With the first month of the college football season over, let’s take a step back to evaluate where some of the state’s major programs are entering October. Here are five of the most pressing questions from across the state:
1. Is Florida State for real?
The No. 23 Seminoles are 4-0 and absolutely deserving of their ranking. FSU has blown bad teams (Duquesne, Boston College), beaten Louisville on the road despite several notable injuries and found a way to beat LSU in New Orleans. There’s no question that Mike Norvell’s Seminoles have taken a big step forward in Year 3.
But how big? We’re about to find out. FSU’s brutal three game stretch starts Saturday against No. 22 Wake Forest, followed by a trip to No. 10 North Carolina State and a home game against No. 5 Clemson. Going 0-3 would have been expected in July but would now seem like a disappointment. If FSU wins one or two, we’ll have to consider whether the ‘Noles are truly back among the ACC’s elite teams again. If Norvell wins all three? FSU will emerge as the ACC frontrunner.
2. Will USF get its breakthrough win?
In the preseason, coach Jeff Scott talked about the satisfaction a team gets from breakthrough moments. The Bulls are still waiting for one; the close loss at Florida can’t qualify after the way USF struggled last week against Louisville.
A big chance comes Saturday at FAU Stadium against East Carolina in the AAC opener. The Pirates are no longer the doormat they were a few years ago, but they’re not a juggernaut, either. If the Bulls can’t beat East Carolina — or at least be competitive — in Scott’s third season, then it’s time to start wondering whether a breakthrough win will ever come with this staff.
3. How does Hurricane Ian affect the Gators?
Florida should not have any problems with Eastern Washington on Sunday. It is fair, however, to wonder about how the short week will affect the Gators for next week’s game against Missouri.
Coach Billy Napier preaches the importance of routine, and Hurricane Ian disrupted it by postponing the game a day. Napier said the Gators are focused on Eastern Washington and haven’t started preparing in advance for Missouri. That seems like an issue. Every UF game seems like a coin flip, and the Tigers will have an obvious advantage with an extra day of preparation.
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Napier’s history suggests it shouldn’t be a big deal; he was 4-0 on short weeks at Louisiana Lafayette.
4. Does Miami recover?
There’s no sugarcoating the Hurricanes’ loss to Middle Tennessee State last week. It’s one of the worst of the program’s modern era, and it prompts legitimate questions about coach Mario Cristobal’s game-managing abilities.
The immediate question is how well this team responds. Recent Miami teams often let one loss lead to two or more. That’s possible this year, too. But if the Hurricanes regroup well during this off week, Miami still has the potential to make a run at the Coastal Division title.
5. Which quarterbacks show the most growth?
Aside from FSU’s Jordan Travis — who has been arguably the state’s best player so far — Florida quarterbacks have been, at best, shaky.
The Gators’ Anthony Richardson has had two great performances and two duds. Gerry Bohanon was the first USF quarterback since Quinton Flowers to run for 100 yards in a game but has yet to throw a touchdown pass. Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke is 100th nationally in passing efficiency (122.45), though his receivers haven’t helped him much. And UCF’s John Rhys Plumlee has one touchdown pass and three interceptions against Division I-A teams.
It’s hard to see all four struggling the rest of the season. But which ones can become consistent playmakers for their teams?
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