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
Do I think the Seminoles are truly the worst team in the state? No. But you are what your record says you are, and FSU is the only winless team of the bunch. The 'Canes still look like ACC contenders heading into Thursday night's big game at Duke. USF doesn't look like a playoff buster, but the Bulls remain on track for a nice season, and I think the Gators' last-minute luck eventually runs out, perhaps as soon as Saturday against Vanderbilt.
Best surprise: UCF 38, Maryland 10
Maybe the Terps aren't as good as we thought when they opened the season by beating Texas, but they're still a solid Big Ten team - one the Knights beat by four touchdowns, on the road. UCF's defense kept Maryland from converting on 11 of their 13 third downs and held the Terps to 3 yards per play - almost a third of what Texas allowed. Are we sure UCF isn't the team to beat in the AAC?
Biggest disappointment: Florida State's defense
I thought FSU's defense would be good enough to keep the Seminoles in the ACC title race, even without quarterback Deondre Francois. I was wrong. When even star safety Derwin James is whiffing on tackles, you know things are going poorly. If things don't get better quickly, it's hard to see FSU hanging with Clemson - or even beating rival Miami next weekend.
State MVP (so far): RB Mark Walton, Miami
You can knock the defenses he faced, but Walton leads the country with 13 yards per rush. Miami's offense stumbled when Walton hurt his ankle last week against Toledo, but he (and the 'Canes) recovered as Walton recorded the seventh 200-yard game in school history.