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Look who entered our top five rankings this week

Jamil King

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Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Jamil King is a young draft pick working his way up the depth chart on the F.F.I. roster, who enjoys watching and writing about all of Florida’s football teams.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs DE Barrett basked in first Pro Bowl appearance Wednesday

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Off the best pass-rushing season in Buccaneers history, potential free-agent defensive end Shaq Barrett was soaking things in Wednesday in Orlando.

That’s where the NFC and AFC top players have congregated for the 2020 Pro Bowl coming Sunday.

Barrett, who set the Buccaneers single-season sack record with 19.5 this past season, ended up being the lone Buccaneer able to play in the game. This, after receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have both had to bow out due to hamstring injuries.

Barrett got props on day one from one from Cardinals DE Chandler Jones, whom he battled for the sack title all the way down to the final Sunday of the season:

Barrett then got to hangout and sign autographs with the fans assembled at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. The sixth year player out of Colorado State, who was originally undrafted but signed with the Broncos in 2014, then told the media, he’s looking for a big-money free-agent deal. And, further, his preference is that he stays in Tampa Bay.

After all, Barrett surpassed anyone’s expectation in 2019, while playing for a modest one-year free agent deal and betting on himself to cash-in. And now, after his agent Drew Rosenhaus and Bucs GM Jason Licht are done, it appears he will be making in the neighborhood of $18-20 million per year just like the top pass rushers in the NFL.

The Bucs also have the possibility of putting the franchise tag for 2020 on Barrett which would also be valued around that same amount for just the one season.

One final cool moment came Wednesday, where Barrett got introduced to a young Buccaneers fan who’s enduring tremendous family hardship with one parent battling cancer and another suffering from the debilitating ALS disease. After signing an autograph for the young man, Barrett gave him the surprise of his young life with two tickets to next weekend’s Super Bowl in Miami:

And just like that fantastic reward, Barrett will soon be similarly rewarded for his fantastic year and upcoming potential. And most likely, it will be in Tampa Bay for a long time.

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Bucs Evans got respect from LeBron James Saturday night

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The new present day cliche’ for respect among athletes/opponents in sports is: “Game Recognizes Game.” And, there was a neat example of that Saturday night, as the Houston Rockets of the NBA hosted the L.A. Lakers. That’s when iconic NBA star LeBron James of the Lakers came over to acknowledge Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans in the seats behind him.

As you probably know, James is arguably the most recognizable and successful NBA hoops player worldwide in the last 10+ years. He’s a 15 time All Star, a four time MVP, and helped the Miami Heat win two World Championships. And, then came back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who originally drafted him out of high school, and led them to the city’s epic first professional title in any sport in over 50 years back in 2016.

And, LeBron has the Lakers rolling at 34-8 with another win in Houston last night.

As for Evans, he is a Tampa Bay Buccaneers biggest offensive weapon and was having a tremendous 2019 season statistically until it was cut short with a hamstring injury in the Bucs early December win over the Indianapolis Colts.

That’s when Evans suffered a severe hamstring injury on a 61 yard touchdown catch from Jameis Winston and did not play another down in 2019. Still, he joined teammate Chris Godwin, as they both went over 1,000 yards for the season, which was the first time in Tampa Bay history that that happened.

Evans is also only the second player in league history, besides Randy Moss, to have 1,000 or more yards receiving in a season in his first six years in the NFL.

Further, it’s also well-known that Evan is a huge fan of the NBA and he’s originally from Galveston, Texas and play in college at Texas A&M. So, it’s only fitting that he would be courtside during the off-season and the Rockets game against the Lakers.

Evans has made mention earlier in his career that he had met and talked to LeBron James on previous occasions. One reason that Evans brought that up during the season, was his touchdown celebration dance when Tampa Bay outgunned the L.A. Rams in late September.

In that 48 – 40 win Evans caught this clinching fourth-quarter bomb touchdown from Winston and then, celebrated with LeBron James’s signature dance move

James has previously and frequently used that on the court after a big moment, a big win or a championship.

Again “Game recognizes Game,” and clearly James wanted to give some recognition to the Bucs star whiteout Saturday night courtside at his own game.

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