We debut something new, as we close out September with our first edition of the F.F.I. Power Rankings of the three NFL and five prominent college football programs we cover.
We will rank the college and NFL teams together on the same list with the following brief criteria: how has your team looked and importantly, against what type of competition? Have they won easily or in nail bitter fashion? How injured/beat up are they at this point? How’s your team on the “it factor” of star players and looking good, etc?
So, without delay, here goes to this point (and it will change) in descending order:
8. Florida State- The Noles are reeling after their lost last Saturday to N.C. State and at 0-2 are the only winless team in our rankings. Now, you can argue that Alabama would easily hang the “L” on the other four college teams, but, the Noles played them and got handled.
No one is saying that QB James Blackman won’t grow and FSU won’t start winning some games, but for now? They are at the bottom of our list.
7. Miami Dolphins- At 1-1, the Dolphins overcame Hurricane Irma relocation to Los Angeles and beat the Chargers in the in the final minute of week one. But, followed it up with a dismal showing last week at the Jets. The Fins have stars like Ajayi, Landry, Parker, Suh, Wake, etc., but traveling to London for the Saints game Sunday will be challenge for them. Will they pull it together and move up our rankings? Let’s see.
6. Miami Hurricanes- Mark Richt’s team is 2-0. That’s the good news. The bad news is we don’t really know how improved they are. They struggled at the beginning and then blew out Bethune-Cookman. Then, after Hurricane Irma postponed their next two games with Arkansas State and FSU, they looked a bit stale last Saturday with Toledo.
Yet, RB Mark Walton ripped off a 200 yard game and they pulled away. Canes have Duke Friday night as an ACC road test that they need to pass before having the Noles in Tallahassee next week.
5. USF- We know. They are 4-0, but as Olivia Stacey wrote earlier this week, the competition was suspect these first few games for the Bulls. And we’re not sure if they will get much of a game on the road against East Carolina this Saturday.
Yes, Quinton Flowers is a talented QB. But, he has been erratic throwing and just “pretty good” with his legs, so far. There is no doubt while talented, the Bulls have benefited from playing bad teams. We simply need to see more, unbeaten or not, to move them up.
4. Tampa Bay Bucs- An impressive blowout of the Bears at home week one was undone by being manhandled by the Vikings and backup QB Case Keenum in game two. Jameis Winston is the focal point for the Bucs and he threw three INTs last week.
And, the Bucs could not run the ball and really abandoned it last week in Minnesota. They are 1-1, with two large home games coming with the Giants and then a massive Thursday nighter with the Patriots. Time to see what they are made of and if they will move up.
3. UCF- The Knights were very impressive at Maryland in a 38-10 win last week. In fact, when you consider all the prominent college teams games last Saturday, UCF had the most decisive win against the best opponent. And they did so, having just like FSU, and Miami to wait three weeks in between their first game and their second game.
QB McKenzie Milton is a true dual threat and the Knights have run the ball well in their two victories. It is a small sample and they do have a showdown in the American conference with Memphis in a re-scheduled game Saturday night. For now, UCF deserves this slot.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars- Yes. It’s early. But, yes. They are 2-1 with two blowout wins. And while you could dismiss their easy victory over the Texans in week one, you can’t ignore the 44-7 shallacking of the Ravens in London last Sunday. The Jags defense led by veteran newcomer Calais Campbell and young stars in the making like Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Dante Fowler has looked good in the wins.
Also, Leonard Fournette has provided the power run game to help take the pressure off Blake Bortles. Borles responded with a 4 TD game last week. You can question the competition a bit, but the Jags have two lopsided victories. They deserve this spot.
1. Florida Gators- Ok. We know this will generate debate and criticism, but let’s be honest. When we all saw how dismal Florida looked on offense in Arlington, TX, against Michigan week one, there were a lot of people speculating the Gators might lose to both Tennessee and at Kentucky. Well, in both cases, Florida did the opposite and gutted out dramatic wins. So, they deserve a ton of credit. The SEC is hard. Ask Missouri the last two years. Ask Vandy, year in and year out.
And Jim McElwain continues to succeed in close games with these last two moving him to 9-1 in SEC games decided by seven points or less. The Gators are still trying to figure out the QB spot. They will go with veteran Luke Del Rio to start this week against the Commodores. Here’s the reality. The Gators won’t stay on the top spot for very long. But for now, those two wins? In the SEC? They deserve this bump.
