Florida is one of the hubs of football. The state is a hotbed for high school talent, which also tends to make it a great place for college football. Indeed, there are several FBS schools that call the Sunshine State home. This includes a few all-time great programs in Florida, Florida State, and Miami. However, the hierarchy within the state has changed, at least for this season. While the Miami Hurricanes have surged under Mark Richt, it’s the Golden Knights of the University of Central Florida that currently stand as the second best team in the state.
There are those who may want to argue that UCF is actually even better than Miami, but that seems a step too far. Sure, the Hurricanes have played a ton of close games, but their level of competition has been higher, and the talent is greater for Richt’s crew. Florida International and Florida Atlantic aren’t in the running, although Lane Kiffin is doing some interesting things with FAU’s offense. However, the Golden Knights have leapfrogged some legitimate teams to climb up the Florida football rankings.
To be fair, had the Seminoles’ DeAndre Francois not gotten injured in Florida State’s season opener, things could be different. That being said, it still feels like this would have been a down year for Jimbo Fisher’s squad even with Francois. They are 2-5, and they just got housed by Boston College 35-3. Florida’s offense doesn’t have the same excuse, and things got so bleak for the Gators they just gave head coach Jim McElwain the boot. This year’s Florida-Florida State game is going to be the bleakest in years.
Strangely, it really comes down to a battle between two AAC teams: UCF and South Florida. Both were undefeated until this past week, where the Bulls lost to Houston at home. This is not merely “South Florida lost, ergo they are worse than Central Florida.”
The Golden Knights are undefeated, but they also have a better point differential than South Florida. UCF has scored 357 points and allowed 138, while South Florida has scored 315 and allowed 159. Central Florida also has the best win of the two teams, having handed Memphis, a legitimately good team, their only loss of the season. UCF didn’t just beat the Tigers, they routed them 40-13.
Scott Frost has done an amazing job with the Golden Knights. He took over a team that had just gone winless. Two seasons later, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them go undefeated and get into a New Year’s Bowl. Central Florida still has to play South Florida, but the Golden Knights are at home. Projecting out to an AAC title game, UCF would probably get a rematch with Memphis. It won’t be easy, but it’s doable.
This is all great for UCF, although it may be short-lived. This turnaround has made Frost one of the hottest coaching names. As previously mentioned, Florida is looking for a new head coach. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Frost on the sideline of the Gators next year. For this season, though, Frost and Central Florida are the second best team in their state. In Connecticut, that doesn’t mean much. In Florida, it’s immensely impressive.