Florida’s most interesting game of the weekend isn’t USF coach Jeff Scott’s Year 2 debut at North Carolina State, Willie Taggart making history in Gainesville or the two big-name matchups (Miami-Alabama and Florida State-Notre Dame).
It’s Boise State at UCF Thursday night.
The Bounce House should be the closest thing to a normal college football environment the state has seen since 2019. Former Auburn coach Gus Malzahn will be making his Knights debut against the Broncos’ first-time head coach, Andy Avalos, in a matchup of two teams who could challenge for a spot in a prestigious New Year’s Six bowl game.
The possibility of conference realignment adds another wrinkle. The Big 12 isn’t going to base its expansion decisions on one non-conference result, of course. But two potential Big 12 targets playing each other in a prime-time, weekend-opening game creates another selling point for both programs.
And makes it the state’s most intriguing contest of Week 1.
Willie Taggart’s state tour
When the former USF and FSU coach brings Florida Atlantic into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Taggart will become the first head coach in Florida history to coach at every current Division I-A stadium in the state. His record at each one:
Raymond James Stadium: 14-14
Doak Campbell Stadium: 8-6
FAU Stadium: 5-0
FIU Stadium: 2-1
Bounce House (UCF): 1-1
Hard Rock Stadium: 0-1
Marquee moment for Miami
The Hurricanes have struggled in recent big games, like last year at Clemson (42-17), the 2018 neutral-site opener to LSU (33-17) or the ACC title game against Clemson (38-3). Miami shouldn’t be looking for moral victories, but realistically, staying competitive against ‘Bama would be a welcome sign of progress.
FSU QB: TBD
Mike Norvell hasn’t named a starting quarterback and wouldn’t answer whether his Seminoles will consider using multiple passers against Notre Dame. We’ll probably have to wait until Sunday night to see if Jordan Travis gets the first snaps or if UCF transfer McKenzie Milton continues his remarkable comeback by earning the starting job.
Eye on the NFL draft
North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu has 87 pancake blocks and 22 knockdowns over 24 games. That’s enough to make him the top eligible guard in this draft and a player to watch against USF.
Tributes of note
The Gators will recognize the program’s first Black players, Leonard George (a Jesuit High alumnus) and Willie Jackson, by making them honorary captains. Florida State’s tributes to the late Bobby Bowden include adding his signature to the back of helmets and adding a Bobby logo to the field.
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