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College football is around the corner

Max ranks Florida’s Power 5 schools for the upcoming season

The wait is almost over. Amid all the drama with conference realignment, it’s easy to forget that the 2023 college football season is almost here. Powerhouses Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State have all undergone significant turnover this offseason, so this could be the year for a sleeper team to make a run at the national championship. The state of Florida has historically been filled with hotly contested rivalries, and while not so much the case in recent years, there are still some intriguing storylines to unpack. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on Florida’s four Power Five teams, ranked in order of how good I think they will be this season.

#4. Florida Gators: Things are not looking good in Gainesville. The Gators finished last season 6-7, including three straight losses to Vanderbilt, Florida State, and Oregon State to end the year. Head coach Billy Napier returns for his second season, and Gator fans are unlikely to tolerate another subpar season. unfortunately for them, they may not have a choice. Quarterback Anthony Richardson was selected fourth overall in the NFL draft, and four starters on the offensive line either moved on to the NFL or transferred elsewhere.

Napier brought in former Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz to replace Richardson for the time being. Mertz, a four-year starter for the Badgers, has thrown for 5,332 yards, 38 touchdowns, and 26 interceptions in his collegiate career, and he has two years of eligibility remaining. He is a rather underwhelming addition for the Gators given his lackluster production at Wisconsin and lack of standout physical traits. 

Making matters worse, four-star recruit Jaden Rashada flipped his commitment from Florida to Arizona State at the last minute after a $13.8 million Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) deal with Florida fell through, so it’s not like the Gators have someone waiting in the wings to take over for Mertz. 

Florida’s biggest strength last season was their running game, and that should remain the case this year. Although there is uncertainty on the offensive line and Mertz is a much less mobile quarterback than Richardson, running backs Trevor Etienne and Montrell Washington are both very talented. While it may not be as explosive with Richardson out of the equation, Florida’s running game should still be solid. 

The receiving corps remains mostly intact with Xavier Henderson and Ricky Pearsall returning to lead a group that otherwise consists of a host of young, unproven players. The passing game will not be scaring anyone if Mertz’s track record and the lack of proven depth at receiver is any indication, but the running game should give this offense a solid floor at least. 

The defense is another story. They were dreadful last year, and things are not looking any better for this season. While the Gator offense should be able to score 20-25 points per game pretty consistently, the defense will have a hard time keeping most opponents under 30. 

Making matters worse, the Gators do not have an easy schedule this year. The first half of their season looks manageable, with winnable conference games against Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky, plus two cupcake non-conference games against McNeese State and Charlotte, but the back half of their schedule is brutal. From week seven on, there is not a single game on this schedule that Florida is currently favored in, as they will face South Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Georgia, LSU, and FSU. Maybe they could beat Arkansas and/or Missouri and you never know with the FSU rivalry game, but Georgia, LSU, and South Carolina are probably all blowout losses. Overall, I’ll peg them for a five or six win season.

#3. UCF Knights: This is a major transition year for UCF, as they will be moving from the Group of Five’s AAC to the Power Five’s Big 12. Last year, the Knights finished 9-5 and made it to the AAC championship game. They return 15 of 22 starters from last season, including quarterback John Rhys Plumlee. While the Knights had a solid season in 2022, it remains to be seen how they will fair at a higher level of competition. It will also be fascinating to see if they are able to recruit higher level prospects now that they are in a more competitive conference. UCF is a larger school and is in an arguably better location than Florida, Florida State, or Miami. For this year, I would expect the Knights to take a small step back from last year but still be competitive. They will avoid consensus conference favorites Texas and TCU, and most of the rest of the conference is pretty average. The only three likely losses that I see on their schedule are on the road at Kansas State, Oklahoma, and Kansas. They have likely wins against Kent State, Villanova, Houston, and Cincinnati. They will probably lose to Baylor, but they have a better chance of beating them than, say, Kansas State. Their other four games are toss-ups. If they can split those, they could finish with a six or seven win season.

#2. Miami Hurricanes: The Hurricanes’ 2022 season was a colossal failure. Coming off a Pac-12 championship at Oregon, Mario Cristobal returned home to coach at Miami, his alma mater. Expectations were high for Cristobal’s first season back in South Beach, but things did not go according to plan to say the least. Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke won the ACC Rookie of the Year award in 2021, but his 2022 season was mired by injuries and underperformance. 

