Florida had already assumed pole position in the race to the top of the Sunshine State college football power rankings, and then the Gators went and got the No. 2 ranking in the first BCS standings of 2012.
That's not for the Gators' 31-17 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday, surely: Florida was never up bigger than the final 14-point margin, and its ballyhooed season-long shutout in the fourth quarter ended when Vandy put up 10 on the Gators. Jeff Driskel ran for a Tim Tebow-eclipsing 177 rushing yards and three touchdowns, but it wasn't until his last run, a 70-yard scamper with minutes left in the fourth quarter, that Florida was free and clear.
There are things to be worried about with the Gators, like a passing game that is somehow more anemic in 2012 than it was when the Gators used a three-headed quarterback in 2010 or when Florida started true freshman Jacoby Brissett and banged-up John Brantley in 2011, or the injuries that mounted on the offensive line against Vandy. (Will Muschamp says most of his Gators will play against South Carolina.)
But the Gators haven't been losing, whether they're playing whirling dervish Johnny Manziel or the rugged LSU defense, whether Tennessee has them down at halftime or Vanderbilt is piercing the defense in the fourth quarter. No other team in the state, and few others in college football, can say that. Does that make them the second-best team in the nation? Maybe, or maybe not: Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame could all be favored over the Gators at a neutral site, and Florida State is favored over UF in Tallahassee later this year.
For now, it feels like Florida is back. The Gators could still lose to South Carolina, and Georgia, and Florida State -- heck, they could have a brownout at the worst time and lose to Missouri -- and fall back to earth. But right now? They're flying.
Florida State, meanwhile, beat Boston College, 51-7. E.J. Manuel also put his name in a conversation with a former Heisman winner by throwing for 439 yards, the most by an FSU quarterback since Chris Weinke, and Kenny Shaw had 125 yards and a touchdown on two catches. All six Seminoles who recorded a carry had one of at least five yards, and FSU held the Eagles under four yards per play.
Florida State isn't supposed to get credit for beating overmatched ACC teams, especially not at home, and a win over Boston College does nothing for the 'Noles in the national eye and very little for them in conference. The best thing the Seminoles did was probably build a 28-0 lead, allow a score, and then drive down to set up a confidence-building 51-yard field goal for Dustin Hopkins, who has been iffy from distance for much of 2012.
It's weird to talk about a 6-1 team that has the talent FSU has as if its season is over, but the season that Florida State fans thought their team was going to have is over, barring a lot of carnage among the nation's best teams; now, the 'Noles should be all about proving they're comprehensively better than all of their remaining opponents, because that's their best way to scrap back into the national title hunt and, additionally, the best way to win a lot.
That's really bad news for Miami.
Stephen Morris struggled against Carolina, completing less than 50 percent of his passes, but the 'Canes went from struggling to scuffling on offense in their 18-14 loss when Ryan Williams came in. Morris had gotten Miami into UNC territory when he left with an ankle sprain, but Williams couldn't get the 'Canes into field goal range on that drive or the game's final one.
It's not their most pressing concern, thanks to a rush defense that gave up 177 yards to Giovani Bernard, but the 'Canes have to be worried about whether they'll be able to do anything on offense against FSU if their starting quarterback is out. (Our newly-rechristened Miami blog, State of The U, wondered about Morris' importance on Twitter.) Morris could miss the game, and Florida State could certainly tee off on a less mobile Morris if he tries to play through injury.
All of this is to say that Florida State's going to beat Miami this weekend. It has to, right? In front of all those rowdy Honorary Hurricane Students?
In the positives column: the Knights outgained the Golden Eagles in their 38-31 win, and Blake Bortles (27-for-40, 272 yards) seems more and more like a capable quarterback. Storm Johnson ran for 94 yards and a touchdown, and Latavius Murray had two scores of his own on the ground.
In the negatives: UCF blew a 24-14 fourth-quarter lead before prevailing in bonus frames, and gave up 194 rushing yards on 36 carries to a team that had failed to break 4.7 yards per carry on the year.
UCF is still leading the C-USA East, and has a chance to make that lead a massive one with wins at Marshall and Memphis in the next two weeks. I probably won't be sure if the Knights are good even if they do run their record to 4-0 in conference play.
USF is decidedly not good. USF had a bye last week. Voodoo Five, your thoughts?
Still voted USF last in the Big East power rankings without hesitation.— Voodoo Five (@usfvoodoo5) October 15, 2012
In the Sunshine State Sun Belt Stupid-Off, Florida International allowed 17 points to Middle Tennessee State in the fourth quarter of a 34-30 loss, and gave up touchdowns with eight seconds to go in the first half and 36 to go in the second; Florida Atlantic allowed 35 points to a Louisiana-Monroe team that gained 341 yards despite holding the ball for 35:55 in a 35-14 loss.
I can't wait for them to try for their first Sun Belt wins of the season against each other on a Friday night in November! That game's supposed to be on ESPNU! An announcer will probably mention that Mario Cristobal could have gotten out of Boca!
In FCS Florida football, Florida A&M thumped winless Savannah State, 44-3, and Jacksonville beat winless Davidson, 34-24.