TAMPA — A month has elapsed since USF opened the state's 2017 college season at San Jose State, and disorder has prevailed ever since.
Hurricane Irma caused scheduling upheaval. Some teams are just now re-entering their normal routines. Still, we believe the collective body of work is produced by the Big Five (Florida, Miami, FSU, USF, UCF) is sufficient to deliver a late-September assessment. Here then, is how we rank the state schools at this point:
Ranking the state
The Bulls claim my top spot based on a larger body of work (albeit against a soft schedule). Had Miami played its original schedule to this point and defeated FSU (initially set for Sept. 16), the 'Canes would be my No. 1. If I were grading these teams, I'd give an "incomplete" to UCF, which beat Maryland on the road when the Terrapins were down to their third-string quarterback. Still, that's one more Power Five triumph than FSU has.
Best win: Miami 52, Toledo 30
Literally displaced by Hurricane Irma, the 'Canes hadn't played a game in three weeks when they took the field against the potent Rockets, but scored 42 second-half points to pull away. Due to the havoc Irma wreaked in south Florida, UM had spent the previous week practicing in Orlando. Considering all the factors (logistics, rust, emotional strain of coping with a natural disaster) working against UM, the triumph may have represented one of the program's finest hours.
Worst loss: Michigan 33, Florida 17
Gators fans came away from Jerry's World with nothing — zilch — on which they could hang their hat offensively. With their top receiver (Antonio Callaway) and running back (Jordan Scarlett) sidelined, UF couldn't run (11 rushing yards), and Feleipe Franks (5-of-9, 75 yards) looked like a kid making his first collegiate start. The Gators' only two touchdowns came on interception returns.
State MVP (so far): CB Deatrick Nichols, USF
While Quinton Flowers is unquestionably the straw that stirs this green-and-gold drink, USF has made quantum strides on defense, and Nichols (16 tackles, six pass breakups) may be the unit's MVP. Sliding from corner to nickel back, he has helped fortify a run defense that ranks third nationally (66.0 ypg) and has two of the Bulls' nation-best 13 interceptions.
Contact Joey Knight at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Bulls