The States of College Football: Florida
Posted By:Brett Haynes "The Top Fan" Tags:
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Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at each college football-worthy state in the union. Some states, such as North Dakota and Alaska, will not be analyzed. But most of the rest will be, and we will begin with perhaps the most football crazed state of all: Florida. With the state bringing home a combined 10 national championships in the last 25 years, the Sunshine State is as good a place as any to start...And right now it is looking as good as ever!
Florida is home to seven teams from the NCAA bowl subdivision level. Four of these teams play in the major conferences (Florida from the SEC, Florida State and Miami from the ACC, and South Florida from the Big East), while the other three come from the Sunbelt (Florida Atlantic and Florida International) and Conference USA (Central Florida). Several more smaller college teams from Florida compete at the NCAA championship subdivision level. The bottom line is that no state in America can boast the quailty of college football per square-yard than Florida.
As we look ahead to the 2009 season, the state of Florida is in very, very good shape. The defending National Champion Florida Gators will be returning quarterback Tim Tebow, who will be aiming for a second Heisman Trophy. The Gators have won two crystal footballs in three years, and a third in four tries is certainly going to be a story-line until the Gators lose a game this fall. Urban Meyer is my choice as the top coach at the collegiate level, and right now he has a wealth of talent to work with. UF will be in the top-5 of nearly every publication when the pre-season rankings are unveiled this summer. A tough SEC slate will face them once again, but Florida has perhaps the best player in the modern era back for one more season, and they have shown that they can handle it. Nobody is perfect (especially not anymore) and they may lose one game again next year, but history has shown that you can slip once and still win it all.
National Championships are nothing new to the folks in Tallahassee or Miami, either, but it has been a while for both now, and the natives are growing restless. The Miami Hurricanes last brought home a title in 2001, while the FSU Seminoles last accomplished the feat in 1999. And while most schools nationwide might be happy with the results these two programs have had over the last ten years, these two programs are not satisfied until they finish number one in the nation. Neither of the two can be considered back to that form at this point, but they are working on it.
The Florida State Seminoles are probably the closer of the two to returning to a championship level. FSU capped off a 9-4 season with a 42-13 thumping of Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl. You would have to be blind to not see that Head Coach Bobby Bowden is making one final strong push for all the marbles. He has a very strong offensive line returning as all five will be playing with a good bit of experience under their belts. If the quarterback play of Christian Ponder is improved, the 'Nole offense could be a force. Ponder will have competition from highly-touted freshman EJ Manuel. The FSU defense should be one of the country's best.
The Miami Hurricanes, on the other hand, still have some work to do under Head Coach Randy Shannon. The 'Canes lost their bowl game to Cal, 24-17, after going 7-6 a year ago and breaking even in the ACC. The Hurricanes are a talented group, but in 2008 their youth showed. 2009 will be more of the same as two untested freshmen, Jacory Harris and Taylor Cook, will battle it out for the starting quarterback job. That is a scary thought for Shannon, who is beginning to feel his seat get warmer heading into season number three in Coral Gables. So far, Shannon's Hurricane teams have gone 12-13 in two seasons, not very impressive to the "U" alums lurking around...
The South Florida Bulls will be led by quarterback Matt Grothe, who seems to have been leading this team since the pre-BCS days. The funny part is, unless I am seeing this wrong, the dude will just be a junior this year! USF went 8-5 in 2008, after starting 5-0, and then pounded Memphis 41-14 in the inaugural St. Petersburg Bowl. The Bulls will play four veteran seniors on the offensive-line, along with an experienced qb in Grothe. If the defense gets an attitude, USF could be a top-25 team, or even top-10, throughout the 2009 campaign. Big wins over Auburn and NC State on the road, as well as defeats of West Virginia, UNC, and Kansas in Tampa the last two seasons give this team the confidence they need to beat the big-name teams on their schedule.
The state of Florida will have a huge impact on the college football season in 2009, just as it does every year. From the nearly 120 games that will feature a team from the Sunshine State this fall, to Tim Tebow's push for more trophies, to the hosting of many top bowl games once again come holiday season, Florida has it all for the college football junkie!
Stay tuned fans as we tour the country and cover the college football states of the union....Next up: Georgia!
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