Could USF football pass the Florida Gators in 2017?
After scanning the too-early top 25 rankings for next season, two things popped out.
First, Florida State is going to be really, really good. Again. That's not a surprise, and we'll get to that later in this agonizingly long offseason.
The other one was more interesting: Florida might not be the state's No. 2 team. Or even third.
Miami has a strong case (although I'm less convinced on how the Hurricanes will be without quarterback Brad Kaaya), but let's focus on the Gators and another team - USF.
Here are five sets of rankings from writers/sites I respect:
ESPN: USF is No. 20, one spot ahead of the Gators.
Sports on Earth: USF is No. 18, one spot ahead of the Gators.
CBS: USF is No. 10 (!!!). The Gators are unranked.
Fox: UF is No. 17, four spots ahead of the Bulls.
Sports Illustrated: UF is No. 19, six spots ahead of the Bulls.
Five sets of rankings, with USF ahead in three of them.
We'll pause here for the obvious caveats. The coaching carousel (especially with assistants) isn't done spinning, and recruiting classes haven't yet been signed. A lot can, and will, change between now and August, let alone now and next year's title game in Atlanta.
But these rankings provide a snapshot on the public perception of programs' futures.
Here's the perception of USF: The Bulls follow the best season in school history with a home-run coaching hire, Charlie Strong. Quarterback Quinton Flowers might even be a Heisman Trophy candidate. USF is headed in the right direction.
And here's the perception of UF: ?????? Seriously. The quarterback is a question mark (Feleipe Franks? Kyle Trask? Luke Del Rio, again?). A defense that loses its core is a question mark. Even coach Jim McElwain is a question mark, despite starting his UF tenure with back-to-back SEC East titles. All of those things might work out great, and the Gators could be headed back to Atlanta. Or they might go 7-5. I don't think either would surprise me.
So what do you think? Is the gap closing between UF and USF? Which team finishes higher in next year's final rankings? And if you're buying stock in one program over the next five years, are you picking the Bulls or the Gators?