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FAU-FIU “Shula Bowl” part of our Saturday primer

Jamil King



Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

As week 11 rolls on today, we have two teams looking to bounce back from losses. One team looking to continue a winning streak, and a rivalry down south. With UCF already losing at Tulsa Friday night, as well as USF losing Thursday night at home to Temple, things are off to a rough start in the state.

Florida State is set to play its first game post Willie Taggart. Odell Haggins will coach as the interim for the second time in 3 years. As far as the actual game goes, the Noles defense will need to be up to the challenge of stopping the Boston College running backs. A.J. Dillon leads the group that is a top 5 rushing attack averaging 280 yards a game.

FSU will be without star DT Marvin Wilson due to a broken hand, further depleting a group that will be relied heavily upon. David Bailey, the back up running back, is also a big back like Dillon and will receive about 10- 15 carries and could also be a real problem for the Noles. As far as the offense for FSU, we know it begins and ends with Cam Akers. After a slow day last week in a loss to Miami, we learned he has been battling an injury.

The Noles need an effective Cam Akers and, more importantly, a functioning passing attack. Boston College can be beaten through the air allowing almost 300 yards a game. This game has the makings to be a shootout and could be a sneaky good game in the early window.

The Florida Gators are also looking to bounce back this weekend. They lost to rival Georgia last week and all but ended their chance at the SEC East title. Now they will focus on getting back to a New Years’ six-game. They will host a Vanderbilt team that only averages 17 points a game. Expect the Gators who have been saying they will be playing mad to come out fast.

The defense should be swarming and especially on third down where they were gashed last week. On offense, look for them to get the running game going. Last week against Georgia it was nonexistent. The Gators are heavy favorites at home and should be able to win this game with no heroics.

The Miami Hurricanes are looking to go on a three-game winning streak. Jarren Williams has given the offense new life since throwing the game-winning touchdown at Pitt. They will now face a Lousiville team that is better at offense more so than defense. Expect the canes to get DeeJay Dallas involved early to help set up the play-action to guys like Jeff Thomas, K.J. Osborn, and Brevin Jordan.

On defense, the Canes will need to key in on Chatarius Atwell and Javian Hawkins. Both guys are playmakers with the ball in their hands and will have the ball a lot. If the Canes can stop those two, then they should be on their way to another win and an excellent rebound after the Georgia Teach game.

We saved the best for last, with a rivalry game down south between FAU and FIU in the latest edition of “The Shula Bowl.”

Both teams are coming off of wins making the game more exciting. The Owls are also tied for the top spot in the C-USA east, and FIU will want to spoil the Owls season here. For FAU, the offense is going to go through QB Chris Robinson (above). The Owls are a better passing team, and Robinson has been the engine to that.

The FIU defense, though, has been dreadful against the run and good against the pass, meaning someone in the FAU backfield could find themselves in a vital role. For the Panthers, the offense is led by the run and by Anthony Jones. Last week it was Napoleon Maxwell who led the team in rushing, but both will be the catalyst for this team. James Morgan will need to make some throws, however, because the FAU defense has been better against the run than they have against the pass.

Both teams come into the game better at stopping the teams’ strengths meaning this could come down to coaching between Butch Davis and Lane Kiffin.

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.


Coaches and rosters finalized for East-West Shrine Bowl

Florida Football Insiders



Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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New Year’s Day has prominent teams in Florida Bowls

Florida Football Insiders



Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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