drama. The Jacksonville Jaguars offense fell flat at home in a blowout defeat. That all leads into how our top 5 looks heading into this weekend:
Florida Gators- The Gators stay on top despite not participating in the SEC title game. They may not have played a game, but they still got a win by being selected to the Orange Bowl. Dan Mullen is now two for two in his Gators career in gaining entry into the “New Years Six.” Two seasons of a row with a big bowl win can only help the gators getting back to where they want to be, and that is competing for championships.
Florida Atlantic- The Owls were able to win the C-USA championship destroying UAB 49-6. This was the second title in three years for the Owls, and their great success under Lane Kiffin. All good things come to an end in this day and age in college football for non-power five schools. And so, Kiffin is now on his way to “the Grove” and will be the head coach of Ole Miss. The Owls reward is to play host to SMU in the Boca Raton Bowl.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- The Bucs are riding a hot streak right now. They are now on a three-game winning streak. The offense continues to put up big numbers behind QB Jameis Winston. Winston, who threw for a career hight 456 yards Sunday, has the second-most yards and touchdowns, but leads the league in INTs by a large margin.
The defense has been playing very well during this winning streak. Next, the Bucs will go on the road to face a struggling Detroit Lions team.
UCF Knights- The Knights had a rare off week during the AAC Title game. They had won the previous two and Saturday the Memphis Tigers won this one, avoiding the Knights. UCF, however, still won 9 games and will look to make it 10 in the bowl game. They will head an hour south to play Marshall in the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa.
Many wanted the Knights to draw an in-state team like FSU or Miami; instead, it will be Marshall. It is important for UCF to end the year strong with a decisive victory.
Miami Dolphins- The Dolphins didn’t win this past weekend over the New York Jets. They did, though, show a lot in this contest. For a team that looked down and out the whole first half of the season, they have completely turned it around.
If it wasn’t for a late review on pass interference, the Dolphins likely would have won their fourth game in their last six. Head coach Brian Flores was livid after the game, and that heart and passion has put his name in the running for coach of the year.
No, he won’t win the award, but what he and this team have done has been impressive with the lack of talent on the roster.