Question for the Gators and Noles. Who are you?
We are going to learn a lot about the state of football in the state of Florida this week.
When Florida takes the field against Georgia in Jacksonville and Florida State hosts Clemson, fans across the state will get a snapshot of where those two programs are. Both teams are riding high right now but tougher tests loom.
Florida State has appeared to right the ship after a disastrous blowout defeat at Syracuse. The Seminoles lost a heartbreaker against Miami but have rebounded with a convincing win over Wake Forest. Can they hang with Clemson? The experts don’t think so. Florida State is a 17 point underdog on their home field. Florida State always plays Clemson tough though and will be pumped up for this game. Noon kickoffs can always look and feel a little sleepy, especially for a big road favorite. Clemson has historically flirted with disaster during its playoff runs, needing a missed field goal last year to beat NC State and losing at home to Pitt two years ago. I’ll be watching to see if Florida State still has that fight inside of them at 4-3. Do they give up and get trounced by Clemson or do they show up ready to slug back? That question will be answered Saturday and it should give fans great insight to where this program is. Clemson better show up ready to fight for their lives or the Tigers could suffer the same fate as Ohio State last week.
Florida is definitely riding high coming off its bye week. The Gators now have wins over LSU and Mississippi State and their only loss is to Kentucky. Can they climb back into the SEC race and the college football playoff picture by upsetting Georgia? The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (it’s my column, I can call it that) seems to bring out the nasty in both teams and is always one of the best weekends anywhere in college football. Can the Gators hang with one of the elite programs? Georgia has the respect of everyone based on making it to the championship game last year but let’s take a closer look at this year’s Dawgs. This team has wins at South Carolina and at Missouri and home wins over Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Sound like a top team in the nation to you? Things are are about to get tougher. Georgia’s next three game versus Florida this week, then at Kentucky before heading home for Auburn. A win over Georgia would mean the Gators are all the way back. It would mean Coach Dan Mullen is way ahead of schedule and the offense continues to improve as it has mostly done this season. A loss means Florida is right where we all thought they would be: on the way but it will take Mullen a couple of years.
I have asserted all season that UCF largely is what they are because of their senior quarterback and Heisman (HIesman) Trophy candidate McKenzie Milton. Milton missed Saturday with an ankle injury and UCF still rolled at East Carolina 37-10. Backup Darriel Mack Jr. ran for more than 120 yards in the win and UCF’s defense seems to be improving, even if the Knights are not at the level they were last year when Shaquem Griffin led the way.
Let last week be a lesson to the pollsters. You cannot use the eye test to determine who is the best. That eye test told us all that Ohio State was better than Purdue. It also told us Oklahoma was better than Texas and ODU could never beat Virginia Tech. Just stop it and use results only like I do. You will not see me sliding up teams one or two slots because the team in front of them lost unless the resume demands it.
Here is my Top 25 for the week beginning October 21st.
- Alabama (8-0) Tua still has not taken a 4th quarter snap.
- Notre Dame (7-0) Southern Cal toughest game left on their schedule.
- Clemson (7-0) NC State should be a good one but Wolfpack have faced no one else tough, so hard to tell.
- LSU (7-1) Yet another quality win over Mississippi State.
- UCF (7-0) I was impressed with win by backup QB.
- Michigan (7-1) Seven wins in a row for Big Blue, last two the best over Wisconsin and Michigan State.
- Florida (6-1) Here’s your chance to prove you belong.
- Texas (6-1) Bye came at the right time to heal QB Sam Ehlinger.
- Ohio State (7-1) Still have wins at Penn State and at TCU.
- Kentucky (6-1) A win is a win but should have played better versus Vanderbilt.
- Oklahoma (6-1) At TCU and at Iowa State are their best wins.
- Washington State (6-1) Win over Oregon vaults them here.
- Georgia (6-1) A bye does not vault you into the top 10 when you’ve beaten nobody.
- West Virginia (5-1) Their real schedule is the last four weeks. We’ll know who they are and where the belong by November.
- Iowa (6-1) Only loss is to Wisconsin. Wins not that impressive so far.
- USF (7-0) How do you just survive UConn? This team will lose soon (likely this week at Houston).
- Texas A&M (5-2) Only losses to #1 and #2. Did beat Kentucky
- Stanford (5-2) Wins are better than Washington’s and have head to head with Oregon.
- Penn State (5-2) Wondering why they are so inconsistent.
- NC State (5-1) Still no quality wins.
- Oregon (5-2) Win over Washington helps keep them ranked.
- Washington (6-2) No chance to make the playoffs anymore.
- Wisconsin (5-2) I’m not impressed with their wins and BYU loss at home stinks.
- Utah State (6-1) Just watch them, trust me.
- Fresno State (6-1) Only loss by one score at Minnesota in Week 2.
Reach Mike Synan at Mike.Synan@floridadaily.com.