Friday, February 23, 2018
Colleges

Jones: Sunny college forecast may give way to doom and gloom

This very well could be the greatest season of college football that the state of Florida has ever seen.

Seriously.

Florida State will likely go into the season ranked second or third in the country (Third is where the coaches poll ranked them Thursday.) The Seminoles are legitimate national championship contenders.

This could be Florida's best team under Jim McElwain and a third consecutive SEC East title seems well within its grasp.

There's realistic talk that USF could run the table to an undefeated season and that quarterback Quinton Flowers will be in the Heisman Trophy conversation.

Miami is on the rebound under coach Mark Richt and could have its best team in years.

Even UCF, under second-year coach Scott Frost, is heading back in the right direction.

Someday we could look back at the 2017 season and forever consider it the gold standard of college football in the Sunshine State.

Or, more likely, we could remember it as the most disappointing season ever, a season full of unfulfilled expectations.

Because while everything looks great on paper right now, it might not look so good on the field in another month or two.

Start with Florida State.

You do realize that the Seminoles open the season against the Roman Empire, right? Alabama is a touchdown favorite and the overwhelming choice to win the national championship. Even though the Seminoles will be highly ranked, it would be a major upset if FSU somehow rolled the Tide.

While Alabama will be FSU's toughest opponent, it surely won't be the last really good team it plays. It hosts Miami, a rival that could be cause problems. And in November, the Seminoles must travel to reigning national champion Clemson and Gainesville.

FSU is still a really good team, and it would be no surprise if the Seminoles lost to Alabama to open the season, then got the Tide in a rematch at the end of the season for all the marbles. But FSU's road getting there will not be easy.

Florida? Here's a question: Who's the quarterback? Until the Gators settle on either Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire or redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks — and until either proves he can play — why would we be sold on them? The offense has been putrid for a while now, finishing 107th in the nation in scoring last season.

Furthermore, the schedule isn't easy, starting with Michigan in the opener, followed by games against Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia, FSU and, if all goes really well, probably Alabama in the SEC Championship. It would not be shocking to find two or three losses on the schedule.

USF's soft schedule is part of the reason so many are high on the Bulls. There's no FSU or Miami on the slate. The harder games are at home. Everything is set up for the Bulls to go unbeaten.

But see, that's the problem. Unfortunately for the Bulls, because the schedule is so weak, even one loss will leave a stain on the season and ruin Flowers' already long-shot Heisman chances.

USF will be good. Really good. But it needs to be perfect to top last season. It needs to be perfect for the season to be considered a major success. Do you realize how hard it is to go perfect?

Miami is getting better and there's a buzz about the Hurricanes. But stop me if you've heard this before. The 'Canes have had several seasons where they start hot, then fade. This is a program that hasn't lost fewer than three games since 2003. It hasn't lost fewer than four since 2005.

The schedule isn't daunting, but until Miami proves it's more than a 9-4 or 8-5 team, it's hard to buy in.

And UCF? It's getting better, but still finding its way. Above .500 would be a good.

Even when you have a great team, the season is full of potholes and detours and bad breaks. That's college football. Upsets are what make the sport so great. Even Alabama loses sometimes.

But for the Florida schools, there's more than just the occasional bad karma of college football. There are questions and flaws.

Florida State's brutal schedule. Florida's QB and offense. USF's bad schedule and enormous expectations of perfection. Miami's recent history. UCF's rebuilding.

All of that could conspire to make for a college football season that isn't all it's cracked up to be around these parts.

Then again, maybe I'll be surprised and this will turn into a season to remember forever.

Just don't count on it.

Comments
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