For the first time in over a decade, a team from the state of Florida was not ranked in the AP or Coaches’ Poll. This was the case for a large portion of the season after the Florida Gators started to play good teams and Florida State lost to Wake Forest. Miami had the potential to be good this year, but they never got it going, even when all of its players were able to play.
All three programs are “sleeping giants” if for nothing else other than history and their locations in the heart of one of the most talent-rich states in the country.
So, which of them will hoist up their conference’s championship trophy first?
The odds are heavily with Florida State.
The Seminoles have brought in top 10 recruiting classes every year since 2008, and Jimbo Fisher and Mark Stoops are finally getting the most out of them. They only lost five players to graduation, including just one on the offensive line, which was the only thing keeping them from winning the ACC Atlantic this year. E.J. Manuel has continued to develop as a quarterback and will be one of the conference’s best in 2012, and their best running backs are all freshmen. FSU also has one of the best return men in the game in Greg Reid, who should return for his senior season.
Miami has absolutely no shot at winning anything of value next year. Al Golden’s team will lose just about everyone good to graduation or the NFL draft, except Ray-Ray Armstrong, who unexpectedly decided to stick around. He’s recruiting good guys, but it will take some time in order for them to mature and for the program to move past the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
Florida is moving in the right direction under Will Muschamp, but the offense continues to be as anemic as ever since Tim Tebow left. Defense is no problem, but having a dominant offense is what gave the Gators those national championships.
With only Clemson realistically to beat at home next year, taking Florida State to win the ACC as soon as next year is not a terrible prediction. It should definitely win its conference before Miami or Florida.