It’s a hot September Saturday in Florida and all five of the prominent state school teams will be hosting games this week.
For FSU, Miami and UCF, they have easy opponents and should win convincingly. For the Gators, it’s the SEC opener with a team that has been their slave for four decades (Kentucky) and USF plays the game with the most intrigue this weekend, as they host perennial ACC contender Georgia Tech.
First for the easy ones, Florida State will look to bounce back from their 24-3 defeat Monday night against Virginia Tech on a short week against Samford. Look for the Noles to score early and often tonight in this one with a much easier level of competition.
Miami is still smarting from their Sunday night lost to LSU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Canes will get an easy game today with Savannah State at Hard Rock Stadium. Quarterback Malik Rosier has got to get himself back on track to open this season.
And in Orlando, UCF puts the nation’s longest winning streak on the line at 14 in a row, and will easily make it 15 in a row in a game with South Carolina State. Look for QB McKenzie Milton and Co. to light them up and not play much in the second half of this one.
For USF, they have the noon Eastern Time start with the Yellow Jackets, as we wrote earlier this week the toughest task is defending their triple option. It will be difficult on USF defense to stop quarterback Taquon Marshall and all of their assorted runners in the backfield.
Bulls quarterback Blake Barnett threw for three scores and ran for another against easy competition in Elon. However, this will be a step up in competition for him as well, against Tech.
And finally tonight in Gainesville, the Gators open SEC play against Kentucky, a program that they have owned since 1986. Our Matt Zemek took a unique look many different parts of life and pop culture that started 32 years ago when the Wildcats last beat the Gators.
In the present day, quarterback Felipe Franks Franks looks to follow up on his five touchdown first half performance last week against Charleston Southern. The Gators will also try to use running back Jordan Scarlett more this week as well. Florida is heavily favored to be 2-0 and 32 for 32 against the Wildcats.
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.
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