Remember when everyone was happy?
Or almost everyone? Even USF had that close call in Gainesville to give them some hope.
This week, the only elevated psyche can be found at FIU, of all places — the Panthers have a real shot at getting to three wins this week!
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But upstairs in the professional ranks, our three NFL teams are on a downer. The biggest downer, ironically, belongs to the team with the best record among our three Sunday organizations.
That’s right, the Miami Dolphins, recently the trendy chart-topper on NFL power rankings across the country, went from exclamation point to question mark in just four days last week.
Tua Tagovailoa went down late in the first half of the Buffalo game, and it didn’t look good. But wait, it was just a tweak of his back, they said, as he returned to help engineer the Dolphins dramatic win over the Bills.
We all know what happened four days later when Tua and the Dolphins went to Cincy. Now Tua is out, and by the nature of head injuries, no one can say when he might return.
So the QB job falls to Teddy Bridgewater, whose uninspired work out of the bullpen last week has driven Fins fans from hilltops to hollows — or, in a nod to Loretta Lynn, hollers.
Across the way in Tampa, there’s no crime in the Bucs losing to the Kansas City Chiefs. Yes, it came on the heels of a loss to the Green Bay Packers, but guess what — no crime in that, either.
evidence? In each of the past two seasons, the Bucs had a two-game losing streak. Last year, they recovered and made the second round of the playoffs, where they narrowly lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams.
The year before, the Bucs lost two straight — and three of four — before an eight-game run culminated in Super Bowl victory.
And finally, up in Duval County, the upcoming game is so much more important than you might think, considering the Jaguars and visiting Texans are a combined 2-5-1. The Jags looked great in their two wins, promising but mistake-riddled in their two losses. Overall, though, the 2022 vibe remains. . . what?
Probably none of the above.
Hopeful? Yeah, that’s the one.
But a noticeable uptick in mood, lifted by a noticeable uptick in performance — plain competence, for the most part — could be wiped away if things go horribly wrong Sunday against the highly underwhelming Texans.
Whew, with all of that out of the way — as well as the first known use of the term “highly underwhelming” — let’s move on to the statewide rankings and crystal ball.
Rank & File
The weekly ranking of Florida’s seven big-league college football programs, based on results versus expectations, current trends, and a couple hot tips from Kirk Herbstreit’s former yard man. . .
1st FSU (4-1): at NC State. You don’t have to be very old to appreciate the role reversal. Here’s NC State coach Dave Doeren on this week’s visiting FSU team: “The most impressive Florida State team we’ve played in a long time. Coach Norvell and his staff deserve a lot of credit for the turnaround they’ve had down there.” What in the name of Chuck Amato is a-goin’ on here? — Wolfpack 27, ‘Noles 26.
* 2.UCF (3-1): We dug into our asterisk drawer because the Knights played SMU well after Wednesday’s deadline. This ranking is what the business folks would call fluid.
3. Florida (3-2): Missouri at home. This is the game that sealed Dan Mullen’s fate last year. In the preseason, when looking ahead to the 2022 schedule, this one was chalked up as a win by Gator faithful. Then Mizzou came oh-so-close to upsetting Georgia last week. Excluding Vandy, there are few days off in the SEC — Gators 27, Tigers 20.
4th FIU (2-2): UConn at home. Like you, we had the Panthers pegged for 1-11 this year, then they go to Las Cruces last week and beat New Mexico State! How? Las Cruces is relatively close to Roswell. Draw your own conclusions — Panthers 23, Huskies 12.
5. Miami (2-2): North Carolina at home. Five games in, and this is Miami’s first ACC game of 2022. They weren’t planning on arriving here with two losses and questions at quarterback. Quiet – ‘Canes 20, heels 16.
6. FAU (2-4): off this week. The stepladder of explaining losses, found on Page 3 of the Coach’s Manual. Rung 1: “We have to do a better job as coaches.” Rung 2: “We need to get back to fundamentals.” This week, Owls coach Willie Taggart stepped up to the third rung: “We have to simplify some things and allow our guys to just play ball.”
7. USF (1-4): at Cincinnati. Coach Jeff Scott, in his third season at USF, is 3-0 against FCS teams, and yes, 1-22 against his own punching weight. Not what you draw up when you’re a sought-after offensive coordinator about to take the head-coaching plunge — Bearcats 43, Bulls 23.
Ranking our three NFL franchises and flailing wildly at this week’s picks . . .
1. Tampa Bay (2-2): Atlanta at home. Two things bump the Bucs back to No. 1 ahead of Miami. The first, obviously, is Tua’s status. The second is degree of difficulty — losing at Green Bay and at home to KC, neither classified as a bad beat. Looking at the schedule, it appears a winning streak is looming — Buc’s 32, Falcon’s 17.
2. Miami (3-1): at NY Jets. Fans are wondering if and when they might see Skylar Thompson at QB. He was, after all, the unofficial MVP of the preseason. By the way, as a redshirt freshman at Kansas State, he was awarded the Scout Team Player of the Year Award. True story. Savior in waiting, or just another King of the B-Movies? — Dolphins 20, Jets 14.
3. Jacksonville (2-2): Houston at home. The Jags convinced themselves, and some others, they’re a quality team that had a chance to win the two games they lost. This week begins a five-week run of non-intimidating opposition. At least on paper. Suddenly, there’s more potential downside to losing this one than there is upside to winning it. Hush, though— Jags 30, Texans 17.