Synan Says: The Real Top 25 in College Football: UCF Looks Like a Contender

After UCF thrashed Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Saturday, there is no doubt that the Knights are contenders and should be mentioned among the top schools in the country.

Just one week after Jeff Sims got his feet wet by leading the Yellow Jackets to an inspiring 16-13 win over Florida State in Tallahassee, the UCF defense made him look like the freshman he is, forcing five turnovers in a 49-21 win in front of a national television audience.  It was just the kind of boost the Knights were looking for after learning that the Big 10 is back in the mix this season and could get a chance to compete for the national championship.

Sophomore QB Dillon Gabriel took a leap forward in the offseason, throwing for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns as UCF lapped Georgia Tech in the fourth quarter.  The Knights racked up more than 640 yards (not a typo!) of total offense.

The Yellow Jackets are not an elite program by any means but UCF impressed as it showed off its brand and let the nation know they are a team to be reckoned with.  An undefeated UCF team should get consideration for the college football playoffs, even if there are two SEC teams only have one loss and if a one-loss Big 10 champion in the mix.

You know who else is a contender? The Miami Hurricanes. The program was at rock bottom last season coming off a loss to lowly Florida International (FIU). During the offseason, Miami looked to hire someone to lead “the U” back to prominence. It turns out that all the program really needed was a star quarterback at the helm—and Houston transfer D’Eriq King has delivered.

Miami did not put on the most impressive of showings against UAB in week 1 but beating Louisville is one of the best wins so far this season from any program. On the road in Louisville, King was electrifying in helping Miami outscore the Cardinals 47-34 in prime time. King threw for more than 300 yards while the Canes as a team ran for more than 300 yards. Running Back Cam’Ron Harris followed up his stellar performance against UAB with another 134 yards,  including a 75 yard TD run. This team has clearly learned from last year’s debacle. Two weeks in, the Hurricanes have a chance to be a contender. Of course, there is one problem looming, namely Clemson owning the ACC. So far this season, no team looks as dominant as the Tigers.

Can anything else go wrong at Florida State? After only one game as the head coach, Mike Norvell has contracted COVID-19. He probably won’t be available on Saturday night when the Seminoles take on Miami. This will be the fourth time in a row Florida State will be unranked going into the Miami game, something that had not happened since the 1970s.

Leaving Florida to take more of a national perspective, I was looking forward to seeing Chuba Howard and Oklahoma State taking the field for the first time but they fell flat on their faces! He looked out of shape and it took a third-string quarterback to beat Tulsa 16-7. Cross them off the suddenly very short list of Big 12 contenders.

How about that letdown, Louisiana? A week after shocking Iowa State in Ames, the Rajun Cajuns almost lost at lowly Georgia State. As their own coach noted, this is a team that got a little too cocky after that win.

You’ll see wide swings in the rankings early in the season. I am ranking teams strictly on who they have beaten and who they have lost to, not who I think would win on a neutral field. I am adding the Big 10 teams in now that they are planning on playing this season, however, these teams are in the back of the pack until they actually play, kind of like some SEC teams. You’re ready for the games, right SEC fans?

Top 25 For the Week Beginning September 20

1. Clemson (2-0) The starting offense scored a TD every drive versus the Citadel.

2. UCF (1-0) A four TD win at a Power 5 opponent. Show me a better win.

3. Oklahoma (1-0) Big 12 not showing out so far.

4. Miami (2-0) I am a believer in their QB but there are doubts about the rest of the team.

5.  Notre Dame (2-0) Followed Duke win by blasting USF.

6.  Texas (1-0) Maybe the only hope to dethrone Oklahoma.

7. Louisiana (2-0) Win at Iowa State keeps them here but they won’t stay once the SEC starts.

8. North Carolina (1-0) Man, I wish they had opened at UCF.

9. BYU (1-0) COVID-19 strikes again, canceling their trip to Army.

10. Army (2-0) Only given up one touchdown in two games.

11. Marshall (2-0) Huge win over Appalachian State, but SEC is about to start and they’ll get dropped.

12. Coastal Carolina (2-0) Win at Kansas has them here.

13. Pittsburgh (2-0) Wins are over Austin Peay and Syracuse.

14.  Oklahoma State (1-0) As I mentioned above, I was not impressed.

15. Ohio State (0-0) Legitimate national title contender.

16. Alabama (0-0) Open at Missouri.

17. Florida (0-0) Open at Ole Miss. This one should be fun.

18. Georgia (0-0) Open at Arkansas. Should be an easy win.

19. Wisconsin (0-0) Excited to see if they can handle a brutal schedule.

20. Auburn (0-0) Open at home against Kentucky. Pundits are calling for an upset, I think it’s War Eagle.

21. LSU (0-0) At home against Mississippi State to start the season.

22. Penn State (0-0) I wonder if they can keep up with the big boys of the Big 10.

23. Texas A&M (0-0) Get Vanderbilt at home to start the season.

24. Michigan (0-0) Can you have a top 25 without the Wolverines? Rich Rodriguez says yes.

25. Minnesota (0-0) Coach P.J. Fleck has a catchphrase–“row the boat”–and their QB is excellent.


Reach Mike Synan at

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