In our latest version of the F.F.I. Power Rankings, some things have changed and some things remain the same. It’s clear that some teams are playing well, while others are not.
So here goes:
8. Florida State Seminoles- Unfortunately, FSU appears headed for a complete season to forget. After last week’s latest loss, to Louisville, the Noles are suffering at 2-4. As we reported earlier this week, they have also lost one of their best running backs in Jacques Patrick for the remainder of the season to a knee injury. Now, headed to Boston College Friday night, they must find a way to win a third ACC road game to stay in the conversation for a bowl game. Tough year in Tallahassee.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- As disappointing as FSU’s season is, the Bucs have been just as underwhelming. All the hype off a 9-7 season a year ago and the pub from HBO’s “Hard Knocks” has disappeared, as Tampa Bay has lost three in a row and finds their season teetering on the edge. Most disheartening for their fans, a defense that played so well at the end of 2016 has clearly regressed so far this season. The last two games in Arizona and Buffalo, the Buccaneers have been repeatedly gouged by the run, overwhelmed by the pass with receivers open all over the field, and have given up 68 points.
There are still 10 games left, but after Sunday hosting the Panthers, the Bucs must play three more in a row on the road. The play better improve or they possibly would be playing for next year already.
6. Florida Gators- Equally disappointing, the Gators come off the bye ready to face Georgia Saturday having lost two heart-breakers to LSU and Texas A & M at home. The season is at a cross roads with Florida still trying to find some consistent offense. And add to it, coach Jim McElwain’s surprising claim in his Monday news conference that his and other coach’s families have received “death threats.” McElwain has refused to provide any specifics, which has some in the Florida media doubting the validity of the claim.
And further, some believe that the third year coach is trying to manufacture an exit from Gainesville, particularly if the season falls completely apart in the next six weeks. In any event, the Gators have talent, but for now, they are 6th to us.
5. Miami Dolphins- Two dramatic wins for the Fins over the last two weeks to get them to 4-2, but we still aren’t completely sold on them. Miami’s offense came to life in the second half in Atlanta in a 17 point comeback victory and even though they lost Jay Cutler in the second half last week, backup Matt Moore engineered 17 points in the 31-28 win over the Jets.
Miami is already back on the field Thursday night in Baltimore searching for a fourth straight victory. The defense has been suspect for much of the season, but has made timely stops and turnovers with the game on the line. Still, this is where the Dolphins belong, for now.
4. USF Bulls- While unbeaten at 7-0 for the first time in the 21 years of the program, the Bulls still stay mid-level in our rankings. This is because, the level of competition remains very low. While QB Quinton Flowers is fun to watch running through and past defenders and the Bulls can score points, we really don’t know, if they are elite or not. The combined record of their D-1 opponents the Bulls have beaten in six of their wins is 13-33. Horrendous.
USF plays a good Houston team at home Saturday. A win there? They could be moving up.
3. Miami Hurricanes- Yes, we know this will cause a stir, especially with our Ari Russell. And there is a good argument that you shouldn’t drop a team from 1 to 3 in your rankings when they haven’t lost. Still, the Canes are living dangerously, and even Ari wrote, that isn’t going to last. Also, beating Georgia Tech and Syracuse, barely, at home isn’t something that overwhelms neutral observers. And, even if they win decisively at a bad UNC Satuday, that doesn’t mean a lot either.
QB Malik Rosier has played great. Miami has good receivers and the defense is fast, but 6-0 or not, they still need to do more against better teams to move back up.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars- This is a controversial tough call to put them in front of unbeaten teams on our list, but the Jags have been so darn impressive in their four wins, all away from home, that you can argue them as the best team for that reason. Still, they do have three losses headed into the bye this week and you cannot put them at #1. Yet, their defense is devastating. Two games with 10 sacks. One game with five interceptions (two returned for TDs) against Pittsburgh.
Plus, even though he didn’t play last week, RB Leonard Fournette has been outstanding through his first six games as a pro. The culture has clearly changed in North Florida and so far, four wins by at least 21 points each, means the Jaguars are second.
And that leaves…
1. UCF Knights- At 6-0, they are off their best start ever and more impressively, Scott Frost’s team has been tested. A blowout win at Maryland early (who had beaten Texas at Austin), a blowout win over Memphis, who has only one loss and is in the Top 25 now, and now, a win at Navy last Saturday, who was in the Top 25 two weeks ago, means you deserve the top spot.
QB McKenzie Milton and his skill guys are fun to watch. And, the Knights defense has repeatedly come up big in their biggest games. They overwhelmed QB Riley Ferguson of Memphis, who’s been brilliant otherwise. Last week, they largely solved the Navy triple option in a tremendous road win. UCF appears on a collision course with USF in the final game of the year where both teams may be undefeated. For now, the Knights are on the top of our F.F.I. heap.
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