With the understanding that whenever we see a preseason poll come out, we automatically roll our eyes. This is because almost all of them usually have at least three or more teams ranked in the top 10 preseason that end up falling flat and don’t even finish in the top 25.
Nevertheless, there is a bunch of hype and anticipation for the upcoming college football season in this state and when an independent respected outlet is propping up Florida teams, then we at F.F.I. perk up.
Such is the case when Athlon Sports released it’s first (very early) preseason rankings Monday and has some interesting takes:
— Athlon Sports (@AthlonSports) May 22, 2017
Most notably in their preview, Athlon likes three of the four College Football Playoff teams from a year ago to be back this January. Alabama, Washington, and Ohio State are those three. The only 2017 addition that was not in the Playoff last year is….FSU.
Athlon goes ahead and makes the case for Jimbo Fisher’s Noles to be back in the post season for 2017 and has them slotted as the third best preseason team. Without question, the offense will rely mostly on second year QB Deondre Francois leadership and play-making. The Noles also hope that the addition of their best defensive player, Safety Derwin James back from his 2016 knee injury will provide welcome leadership and spark to a unit that struggled badly last year.
Clearly, FSU’s titanic opening showdown with Bama in week one of the season means the loser has virtually no margin for error (another loss) the rest of the season.
Besides the Noles being third, Athlon ranks the Florida Gators as 16th in its preseason poll. The Gators have lost a ton on defense from 2016, as seven players were taken in the NFL Draft last month. They also have question marks at QB with off season shoulder surgery for Luke Del Rio and tough competition for him, as well. Yet, the Gators always have skill players and lots of speed and will obviously contend in the watered down SEC East.
Athlon has the Miami Hurricanes ranked #23 despite also having to replace their QB, in Brad Kaaya. Running back Mark Walton and a stout Canes defensive front seven will definitely help a squad that finished last season on a five game win streak, including it’s bowl game. Miami does play FSU, Pitt and North Carolina on the road, which will be a challenge.
Finally, the same service has USF in at #24 for the preseason. This is due in large part to the return of the American Conference Offensive Player of the Year, QB Quinton Flowers. Flowers broke the QB records for rushing and all-purpose yards in a season by a USF quarterback. The Bulls welcome in former Texas head coach Charlie Strong and even though outstanding running back Marlon Mack left early for the draft, they have a good replacement in D’Ernest Johnson. USF does have to get better on defense, but that’s Strong’s forte’.
Yes, primarily, pre-season magazine are “bird cage liners” by the third or fourth week because of upsets, but it’s a good conversation piece in May.