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UCF trying to keep pace in AAC leads our college primer

Jamil King

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David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Week 9 will feature some critical games for the in-state teams. UCF will travel to Temple, a game in which they will be playing for their AAC East lives. Florida State will look to end a two-game losing streak against Syracuse. Miami heads to Pittsburgh looking to avenge their ugly loss to Georgia Tech. And, USF must rebound at East Carolina.

UCF lost more in a two weeks span than they had in the last two seasons. They bounced back last week against ECU in a big way. Now, the real test comes on the road at night against a top tier conference opponent. The Owls are coming off of a loss of their own vs. SMU in a game in which their secondary got exposed.

Shane Buechele had 457 yards and six touchdowns. The Duo of QB Dillon Gabriel and WR Gabe Davis will look to give Temple more headaches through the air for the second week in a row.

Florida State will Host Syracuse after losing another close game last week. James Blackman played the whole game, but after a loss, will he be the lone QB to play in this one? The Noles could turn back to transfer Alex Hornibrook. Either way, the offense will once again go through RB Cam Akers. The do it all back has been the engine for the offense both on the ground and in the passing game this season.

The FSU defense will get a banged-up Tommy DeVito leading the Syracuse offense. He was forced to leave the game against Pittsburgh early, and you can expect the Noles to test him early with some blitzes. The Orange have struggled so far this season after coming in with high expectations. The Noles are running out of games to reach bowl eligibility against a fellow three win team; this is almost a must-win.

Miami is coming into week 9, looking to forget all about week 8. The Canes lost an ugly game in OT they should have won against Georgia Teach. Now, they travel to Pittsburgh to face a Panther team that already has beaten one state school already, when they upset UCF.

The Canes will again roll with N’kosi Perry under center, but could be without running back DeeJay Dallas. Statistically, both teams match up evenly on paper. Both teams come into the game with good defenses, and this could be a low scoring affair.

Finally, the Bulls will limp into Greenville, North Carolina to play ECU. USF was beaten badly last week at Navy giving up over 400 rushing yards. The bigger story is who will QB the Bulls? With veteran Blake Barnett done for the year with ankle surgery and freshman Jordan McCloud, who’s started several games, suffering from wrist and shoulder problems, USF is scrambling.

They will likely have to start sophomore Kirk Rygol, who finished the Navy game last week.

The Bulls have to try to win this game, as they still finish with much tougher teams like Memphis, Cincinnati and at UCF while trying to get to six wins.

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.

UCF Knights

Final Power Rankings for 2019

Florida Football Insiders

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the final edition of our 2019 power rankings headed into the bowl onslaught and the final Sunday of NFL football. The teams at the top should look familiar, including two that have won their bowl game already. and the final three have definitely deserved to be moved up or into the final list.

Florida Gators – the Gators are prepping for Monday night’s Orange Bowl against the Virginia Cavaliers and will hold down the top spot in the power rankings to dnd season based on their overall consistent performance. A second straight 10-win year and also “New Year’s Six” bowl game validates the hire and the hard work of Dan Mullen, his staff and the players. You consider the Florida’s only two losses in the toughest college conference in land are to #1  LSU and rival Georgia, who won the East and is in the Sugar Bowl themselves.

So, it’s been a good season. Now, can they cap it off what they did a year ago with a Peach Bowl win over Michigan?

UCF Knights – As we wrote on Monday, they finished with a third straight 10-win season by hammering the Marshall Thundering Herd in the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa. Freshman QB Dillon Gabriel (above) showed great poise, skill and potential for the future throughout the season. He threw two more touchdowns and ran for another, while being named the Bowl MVP.

UCF clearly has the arrow pointing up and has established itself, as the second-best program in the state behind the Gators.

FAU Owls- A great finish to the regular season, a Conference USA title game win and now, a Boca Raton Bowl win over SMU last Saturday brings the Owls to finish third on our list. Even though coach Lane Kiffin has departed to take over at Ole Miss, former USF, Oregon and FSU coach Willie Taggart slid-into Boca Raton and has a great chance to succeed right away.

Quarterback Chris Robison continued to play well throughout the close of season, including in the win over the Mustangs last Saturday. FAU won 10 games for the second time in three years and is deserving of this slot.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Even though the Bucs had their four-game winning streak snapped last Saturday by the Houston Texans, they still have played consistent, good football in the second half of the year and had gotten their record to 7-7.

Yes, QB Jameis Winston has been maddening with the interceptions, but also has been smashing single-game passing records and has been a key part of them being able to score/win games. But, after three more picks last week, Winston needs a good performance in the finale’ with the Falcons Sunday to quiet down the critics that the Buccaneers part with him after this season.

Tampa Bay’s defense under coordinator Todd Bowles has also approved, particularly their secondary where they have spent numerous premium draft picks over the last few years. A win Sunday would only be the third time this decade the Buccaneers don’t have a losing season.

Miami Dolphins – They come off a dramatic overtime win over the lowly Bengals last week in a game, where they collapsed but still found a way to win. It was their fourth one of the season after an 0 – 7 start and clearly the team is playing hard for coach Brian Flores and his staff at the end.

We are still puzzled as to why they insist on not playing QB Josh Rosen in these meaningless games, but it likely means GM Chris Grier and Flores have decided that Rosen is being cut at the end of this season and they will simply eat $4 million dollars in dead cap money.

Finally, the development of DeVante Parker hass continued as he went over 1,000 yards receiving last week and got a contract extension with a bunch of guaranteed money. And, while Miami does have numerous holes to fill, they have a chance to be a .500 team in 2020, if they keep trending in the right direction.

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UCF Knights

UCF uses fast start to blast Marshall in Gasparilla Bowl

Florida Football Insiders

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The UCF Knights only had to come about an hour across I-4 to Tampa for their bowl experience this past weekend. And on Monday, they made the most of their short trip and hammered C-USA foe, Marshall, 45-28 to capture the Gasparilla Bowl. And in the process, UCF finished with 10 wins for the third straight year.

The Knights, out of the American Athletic Conference, had played in a “New Year’s Six” bowl game in each of the last two years, losing to LSU in the Fiesta Bowl last season, but upsetting Auburn in the Peach Bowl for a perfect 13 – 0 year in 2017.

However, if Monday was supposed to be anti-climactic for coach Josh Heupel’s club, they certainly didn’t show it, as right away they jumped all over the Thundering Herd.

Playing most of the first half in a steady rain, defensive back Richard Grant returned an interception 39 yards for a score in the first minute of the game. Then the Knights turned a Marshall fumble quickly into a Greg McCrae 26 yard touchdown run (above) and the game was 14-zip less than six minutes in.

Then, LB Tre-on Morris – Brash picked up this botched backwards screen pass and raced into the end zone and the rout was on:

Marshall tried to climb back into the game behind quarterback Isaiah Green in the third quarter, as he ran for one score and threw for another but it wasn’t nearly enough. Knights freshman QB Dillon Gabriel threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third score, himself, in the same third stanza.

By the time the quarter was over, UCF had pulled away for good and eventually won the game 48-25.

Gabriel, finished with 260 yards passing and the three total TDS  and was named the Gasparilla Bowl Most Valuable Player.

In securing their third consecutive 10 or more wins season, the Knights do get some consolation after having won the American Conference Championship in each of the last two years. And, Heupel clearly has a foundation in place for UCF to have widespread success in the coming years.

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