The second ever early “national signing day” for college football took place Wednesday in the state and around the country. And, while some key players will be waiting until the All-American games and the February signing day to commit, others were putting their names on the dotted line.
Here were the key updates from the three most prominent schools:
Florida State came into the day with the most on the line following the underachieving season Willie Taggart put together. The early period didn’t treat the Noles the way they wanted. While they did land Raymond Woodie III, they missed out on former commits QB Sam Howell and D-end Derick Hunter. FSU was able to add a couple of 4-star linebackers and flipped a Boston College offensive line commit.
The day does seem like a disappointment though for the Noles, who will look to strike in the February window with several 4 and 5-star players they will look to secure.
The Miami Hurricanes also came off an underachieving season and were looking for some momentum in the early signing period. The day started well for the Canes with the official signing of Jeremiah Payton, the transfer of Butler grad LT Tommy Kennedy, and a few other four stars. The U would have the day go down after this losing a top O-line target to Alabama and losing several targets to in-state rival Florida.
Miami so far has only been able to land 3 of the 19 blue chip prospects in the south Florida region. That’s where they used to own the recruiting trail.
Finally, the Gators had a great season under the helm of first-year coach Dan Mullen. Mullen followed it up by winning the state in this early signing period. Florida landed the Lakeland trio of offensive lineman Deyavie Hammond, defensive end Lloyd Summerall and tight end Keon Zipperer, who were all highly sought after in and out of state.
The sweep of state championship players was the highlight of the day, as they shut out Miami in the process.
The Gators still have a few targets in February, but as of now, this is a big win for Florida.
Gators strong finish Saturday keeps them atop our rankings
The college football regular season came to an end last week. For some, it was great, and for others, it was horrible. The Gators and UCF rolled to victories over their rivals. FIU continued their winning ways, while their rival FAU clinched the C-USA East and will be hosting the title game.
The Noles got beat down, while their other rival Miami fell flat on their face for the second week in a row. In the NFL, the Bucs were on their way too embarrassing the Jaguars before a QB change softened the blow, while the Dolphins pulled one of the stunners of the NFL season.
With all of these games to unpack, this is how the top 5 looks heading in conference championship week and week 14 of the NFL:
Florida Gators- The Gators have been the most consistent team in the state, both college, and pro. Their only two losses are against the two teams playing for the SEC Championship Game (LSU and Georgia), and both of those teams can still make the playoff.
Florida had their way with Florida State all night Saturday. Taking advantage of missed tackles and a shaky secondary, Kyle Trask threw three touchdown passes. Florida State couldn’t do anything on offense aside from the opening drive, and a long Cam Akers second-half run. The 10-2 Gators will now wait to see where they are sent for a bowl game. They have an outside shot at a “New Year’s Six” game, but even if they fail to gain entry, an 11-win season is still a great one.
FAU Owls- It was simple for FAU: win, and you’re in. They answered the call by beating Southern Miss in the season finale, and now they are C-USA East champions. QB Chris Robinson connected with tight end Harrison Bryant for all three of his touchdowns passes in the 34-17 win. The Owl defense forced five turnovers on the way to the victory.
Next, the Owls will host West champ, UAB Saturday afternoon to decide who will win the Conference outright.
UCF Knights- The Knights ended their regular season by rolling over USF and ending the Charlie Strong era. Dillon Gabriel had 270 yards passing and two touchdowns, and WR Gabe Davis went over 100 yards again, catching both touchdowns. The Knights won’t be heading to the AAC title game or a New Years’ Six bowl game. A 10th win in the bowl, though, is still a good season for the Knights.
A consolation prize for them would be to draw either FSU or Miami in a bowl game for a shot at an in-state power five schools.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- For the second week in a row, the Bucs came away victorious and both road wins were highlighted by excellent defense. They were able to knock Nick Foles out of the game at halftime for poor performance. Foles had just 93 yards passing, an interception and two fumbles.
On offense, the Bucs didn’t have to do much, as Jameis Winston had no touchdowns and no interceptions. Peyton Barber was the running back who was hot, scoring twice one from 15 yards and the other a goal-line touch. The Bucs will look to make it three wins in a row and a home win this week against the Colts.
