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Expectations have flatlined or fallen at Florida, FSU, USF, UCF and Miami

Trajectories for the state’s five biggest programs have all either worsened or stayed the same as the season nears its midpoint. Oof.
USF quarterback Timmy McClain and the Bulls have winnable games coming up against Tulsa and Temple.
USF quarterback Timmy McClain and the Bulls have winnable games coming up against Tulsa and Temple. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]
Published Oct. 8
Updated Oct. 8

After five full college football weekends, we’ve seen enough to recalibrate expectations across the state. Bad news: The trajectories of the Gators, Seminoles, Bulls, Knights and Hurricanes have all either stayed the same or worsened since August.

Here’s a look at what we thought in the preseason and what’s reasonable to expect over the final two months:

Florida Gators

The Florida Gators' SEC East hopes appear out of reach after losing at Kentucky.
The Florida Gators' SEC East hopes appear out of reach after losing at Kentucky. [ TIMOTHY D. EASLEY | AP ]

What we thought in the preseason: I picked UF to finish second in the SEC East and put the Gators 13th on my preseason AP top 25 ballot. With an offense due to regress, advanced metrics and betting lines pegged UF for around nine wins. That seemed about right.

Related: Can Florida Gators’ Dan Mullen win a title? Or is he UF’s Mark Richt?

Where things stand: In some ways, things aren’t much different. If we pencil in a loss to Georgia and win over LSU — neither is a guarantee, of course — UF likely will finish 9-3. But the 31-29 heartbreaking loss to Alabama artificially raised expectations. If the Gators could hang with the reigning national champions, they could probably contend with Georgia and challenge for the East. But after last weekend, a division title is a long shot, and UF needs help to make a fourth consecutive New Year’s Six bowl.

Florida State

Mike Norvell's Seminoles have a tough road ahead to reach a bowl game this year.
Mike Norvell's Seminoles have a tough road ahead to reach a bowl game this year. [ PHIL SEARS | AP ]

What we thought in the preseason: If you gave Mike Norvell a 2020 mulligan (and we did) because of the pandemic, this was his Year 1. Going 6-6 was a reasonable goal against a schedule with five preseason top-15 teams.

Where things stand: Going 6-6 is technically possible but highly unlikely after a 1-4 start. FSU is a double-digit underdog Saturday at North Carolina, and the only near-automatic win left is UMass on Oct. 23. Even in an ACC that looks much worse than expected, it’s hard to imagine a team that lost at home to Jacksonville State winning enough to make it to the Gasparilla Bowl.

Related: Florida State football looks to build on one win with another. Finally.

USF

Xavier Weaver and the Bulls have winnable home games coming up against Tulsa and Temple.
Xavier Weaver and the Bulls have winnable home games coming up against Tulsa and Temple. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]

What we thought in the preseason: Like Norvell, Jeff Scott deserved a mulligan for Year 1 and faced low external expectations. The Bulls were picked to finish last in the AAC, and betting lines pegged them for about three wins.

Where things stand: USF ranks 116th out of 130 teams in ESPN’s SP+ advanced metrics, and The Athletic initially described Scott’s seat as “hot” earlier this week.

Though we don’t envision a coaching change, 3-9 is probably the best-case scenario. The next two games — home against Tulsa and Temple — are winnable. If the Bulls drop them both, they might go back-to-back seasons without beating a Division I-A team.

Miami Hurricanes

Miami's top-20 season has been upended so far.
Miami's top-20 season has been upended so far. [ LYNNE SLADKY | AP ]

What we thought in the preseason: The ‘Canes are notoriously hard to decipher, but between a healthy D’Eriq King and Manny Diaz retaking control of the defense, Miami looked like a viable contender in the Coastal Division. I had them 11th in my preseason rankings, and bettors expected about nine wins.

Where things stand: Miami could still make a run at winning an unimpressive division, but the ‘Canes would have to show major improvements in tackling and along the offensive line. The more likely scenario is a trip to a low-level bowl that forces administrators to decide whether to give Diaz a fourth season.

Related: What to watch in Florida vs. Vanderbilt and FSU vs. Sam Howell’s Tar Heels

UCF

UCF's AAC title hopes took a major hit when Dillon Gabriel broke his clavicle.
UCF's AAC title hopes took a major hit when Dillon Gabriel broke his clavicle. [ JULIO CORTEZ | AP ]

What we thought in the preseason: I had the Knights 25th on my first ballot because I trusted what Gus Malzahn could do with an excellent quarterback (Dillon Gabriel). UCF was picked to finish second in the AAC behind Cincinnati and received a pair of first-place votes.

Where things stand: With Gabriel (broken clavicle) out, UCF’s ceiling has lowered — especially after last week’s head-scratching loss to Navy. The Knights still must play at No. 5 Cincinnati and No. 24 SMU. This looks like another good-not-great season like 2020.

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