Miami suffered many embarrassing losses in 2022, but the two that stand above them all are an upset loss to Middle Tennessee State and a humiliating 45-3 beatdown at the hands of rival Florida State, both on Miami’s home field. When all was said and done, the Hurricanes finished 5-7 and failed to make a bowl game. Miami is bringing in a consensus top 10 recruiting class this year, but that does not necessarily translate to immediate success on the field (last year’s Texas A&M team is a prime example of this). 

The Hurricanes will need Van Dyke to return to his 2021 form if they hope to take a step forward this season. Both Miami’s offensive and defensive coordinators were fired after last year’s debacle, and Hurricanes fans can only hope that the new ones are better. Personally, I would imagine that Miami will take at least a small step forward in 2023. Van Dyke is too good of a quarterback, the ACC is too weak of a conference, and Cristobal has too good of a coaching pedigree to expect another 5-7 season. However, it is clear that there is still a lot of work to be done before the Canes return to national relevancy. 

This season’s schedule does not appear to be overly daunting at least. Three of their first four games are against Miami of Ohio, Bethune-Cookman, and Temple. If they can win all of those games and beat Texas A&M and Georgia Tech in weeks two and five respectively, Miami could build some momentum and put together a solid season. I don’t see them beating North Carolina, Clemson, or Florida State, but all their other conference games are winnable. While I don’t think they are an especially great team, they could theoretically find their way to eight or even nine wins if they can build some momentum early.

#1. Florida State Seminoles: The Seminoles are far and away the best college football team in Florida this year. Last season was a make-or-break year for head coach Mike Norvell, and he and his team came through. After going 8-14 in his first two years in Tallahassee, Norvell coached Florida State to a 10-3 season in 2022, the program’s first double-digit win campaign since 2016. The Seminoles return a host of star players this year, most of whom returned to school to chase a championship rather than going to the NFL. This group is led by quarterback Jordan Travis, a Heisman Trophy candidate. Travis had a breakout season in 2022, throwing for 3,214 yards with 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He also added eight touchdowns on the ground. Travis is not a bonafide NFL draft prospect, but his dual threat ability makes him a dangerous college quarterback. 

Running back Trey Benson, who ran for 990 yards and averaged over six yards per carry last year, returns to anchor the running game. Big Johnny Wilson, a six-foot seven wide receiver, also returns after piling up 897 yards last season on an impressive 20.9 yards per reception, including eight catches for 202 yards in FSU’s Cheezit Bowl win over Oklahoma.


On defense, pass rusher Jared Verse chose to forego a potential first-round NFL draft selection to return to Florida State, where he is set for a massive season as one of the best pass rushers in the country. Beyond that, Norvell and his coaching staff recruited quite a few high-profile transfers, including wide receiver Keon Coleman, tight end Jaheim Bell, offensive lineman Jeremiah Byers, defensive tackle Braden Fiske, and cornerback Fentrell Cypress. As you can tell, this is a special roster. 

With that being said, just how special this Seminoles team can be will be determined very early in the season. After taking down LSU to open last season, Florida State will open the 2023 campaign with a rematch against the Tigers, this time with both schools ranked inside the top 10 of the AP poll. Then, in week four, the Seminoles will travel to Clemson for a crucial ACC matchup. If they win both those games, FSU would be well on their way to a berth in the college football playoff. They would even be in good shape if they split. If they lose both games, their ceiling is likely an ACC championship. Outside of that, the schedule is mostly easy. Back-to-back road games at Wake Forest and Pittsburgh followed by a rivalry game at home against Miami from weeks 8-10 is the only other potentially tough stretch I can find. The annual rivalry game against Florida will be played in Gainesville this year, but the Seminoles have so much more talent than the Gators this year that it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. As long as this team stays relatively healthy, they should win a bare minimum of nine games. Their ceiling, at least in my opinion as a biased FSU fan, is a national championship. I’m not saying they will win it all, but I think they are definitely capable.

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Max Teply, Staff Writer
This is Max's third year on staff. He enjoys writing, and he spends plenty of time keeping up with the NFL.
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