2010 College Football Power Rankings: Who's the Best Team in Florida?
Spring is upon us, and college football fanatics can feel the 2010 season fast approaching.
In the state of Florida, football is arguably bigger than anywhere in the country.
The Sunshine State has three football programs all considered among the best in tradition and prestige in the nation (Florida, Miami, and Florida State), but how do they rank in 2010?
Is there a budding program looking to crack into the major three Florida football programs in 2010?
There are coaching changes, player departures, and a number of other factors that have formulated my opinion of where each of these teams will be in 2010.
7. Florida International University Golden Panthers
FIU football is best known their infamous brawl on the field in 2006 with Miami that led to 18 FIU player suspensions and 13 Miami player suspensions.
FIU is one of the worst teams in the Sun Belt conference. In 2009 they went 3-5 in conference and 3-9 overall.
The Golden Panthers are losing their starting QB and RB, so it appears it is going to be just another one of those seasons for FIU.
6. Florida Atlantic University Owls
Next on the Florida college football power rankings is the FAU Owls. Much like their fellow bottom-tier Florida program FIU, they are a member of the Sun Belt conference.
FAU is a regular whipping boy for BCS conference teams. In 2009 they went 5-3 in conference and 5-7 overall. Just like FIU, they did not win a single out of conference game.
FAU is losing its starting QB from a year ago but returns its top RB Alfred Morris, who rushed for over 1,300 yards.
The Owls will likely do no better than fourth or fifth in the Sun Belt and will remain in this lower level ranking of Florida football programs for the foreseeable future.
5. University of Central Florida Knights
Beginning with the five spot in the Florida power rankings, the competition level dramatically rises.
For 2010, the five spot will be the home of the UCF Knights. The Knights were just a few plays away from playing in the Conference USA championship game in 2009, and they have become a regular contender in Conference USA.
In 2010 they will have to replace graduated quarterback Brett Hodges. The Knights will be able to count on returning star running back Brynn Harvey as they search for their new quarterback. Harvey rushed for over 1,100 yards in 2009.
UCF's consistent power in Conference USA is a positive sign for the program's direction, but they are not yet a threat to crack into the Florida top three.
4. Florida State Seminoles
2009 marked the end of the Bobby Bowden reign in Tallahassee, and it has been some time since Florida State reigned atop the college football landscape.
Bowden was disappointed with how he departed FSU with a 7-6 overall and 4-4 conference record.
Unfortunately for Seminole fans, 2010 is not going to be the year they get back on the map.
The Seminoles will be entering their first season under Jimbo Fisher and are loaded with talent. There will be healthy competition at the QB spot between senior Christian Ponder and sophomore E.J. Manuel.
FSU also returns leading rusher Jermaine Thomas, who will be a junior in 2010.
Now FSU is one of the big three like I stated before, but they slipped in 2009 not only in overall record, but also head to head with the team taking their No. 3 spot.
Fisher has the talent to turn things around for the Seminoles, but it will take a few years.
3. South Florida Bulls
That's right...the South Florida Bulls have moved into the top three of Florida college football heading into the 2010 season.
Many South Florida fans will argue that they have belonged there for many years now.
Not everything is happy-go-lucky for the Bulls though. Their head coach Jim Leavitt was forced out after supposedly striking a player, and recently Leavitt filed a lawsuit against USF.
The Bulls' leading rusher and passer in 2009 was freshman B.J. Daniels. He returns with a ton of weapons surrounding him.
Even more important is who USF found to replace Leavitt, and that is Skip Holtz. Holtz has shown during his time at East Carolina that he can produce a consistent winner. ECU won the Conference USA title the last two years under Holtz.
In 2010 South Florida will contend for the Big East title. Cincinnati, the two-time defending champions, will be in a similar position as USF after they had to replace Brian Kelly when he bolted for Notre Dame.
2. Miami Hurricanes
The Miami Hurricanes appeared ready to break out in 2009 and were announced as being back following their early-season wins over Florida State and Georgia Tech.
However, the Hurricanes were manhandled by Virginia Tech and lost three more games as the season went on, showing that they still have work to do to be the U again.
Many are hyping Miami to be the best team in Florida in 2010, but I say not so fast.
Jacory Harris will only be a junior, but in his two years at Miami he still has yet to prove he can be the QB and leader that can take the team on his back and lead them to victory.
Miami has changed their offensive coordinator so much over the years that it is understandable they do not seem to have a solid identity yet on the offensive side of the ball.
The area that Miami needs to improve to make their return statement in 2010 is running the football. They had two talented backs run for over 600 yards in 2009, but their running game at times was thrown to the side for their overrated passing game under Harris.
Harris needs to show his leadership for 2010 to be a success, but Graig Cooper and Damien Berry will be more of an impact on offensive success and balance for the Hurricanes.
1. Florida Gators
The final team of the Florida 2010 college football power rankings is none other than the Florida Gators.
Yes, Tim Tebow and more than a handful of talented offensive and defensive impact players either graduated or declared early for the NFL Draft.
Yes, there is still some confusion surrounding Urban Meyer and his coaching plans for 2010, according to a recent Miami Herald article.
But the Gators are head and shoulders above the other Florida football programs as of right now. Their NCAA and SEC championships prove it.
The Gators also have consistently beaten the other top Florida programs for the top recruiting talent for many years now, and until it is proven under Meyer that the Gators do not just reload, it is to be assumed that they do.
I am of the opinion that the Gators will have a QB in John Brantley that fits their system better than any QB they have had under Meyer thus far.
The Gators will be making adjustments with a new D-coordinator, a new QB, a possible interim head coach, and the list goes on.
But the fact remains that the Gators are the best college football team in Florida, and they will remain so in 2010.