Latest on Friday injuries for Bucs, Dolphins and Jaguars
As we head into the weekend and all three Florida NFL teams get ready to host opponents in Sunday early action, there are some significant injuries to once again go over.
Here’s the latest with what we know officially and otherwise:
As Jacksonville welcomes division-rival Houston to TIAA Bank Field, they have already ruled out running back Leonard Fournette for this matchup. This will be the fifth time in six games that for that is inactive and Coach Doug Marrone briefly told the media Friday that he has no idea now, when Fournette will return. We continue to stand by our source that told us nine days ago that he will rest through the bye week.
Also significant for the Jaguars is Calais Campbell being listed as questionable with ankle and hip injuries. Campbell (above) is one of the unquestioned leaders for the Jacksonville squad. He is expected to try to play. The Jags did take TJ Yeldon off of their injured list with his ankle problem and he will be active for the game Sunday.
Tampa Bay will be down two defensive lineman, including Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy. McCoy, who injured his calf in the second half of the loss to Atlanta last week, was unable to practice all week. So, it’s not surprising that he’s out. Defensive end Vinny Curry also suffered an ankle injury in the Atlanta game and is likewise out for Sunday. Bucs rookie defensive back Carlton Davis has been hampered by a back injury but was able to practice on Friday and is listed as questionable. Also quarterback Jameis Winston is on the injury report with a hip injury but will play on Sunday against Cleveland.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill had already been ruled out for this game with his injured shoulder. So for the second straight week, Brock Osweiler will be the starting quarterback in Miami. Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball defensive end Cam Wake, who missed last week’s game with an injured knee, is officially listed as questionable for the match up with the Lions.
Likewise, defensive back Bobby McCain, who missed the game with Chicago last Sunday, is also listed as questionable with an injured knee.
The Dolphins went ahead and ruled out last year’s number one pick, defensive end Charles Harris again, for this week with an injured calf. It’s not surprising because here is had not been able to practice all week due to the injury.
Silliness of coaches withholding info for “competitive advantage”
There is no disputing that coaches love to play games. Games with their opponents. Games with the public/media and even, games with themselves and their own staffs.
One of the biggest games that coaches like to play is withholding who might be starting for them at a key position all the way up until the last second. This is especially true with quarterback disputes or controversies. And, it’s in the name of “Competitive Advantage,” that they like to withhold information or updates.
And there has been no shortage of it in our state both at the pro and college level this season.
The most famous examples were once again this past weekend, when the Buccaneers had franchise quarterback Jameis Winston back off suspension and eligible to start the game with Chicago Sunday. Yet veteran backup Ryan Fitzpatrick had been playing “lights out” during most of his three previous starts.
Likewise, the Jaguars were dealing with Leonard Fournette’s hamstring injury and his status for Sunday’s game with the Jets was once again a competitive advantage mystery.
In the Bucs case, coach Dirk Koetter continued to stonewall the media and the public, all week, even after he admitted that he had told Fitzpatrick and Winston who was going to start against the Bears last Tuesday. In the name of competitive advantage, the coach went all the way through the weekend and up until game time before Fitzpatrick trotted out onto the field to start Sunday’s disastrous 48 – 10 loss.
Winston did start and play the entire second half, when the issue had long been decided. He threw two interceptions and a fourth-quarter touchdown in the loss. More on the Buccaneers QB situation in a second.
For last weekend’s game with the Titans, Fournette was limited in practice and listed as “questionable” and again in the name of competitive advantage, the second-year Jaguars coach would not say definitively whether fournette was going to play or not. This went on all the way up until the inactives were released 90 minutes before the the Tennessee game, when Fournette’s name appeared on that list, and then everyone knew he was not playing.
The same thing held true this past weekend, when Marrone repeatedly refused to definitively say whether Fournette was going to give it a try. That’s despite the fact that he had practiced fully on Friday, and once again, was listed as questionable.
Fournette did play in the first half of the game, carrying the ball 10 times but re-aggravated the hamstring injury in the second half and did not return.