Miami Dolphins- The Dolphins, yes, the Dolphins, are in our rankings, as they pulled off one of the upsets of the season, defeating the Eagles 37-31.
Devante Parker had an explosive 159 yards receiving and three touchdowns. Ryan Fitzpatrick had 365 yards and three touchdowns.
The craziest play, however, came on fourth and goal when punter Matt Haack rolled left and shuffle passed the ball past three eagle defenders to kicker Jason Sanders.
The win puts the Dolphins at three wins, and they have three more winnable games coming up. Once looking like the sure-fire choice for the first pick, the Dolphins are sliding down the draft board towards the 3-6 range.
Gators/Mullen are better version of Harbaugh/Michigan
The Florida Gators under Dan Mullen have become a better version of Michigan. One can say this based on the Gators’ authoritative Peach Bowl win last year, but in fairness to the Wolverines, some of their elite defensive players skipped the bowl to prepare for the NFL Combine or Draft.
When I say that Florida – an easy winner over Florida State 40-17 on Saturday night in The Swamp – is a “better Michigan,” I am not talking about the Peach Bowl last season. I am referring to a bigger picture.
Yes, Florida State is the end-of-season rivalry game for Florida. The Gators have their Thanksgiving weekend rivalry opponent figured out, unlike Michigan. You might be wondering where the comparison lies.
It’s actually a simpler connection than you might think.
Michigan cannot solve the chief rival in its own conference and division. The same is true of Florida. Like Michigan and Jim Harbaugh, Florida and Mullen cannot get past the brick wall known as the Georgia Bulldogs.
Ohio State keeps winning the Big Ten East at Michigan’s expense. The Buckeyes keep locking the Wolverines out of Indianapolis.
Georgia keeps winning the SEC East at Florida’s expense. The Dawgs keep locking the Gators out of Atlanta.
In both cases, one side has the plainly better players. The margin of victory has been substantial the past few years. The real story is not so much the failures of the loser, but how well the winner has built a program and created a high floor.
Ohio State is enjoying a supremely prosperous period in its history, a period on par with Woody Hayes’ great teams in the late 1960s and early 1970s Jim Harbaugh hasn’t done as well as he possibly could at Michigan – we can criticize him for that – but Harbaugh hasn’t exactly been awful, either. He has been a 9- or 10-win coach… which is not much worse than Bo Schembechler.
Michigan shouldn’t be going 0-3 against Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. That is true. However, Michigan is not Texas, going 7-5. Michigan is not USC at 8-4. Michigan is not Nebraska, failing to make a bowl. Michigan is not the Florida State program which is a total mess right now.
Michigan could be so much worse.
As we consider Dan Mullen and Florida, then, the Gators are a better Michigan. They do lose to Georgia. They do fail to win their division. They do fail to play for conference championships… but whereas Michigan will not make a New Year’s Six bowl this season, Florida will. Whereas Michigan failed to win 10 games in the regular season, Florida succeeded in reaching that mark.
The Gators did this largely without Feleipe Franks. They did this without Jon Greenard and Jabari Zuniga for a significant chunk of the season.
Dan Mullen coached his butt off… and yet, because Georgia is clearly better than Florida, it is easy to think the Gators are falling short.
It is no secret that Florida fans – given their first taste of sustained success by Steve Spurrier, and then a second golden era created by Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow – love winning in STYLE. The style points matter to Gator fans.
The Mullen-era teams aren’t amazingly stylish. They certainly look bad against Georgia’s defense. This isn’t the gleaming, glowing, glorious period of conquest and domination the Spurrier or Meyer years were.
Yet, when you look at Florida State – and also at a Miami team which just lost to Florida International and Duke to close its season – the Gators don’t look that bad after all. FSU and The U are 6-6 and going to Shreveport or another off-the-radar bowl location. Florida will play in a Cadillac bowl, and elite bowl, a bowl the Gators expect to play in.
Yes, Georgia is still better, just as Ohio State is relative to Michigan. Yes, division and conference titles need to be won sooner rather than later. Yet, all things considered, Florida has done well with what it has. The key is to create something better and larger, but in 2019, Dan Mullen did not fail.
He is doing a better job than Jim Harbaugh, for sure.