2011 College Football Top 25 Predictions: Ranking Florida's Top Football Program
The 2011 College Football Season is still six months from kicking off, but it's not too early to predict next seasons rankings.
The state of Florida boasts some of the best talent in the nation, which translates to Florida having some of the premier programs in the country. Most notably, Florida, Florida State and Miami have three of the richest histories in college football with 10 national titles combined.
Still, the Sunshine State has more than just that three-headed monster, with two up-and-coming programs in the University of Central Florida and the University of South Florida.
Both the Knights and the Bulls are coming off solid campaigns and have the talent to make some noise next season.
The Hurricanes were the only team out of the major five to not win their bowl game this past season. Regardless, the state has some exciting programs that are all in in the mix to be on a national scale.
So, here is the ranking of the top five schools in Florida.
5. University of South Florida Bulls
The Bulls are coming off a solid 2010 campaign, going 8-5 and beating Clemson in the the Meineke Bowl. However, South Florida still doesn't have the depth to be true competitors in the Big East.
They went 3-4 in the conference last season, including losses to West Virginia, Connecticut and Pittsburgh, who make up the better teams in the Big East.
The Bulls lost some key members both on offense and defense with receiver Dontavia Bogan being their biggest loss. However, USF added 18 new members in their 2011 class, as well as three early enrollees, giving them 21 newcomers.
Although their class wasn't ranked in the top 50, the Bulls addressed their biggest needs in signing five offensive linemen and five linebackers. They also had two four-star commits in defensive tackle Elkino Watson and receiver Andre Davis, who could make an immediate impact with Bogan no longer on the field.
Quarterback B.J. Daniels will look to work off a solid performance in the Bulls bowl win, where he went 20-of-27 passing for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
Coach Skip Holtz will have some pieces to work with next season, but the Bulls will most likely be the least mentioned team in Florida.
4. Miami Hurricanes
The Hurricanes are coming off a very disappointing year after going 7-6 and dropping their bowl game to Notre Dame. Miami's season started off promising as they rose in the national rankings, but inconsistency doomed them after a crushing loss to rival Florida State.
Miami also lost to USF, giving them an 0-2 record in state.The subpar year caused a coaching change with Al Golden taking over the program.
Golden will be looked to bring the Hurricanes back to national prominence. He has started off strong, bringing in 16 new recruits, good enough for the 36th best class in the nation. Michigan quarterback transfer Tate Forcier is one of the program's biggest commits of the 2011 class.
QB Jacory Harris had a very inconsistent season after a promising 2009 campaign. His stats fell of dramatically last year, with only 1,793 passing yards and 14 touchdowns.
If the school wants to rebound and return to a national level, the Canes will need to evaluate if Harris can be the school's starting quarterback for the next two seasons.
The U will ultimately be overshadowed in the ACC by their in-state rivals, Florida State and Virginia Tech, with both programs having superior recruiting classes.
Coach Golden will have have a tough task at hand, but the Hurricanes have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball.
3. University of Central Florida Knights
The Knights are one of the biggest up and coming teams in the country. They are coming off the school's most successful season in program history after an 11-3 record that included the school's first ever bowl victory and first-ever national ranking.
The Knights won their second Conference-USA championship, knocked off the Georgia Bulldogs in the Auto Zone Liberty Bowl and finished with the No. 21 ranking in the AP poll. They also received the No. 25 ranking in the final BCS poll.
UCF and Florida State were the only two teams in the state to finish in the national rankings.
It was a historic year for the relatively new program that will have an even brighter future after reeling in their best recruiting class in school history. The Knights landed the gem of their class in four star quarterback recruit DeMarcus Smith, who chose UCF over his hometown Louisville Cardinals.
In addition, they had 29 total newcomers in an excellent 2011 class that was also highlighted by linebacker Leilon Willingham and four star junior transfer Toby Jackson. The incoming talent gave UCF the 39th best class in the country.
The newcomers will join the Jeffrey Godfrey-led Knights. Godfrey is coming off a stellar freshman campaign, in which he took over as the starter just three games into the season. The Miami-native posted 2159 passing yards and 13 passing touchdowns, to go along with nine rushing TD's.
Although the Knights lost some crucial players on defense, including All-American Bruce Miller, they filled a lot of holes with their recruits and will have the pieces to be one of the best defenses in the nation again.
The Knights finished 12th in the nation in total scoring defense last year and will look to the defense again this year to make them effective.
Central Florida has a great shot as repeating as Conference-USA champions after going 7-1 in their conference slate last year.
With Godfrey having a year of experience under his belt and plenty of new talent in place, coach George O'Learly will look to lead UCF into uncharted heights next season and keep them in the national spotlight.
2. Florida Gators
The Urban Meyer era is over in Gainesville after six seasons and two national titles as the program's head coach.
He leaves the team after a rocky season, in which the Gators finished 8-5 overall and 4-4 in the SEC. They failed to win the conference or finish with a national ranking, which seemed almost foreign to a school that won two national titles in the last five years.
Still, the Gators won Meyer's final game with a win over Penn State in the Outback Bowl.
Fortunately, UF notched the 12th best recruiting class in the nation, so new coach Will Muschamp will have some good talent to work with next season.
The class was highlighted by the consensus top-rated quarterback in the nation, Jeff Driskel, the No. 1 fullback, Hunter Joyner, and the No. 2 defensive back in Marcus Roberson.
The Gators still have concerns on offense as QB John Brantley had a subpar season in his first year as the starter in the post-Tebow era. Brantley was very inconsistent and will need to prove himself this season.
Florida also lost key team leaders in center Mike Pouncey and safety Ahmad Black.
Still, with a top recruiting class in place, the Gators could be back to national prominence in no time.
1. Florida State Seminoles
Florida State will finally get to enjoy being the best team in the state as the hated rival Gators are "rebuilding."
The Seminoles are coming off one of their best years in recent history. They finished with a 10-4 overall record in Jimbo Fisher's first year as head coach and had a big bowl win over South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
EJ Manuel threw a fourth quarter touchdown in the game to help lead the Seminoles to victory after senior quarterback Christian Ponder left the game due to injury.
Manuel will take over the Seminoles this year with big expectations as they are the ACC-favorites after landing the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation.
They have 29 incoming freshman in the outstanding class that is headlined by running back James Wilder Jr. and defensive back Karlos Williams.
The Seminoles are also expected to bring back nine starters on both offense and defense, with their only huge loss being Ponder.
FSU's defense is extremely stacked with young players such as cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Greg Reid and linebackers Telvin Smith and Christian Jones only going to develop in the coming years.
Florida State most likely have a spot in the top 10 in the preseason rankings and could make some real noise this season.
The post Bobby Bowden days are looking bright for the Seminoles.