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My AP Top 25 ballot: UCF up, what to do with Florida Gators without Feleipe Franks?

The gap between UCF and UF is shrinking, at least on Matt Baker’s AP ballot.
Florida running back Lamical Perine (2) attempts to break through an opening in the Kentucky defensive line during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley) [TIMOTHY D. EASLEY | AP]
Published Sep. 15

As usual, some of the biggest intrigue on my weekly AP Top 25 ballot centers on the state’s top two teams: Florida and UCF.

The Gators didn’t look very impressive early at Kentucky, lost their quarterback and then rallied to win behind veteran backup Kyle Trask. It’s UF’s second sloppy win this season over a top-40 team away from home (Miami in Orlando was the other). But I haven’t been solid on UF yet … and I don’t feel any differently after covering the game at Kroger Field.

RELATED: With Feleipe Franks out, Kyle Trask leads No. 9 Florida Gators to win

The offensive line looks like a liability, and the quarterback play has been mixed. And now there’s no Feleipe Franks, who’s likely out for the season with a leg injury. I generally take a wait-and-see approach to quarterback injuries. That’s what I did when Florida State’s Deondre Francois hurt his knee against Alabama in the 2017 opener. I don’t know how well his backup will play. Maybe he’ll be even better. Or maybe he’ll be a lot worse, or about the same. Until I know for sure, I pause.

Why, then, did UF fall a spot to No. 9 on my ballot? Mostly because I don’t think I gave Wisconsin enough of a bump last week. Advanced metrics like the Badgers more than the Gators, and I probably should have had Wisconsin ahead of UF anyway. I corrected that this week, sliding UF down a spot to No. 9. But I don’t see a big gap between the two.

UCF was a big riser on my ballot. I had the Knights No. 18 last week but jumped them all the way to No. 11 after their blowout win over Stanford. The Cardinal isn’t a great team, but it’s a good one, and UCF dominated. It’s a strong win, period.

RELATED: Want to tune out UCF’s battle cries? Got to beat the Knights first

Maryland, Mississippi State, North Carolina and Michigan State all fell off my ballot. Washington jumped back in while Kansas State, Oklahoma State and TCU made their first appearances this season. I also considered Memphis, Arizona State and … Wake Forest (?) among others. Here’s the top 25 ballot I submitted Sunday morning from Gate B17 of the Louisville airport:

1. Clemson

2. Alabama

3. Georgia

4. LSU

5. Ohio State

6. Oklahoma

7. Auburn

8. Wisconsin

9. Florida

10. Notre Dame

11. UCF

12. Utah

13. Penn State

14. Iowa

15. Michigan

16. Oregon

17. Texas A&M

18. Washington State

19. Boise State

20. Texas

21. Kansas State

22. Virginia

23. Washington

24. Oklahoma State

25. TCU


  1. Illinois head coach Lovie Smith watches as his team plays against Minnesota on Oct. 5 in Minneapolis. BRUCE KLUCKHOHN  |  AP
    Game-day guide: Plus a look at Penn State-Michigan and a game plan that’s crazy enough to (almost) work for the Vols this weekend.
  2. BYU linebacker Max Tooley (31) tackles USF running back Jordan Cronkrite (2) during the second half of last week's game at Raymond James Stadium. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Game-day guide: And Will Muschamp’s South Carolina tenure looks almost exactly like his time with the Florida Gators.
  3. Florida quarterback Emory Jones (5) throws a pass against Auburn on Oct. 5 in Gainesville. JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    Kyle Trask and Emory Jones are thriving at Florida, while Willie Taggart is being tight-lipped at Florida State.
  4. Florida Gators running back Lamical Perine runs against Tennessee during the first half of the Sept. 21 football game in Gainesville. JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    The Pac-12 has some interesting games this weekend. Too bad no one will be able to watch one of them. Plus: Times staff predictions for week 8.
  5. Florida wide receiver Van Jefferson (12) celebrates his touchdown reception with wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland (89) and tight end Kyle Pitts (84) in the first half of an NCAA college football game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) GERALD HERBERT  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay: Times college football writer Matt Baker discusses Florida-South Carolina, USF-Navy, FSU-Wake Forest and the conference already out of the College Football Playoff picture.
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  7. Auburn quarterback Bo Nix, left, looks for a receiver as he is pressured by Florida linebacker Jonathan Greenard (58) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    Times staff writer Matt Baker does his midseason review with a look ahead to the biggest story of the season’s second half.
  8. South Carolina quarterback Ryan Hilinski (3) attempts a pass against Kentucky during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina defeated Kentucky 24-7. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford) SEAN RAYFORD  |  AP
    Ryan Hilinski should be “ready to roll” against UF, Will Muschamp said Wednesday.
  9. LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson (2) carries against Florida defensive back Kaiir Elam (5) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. LSU won 42-28. GERALD HERBERT  |  AP
    The game’s 10.0 local rating was comparable to what the Lightning drew during the 2018 playoff run.
  10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) warms up before an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant) ALASTAIR GRANT  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: What else went wrong in London, ranking the Rays, Lightning worries, Gators’ SEC title hopes.