College Playoff Preview
December 26, 2018
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… for college football fans. After 13 weeks of regular season matchups and a week for conference championships, college football bowl games have officially began. This year, the University of Central Florida ended up in the Fiesta Bowl to Florida State University not making any bowl game. Here is a preview of all the upcoming bowl games that will feature Florida football teams and a recap of the bowl games that already occured.
One of the most notable stats regarding the Florida State Seminoles football program was their 36-year bowl game streak. From 1982 to 2017, FSU was selected to play in 36 straight bowl games (however, the NCAA does not recognize this record, as their 2006 victory in the Emerald Bowl was vacated due to a cheating scandal). That streak came to an end this season. Following head coach Jimbo Fisher’s departure last season to become Texas A&M’s coach, FSU finished the season with a 5-7 record.
FSU lost several key games this season, including a 59-10 blowout loss to Clemson, giving up a 20 point lead in a 28-27 loss to Miami and a 41-10 loss to finish the season in what was expected to be a highly anticipated match against Florida. But Seminoles fan and Palmetto sophomore Corey Collier is not too worried about FSU’s future.
“[FSU] is going to be OK because they have a lot of recruits,” Collier said.
South Florida: Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl VS Marshall (Loss, 38-20)
The South Florida Bulls started off their season very well, winning all of their first seven games. However, things went downhill in the second half of their season, as they lost their final five games. The Bulls also struggled in their final game against UCF, losing 38-10. They were selected to play in a bowl game since they finished the regular season with a winning record. Unfortunately, the Bulls lost to the Marshall Thundering Herd by a score of 38-20. The Bulls finished the year 7-6.
FIU: Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl VS Toledo (Win, 35-32)
One of the bigger surprises this year was a strong season from Florida International University. Led by former Miami Hurricanes head coach Butch Davis, the Panthers compiled an 8-4 record in the regular season and were nominated to their fourth bowl game in the program’s history. FIU spent some time in the Bahamas, as they faced off against Toledo. This was FIU’s second time playing Toledo in a bowl game, as the Panthers won in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in 2010 by a score of 34-32. Though Toledo was projected to win, FIU pulled off the upset and won by a similar score as they did in 2010, as they won by a score of 35-32. This is the program’s second bowl win in its history, both coming against the Toledo Rockets.
Miami: New Era Pinstripe Bowl VS Wisconsin (Dec. 27)
Both Miami and Wisconsin fell harshly in the rankings this season. The Wisconsin Badgers started the season at fourth in the Associated Press bowl, while the Miami Hurricanes started at eighth. Unfortunately, both teams went 7-5 and fell out of the rankings; neither team is currently receiving any votes in the AP Poll.
The Hurricanes’ defined their season through their struggle at quarterback, as the starting job constantly flipped between senior Malik Rosier and redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry. Rosier and Perry each started six games, with Perry being expected to start against Wisconsin. Rosier threw six touchdowns and five interceptions with a 53.5 percent completion rate; he also ran for six touchdowns. On the other hand, Perry threw 13 touchdowns and five interceptions with a 51.6 percent completion rate; he had two rushing touchdowns.
Miami will be traveling to New York City to face off against the Badgers in a bowl game for the second year in a row. The game will be at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 27 at 5:15 p.m.. While the Badgers defeated the Hurricanes last year in the Orange Bowl, the Hurricanes are favored to win this year by a line of -4 (meaning the Hurricanes are projected to win by four points). Palmetto freshman Carson Sleeman is very confident in the Hurricanes’ chances against the Badgers.
“[The Hurricanes] are going to kill Wisconsin,” Sleeman said.
#10 Florida: Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl VS #7 Michigan (Dec. 29)
While the Hurricanes fell out of the rankings throughout the season, the Florida Gators fought their way into the rankings after starting the season unranked. The Gators beat several strong teams this season, including Louisiana State University and Mississippi State, who are currently ranked No.11 and No.18 respectively in the AP Poll.
Florida will be facing off against the Michigan Wolverines, who were projected to make the College Football Playoffs until a week 13 loss to Ohio State. The Gators will travel to Atlanta to play at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Dec. 29 at noon. Michigan is favored to win the game by a line of -7.5.
The Gators have a very strong running game lead by junior Lamical Perine and redshirt junior Jordan Scarlett. As a team, the Gators are averaging 5.2 yards per rushing attempt along with 20 touchdowns on the year. Perine leads the team in rushing touchdowns (six) and yards (750), while Scarlett has chipped in four rushing touchdowns and 717 rushing yards. Some fans believe that the Gators are the best team in Florida, but there is one team that begs to differ.
#8 UCF: Playstation Fiesta Bowl VS #11 LSU (Jan. 1)
For the second year in a row, the UCF Knights finished the regular season undefeated and won the American Athletic Conference championship. But much to their fans’ chagrin, they missed out on the College Football Playoffs for the second year in a row as well. Some fans claim that UCF does not face ranked opponents and that their undefeated seasons do not merit as much as other teams’ records. However, UCF defeated Auburn in last year’s Peach Bowl by a score of 34-27; this was when Auburn was ranked #7 in the country.
Despite having the higher ranking, UCF is still an underdog entering the Fiesta Bowl, as LSU is favored to win by a line of -7.5. The Knights will be facing off against the Tigers on New Year’s Day in 2019 at State Farm Stadium in Arizona at 1 PM.
Several fans have debated as to which team is the best in Florida; the UCF Knights or the Florida Gators. While the Knights have a better record and a higher ranking, a lot of fans believe that the Gators face tougher opponents. Palmetto freshman AJ Amster believes it is a tough call between the two teams.
“UCF is ranked really high, but they’re unproven,” Amster said.
This season was a surprising one for several teams across Florida. Now, all that is left to do is for the teams to go out on the field and try to end their season with a strong victory to put an exclamation point on their season.