Now, in that case, Marrone is left to explain why they tried it this past week as opposed to waiting one more week. And, now, there’s a real possibility that the rookie of the year last season could miss at least another game or two with the hammy.
But don’t count on getting any straight answers, in the name of competitive advantage.
Interestingly, Koetter completely contradicted the whole competitive advantage thing, when he came right out of his Monday news conference and announced that Winston will start after the Bucs bye week against the Atlanta Falcons.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) October 1, 2018
While this conveniently relieves the Bucs third year coach of having to answer the questions for the next two weeks about who his quarterback will be, that also held true this past week and weekend. And yet, in the name of….. you got it, competitive advantage, he refused to say.
So, it’s worth pointing out: that the competitive advantage gained by not telling the Bears for sure that Fitzpatrick will be the quarterback was bigger than telling the Falcons, 13 days in advance, that Winston will be the quarterback.
And the Pro coaches are not alone, Hurricanes coach Mark Richt did the same thing with his quarterback switch for last Thursday night’s win over North Carolina. He repeatedly refused to announce to the media, fans or to the Tar Heels, whom his starter would be for the ACC showdown at Hard Rock stadium.
This again went all the way up until game time, when Richt told ESPN that Perry would be starting just before the kickoff of the game . As it turns out, senior Malik Rosier went to the bench and the red shirt freshman Perry played solidly, as the Hurricanes rolled to an easy victory.
And look, the preeminent college coach of this Century, Nick Saban did the same thing all offseason and all the way up until Alabama’s opening kickoff with Louisville in game one. That’s when Saban decided to start sophomore Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback over his previous starter from the last two seasons Jalen Hurts.
Again, no one can question Saban’s success, but still, it’s silly that Louisville and other opponents wouldn’t be preparing for both Tagovailoa and Hurts to play against them.
So, as this goes on, media members roll their eyes and continue to try to find out on their own, who’s going to play or not play.
The bottom line is other teams are prepared for anything too, and it’s just as easy for you to go ahead and say who’s going to play, or not, as it is to play competitive advantage games
Friday afternoon final injury reports for Bucs, Dolphins and Jaguars
As we head to the fourth weekend of the season, the injuries for the Bucs, the Dolphins, and the Jaguars are plentiful, and as usual it’s a mixed bag of good and bad news for all three teams.
First, and for the first time this season, Buccaneers rookie defensive tackle Vita Vea was able to practice fully and will possibly make his debut against the Bears Sunday. Vea, who Tampa Bay took in the first round, has been sidelined since the first week of the preseason with a calf strain. He is officially questionable on the report, but coach Dirk Koetter told the media “he has a chance to play” on Sunday.
The Bucs banged up secondary, which put veteran Chris Conte on IR mid week, has three more players injured and also listed as questionable. Rookies Carlton Davis (groin) and Jordan Whitehead (shoulder/hamstring) are being watched carefully and veteran DB Marcus Williams who was picked up off waivers two weeks ago, is also questionable with a hamstring injury.
As for the Dolphins, it is also a mixed bag on the official report as they get set to travel to New England. Defensive End Andre Branch, who has been unable to practice all week was ruled out with his injured knee. Meanwhile, safety Reshad Jones, who missed last week’s game with Oakland, was able to practice Friday and is listed as questionable. Miami did add defensive end Cam Wake to the injury report with an slight knee injury, but he has been a full participant in practice all week.
In Jacksonville, the most important hamstring in North Florida belongs to Leonard Fournette. As we wrote earlier this week, it’s a bad sign that he was not able to practice on Wednesday or Thursday and is likely to be inactive for a third straight game. There is some hope that the Jaguars listed him as a “full participant” in practice, but then, as questionable on the report.
It should be noted that the Jags and coach Doug Marrone did the same thing last Friday with Fournette’s status, and he didn’t play in the loss to the Titans. So, it will be another tenuous weekend for those own Fournette in their fantasy leagues.
Backup running back T.J. Yeldon is also listed as questionable with his ankle injury, but he was able to start last week against Tennessee and had a combined thirteen runs and receptions in the game.
Also, kicker Josh Lambo, who kicked two field goals in Sunday’s 9-6 loss, had not practiced Thursday with an injured hip. However, he did participate Friday fully and is now not on the injury report for the game at the Jets.
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