The end of November is here which means sadly the end of the college football season is drawing closer and closer. Conference titles will be on the line this week, and the NFL playoff picture is becoming clearer by the week. Some programs have vastly improved from last season, while some programs and franchises have sunk lower.
Those are stories for another time however and with that let’s break down this week’s rankings:
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- The Bucs were able to snap a four-game losing streak with the win over the 49ers, and played one of their better games of the season rolling 27-9. Granted it did come against the two-win Niners. Jameis Winston played a clean game in his first start, since becoming the starter again, which is a step in the right direction.
4. FIU Panthers- The Panthers fell just short of claiming the C-USA East division. Controlling their own destiny at home, the Panthers dropped the game 28-25 to Marshall. QB James Morgan had been great all season, but in this one, he passed for less than 200 yards and two interceptions. The Panthers though will go bowling once again, accepting a bid to the Bahamas Bowl. It was a good season for Butch Davis and company.
3. Miami Hurricanes- The Canes ended the season on the right foot handling Pittsburgh 24-3. Travis Homer had his way with the Pitt defense going off for 168 yards on only eight carries. QB N’kosi Perry was just 6/24 on the night and will look to improve on that in the bowl game. The Canes disappointed this season and questions came up about how Mark Richt managed the QB situation. Next season will be a big one for the head coach in Miami
2. Florida Gators- The Gators dominated rival Florida State Saturday in a 41-14 thumping. Feleipe Franks tossed three touchdowns, and Lamical Perine had 129 yards rushing with Jordan Scarlet adding 88 with both backs scoring once. The Gators had an impressive year under first-year coach Dan Mullen. It was also good on Mullen to stop his players from planting the Gator flag at midfield after Saturday’s win. The Gators could find themselves playing in a New Years six bowl this year coming a long way from a year ago.
1. UCF Knights- The Knights also dominated their rival beating the Bulls 38-10. They did lose in one aspect, when QB Mackenzie Milton was hit in the leg and had to be carted off and taken for emergency surgery. The Knights now ranked number 8 in the CFP rankings will now take on Memphis in a rematch of last year’s AAC title game.
The Tigers came the closest to defeating the Knights this season when they met at the Liberty Bowl. Darriel Mack will now take over at QB a player we hear has the tools to make the plays he will need to be on his “A game” come this Saturday.
Coaches and rosters finalized for East-West Shrine Bowl
The NFL and the newly-renamed East-West Shrine Bowl are finalizing not only their player rosters, but their coaching staffs for next Saturday’s game in St Petersburg, FL.
Late this week, the longest running college all-star game, the East West Shrine Bowl, named its head coaches, both of whom have ties to the Tampa Bay Area.
Bucs inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell will coach one of the teams, while former Buccaneers and current Falcons tight end coach, Ben Steele will be in charge of the other.
Caldwell, who came to the Buccaneers in Bruce Arians’ first season has been in the NFL for a total of 11 years and had previously served as the assistant head coach and linebackers coach for the New York Jets under Todd Bowles for 4 seasons.
Steele, who has coached in the NFL for seven seasons reunited with Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter in Atlanta after previously having been his tight end coach in Tampa Bay last year.
Bob Roller, executive director of the East-West Shrine Bowl, said in a statement about the coaching selections,
“We’re very excited to have Mike Caldwell and Ben Steele as head coaches for our East-West Shrine Bowl all-stars,” said Bob Roller, executive director of the East-West Shrine Bowl. “Ben was a coordinator for our 2019 game and both coaches have ties to the Tampa/St. Pete area. They will lead two strong staffs of NFL assistant coaches that will be invaluable to our players as they begin their own journey to the NFL”
Meanwhile, the rosters do have some Florida flair, as several noteworthy names will be on the East team. That’s led by speedy UCF running back Adrian Killins, Gators wide receiver Freddie Swain and USF tight end Mitchell Wilcox. On the East defensive squad, FAU linebacker Rashad Smith, Miami linebacker Shaq quarterman and UCF defensive back Neville Clark are part of the roster.
This will be the 95th playing of the East-West Shrine Bowl and it boasts 71 Pro Football Hall of Famers that have played in their game. And, they also had more than 300 players who were on an NFL roster for Week 1 last year that have played in the East-West Shrine Bowl.
The game also announced that there will be four legendary mentors working with the players in practices later this week in St Pete. Those include: Hall of Fame offensive lineman Will Shields, Super Bowl Champion defensive end Willie McGinest, as well as, long time safety Bobby Taylor and long time wide receiver Amani Toomer.
The game will be played at Tropicana Field, the home of Major League Baseball Tampa Bay Rays and televised nationally on the NFL Network at 3 p.m., Eastern Time next Saturday.
New Year’s Day has prominent teams in Florida Bowls
As the new year begins, traditional college football bowl games will be taking place. And even though there are no Florida teams battling on New Year’s Day, there are two prominent bowl games in the state.
First, two of college football’s “Blue Bloods” play Wednesday afternoon, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Michigan Wolverines will do battle in the VRBO Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
Both programs come off of disappointing end to their regular-season, as they both lost to their rivals. Alabama dropping a wild 48 – 45 game in the Iron Bowl to Auburn and Michigan losing badly 56-27 to Ohio State and their finale at home.
The Tide are without All American caliber quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who suffered a fractured hip late in the year. However, Nick Saban has arguably the best wide receiving corps in all of college football to compensate for Tagovailoa’s absence.
Michigan has perennially under-achieved under coach Jim Harbaugh, but would love nothing better than to score a head-to-head win against Bama in this one.
Meanwhile across I-4 in Tampa, the 25th playing of the Outback Bowl will take place and it’s a first-time matchup between the SEC Auburn Tigers and the big Ten’s Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The Gophers were Darlings of the Big Ten late in the year that they got to 9 – 0 for only the second time in program history before faltering with losses to Iowa and Wisconsin which knock them out of the Big Ten championship game. Their coach P.J. Fleck is the Big Ten coach of the year and has done an amazing job of making Minnesota nationally relevant.
As for the Tigers, we mentioned the victory over Alabama which was particularly sweet for Coach Gus Malzahn, who has been under fire in recent years for not living up to success earlier in the 2010s. Auburn freshman quarterback Bo Nix, the son of the former Auburn star Patrick Nix, leads a high-powered attack that will look to finish the season on a winning note. The Tigers lost their three biggest games of the year to Florida, LSU, and Georgia, but wins over Alabama and Minnesota will help.
The Gophers have had their most important season since they played in the Rose Bowl in 1962 and would love nothing better than to upset the Tigers in this one.