STATE OF FOOTBALL: With two exceptions, we're off to a flying stop

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Misery loves company, they tell you.

But this ain’t “company,” it’s a convention. Honestly, where do you begin?

Maybe you begin by congratulating the UCF Knights and Florida Gators, who were apparently vaccinated and thus shielded from this unsightly rash of ineptitude gripping large swaths of our Pigskinned Peninsula.

Consider this: Between Hillsborough County and South Florida, there are four Division I-FCS schools and two NFL organizations. Those six teams are a combined 0-10 right now.

And, again, except for Gainesville and Orlando, it’s not exactly rosy elsewhere, considering the Jaguars’ Week 1 nightmare and the teetering remnants of Florida State’s football program.

You might suggest calling FEMA, but we need to put things in proper perspective: This is more Red Cross territory.

Those six teams from the Tampa Bay and South Florida areas, a combined 0-10 now, were 7-3 at this point last year.

Florida’s three NFL teams each jumped out to 2-0 starts in 2018. Ah, the good ol’ days. Today, they’re a combined 0-3, but that’s rather deceptive. It’s actually much, much worse than that.

In Tampa, new coach Bruce Arians was going to deliver a different Jameis Winston. He did. This one, so far, is worse.

In Jacksonville, the Nick Foles era began with mass whiplash. Just as DJ Chark was dusting off his touchdown celebration, all eyes were snapping back to Foles picking himself off the ground and walking to the injured list.

In Miami … well, you can’t say you weren’t warned. But frankly, it wasn’t supposed to be THAT bad. The Ravens were favored by a touchdown, which is a decent chunk for an NFL game, but the Dolphins made them look like the ’27 Yankees.

The day after that 59-10 embarrassment, word leaked out about players asking their agents to pull them from this sinkhole and find a new home elsewhere. As if there’s a market for what’s left on the Miami shelves. Must look like an old Soviet-era produce aisle down there.

Slim Pickin’s

“On any given Sunday,” they say. That theory will be run through the wringer in the coming weeks.

New England (1-0) at Miami (0-1). Do the Patriots have a JV team? New England opened at 18½–point favorites, which is Reagan-over-Mondale territory. Hard to imagine that number going down by the weekend. Reagan 38, Mondale 9.

Tampa Bay (0-1) at Carolina (0-1), Thursday. Upon further review, Bruce Arians said one of Jameis Winston’s two pick-6s (and three total interceptions) was due to the receiver running an incorrect route. So, there’s that. Panthers 30, Bucs 23.

Jacksonville (0-1) at Houston (0-1). The good news is Gardner Minshew. The Jags rookie replaced Foles and completed 22 of 25 passes against the Chiefs. Remember, Tom Brady was also a sixth-round draft pick. The bad news is Houston’s J.J. Watt. Monday night, for the first time in his great career, he didn’t record a tackle or QB-hit, which means he won’t likely greet Minshew with a bro-hug. 

Rank & File

The weekly ranking of Florida’s seven big-league college football programs, based on results versus expectations, current trends and, given the potential for ongoing harm, certified actuarial tables.

T1. UCF (2-0). This week: Stanford at home.

QB Darriel Mack Jr. is back from that mystery ankle injury, and maybe just in time, given Brandon Wimbush’s mystery injury to a mystery body part (colleges don’t disclose because colleges aren’t forced to disclose). Freshman Dillon Gabriel has shown solid promise and is mystery-free so far.

Saturday’s Stanford game is part of a home-and-home agreement that included UCF’s 2015 trip to California, where the Knights’ 31-7 loss was their second in that winless season. That’s right, just four years ago they were 0-12, and now they’re griping because a No. 17 ranking seems too low.

T1. Florida (2-0). This week: At Kentucky.

Tennessee’s loss to Georgia State and FSU’s close-call with Louisiana Monroe has the Gators’ 45-0 rout of Tennessee Martin looking like a quality win. Almost.

A year ago, Kentucky ended its 31-game losing streak in this game. The Wildcats’ streak may end at 1. They’ve lost starting QB Terry Wilson for the year with a knee injury. Replacement is named Sawyer Smith, from the Florida Panhandle town of Cantonment. Had to look it up — it’s so close to the Alabama line, you can hear Nick Saban dropping F-bombs from your front porch.

3. Miami (0-2). This week: Bethune-Cookman at home.

Hey, somebody had to be No. 3. Two close losses are solid stuff in these parts. Also, freshman QB Jarren Williams continues to impress when he can remain upright. Fourteen sacks through two games! Only Ben Hogan spent more time in the dirt.

This week, the ’Canes finally get their tune-up game.

4. USF (0-2). This week: S.C. State at home.

Smell that? Getting a little rancid here in the rankings, isn’t it? The Bulls are 0-2 and losers of eight straight dating to last October, when they were 7-0 and ranked 21st nationally.

The eight straight losses sets a new program low. But the eighth was nearly a win, and that’s good enough to put them ahead of these next three.

5. FAU (0-2). This week: At Ball State.

After losses to Ohio State and UCF, the Owls get back in proper pool depth this week, facing Ball State in one of those classic Conference USA-versus-MAC matchups you’ve heard so much about. No?

Ball State is located in central Indiana — Muncie — and since you’re obviously wondering, the school was named after five Ball brothers, long-ago industrialists who bailed the school out of financial distress about 100 years ago.

6. FIU (0-2). This week: New Hampshire at home.

The Panthers, not long ago, were thinking Conference USA championship. At least contending for it.

They’re not only 0-2, but took a big blow last week when quarterback James Morgan limped off the field and didn’t return. Butch Davis said he expects his centerpiece offensive player to play this week, but added an ominous caveat. “Obviously,” said Butch, “I’m not a doctor.”

7. FSU (1-1). This week: At Virginia.

Not sure what’s happening in the halftime locker room, but the Seminoles might want to change it up a bit. Through two games combined, they’re up 55-26 in the first half, down 48-14 in the second.

The ’Noles begin ACC play this week against the Cavaliers, who have surely been studying film to steal tips from Louisiana Monroe on how to handle FSU’s defense and, no, you never expected to read that sentence. 

This story was originally published to news-journalonline.com and shared to GateHouse Media’s Florida websites.

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