Sunshine State falls out of the AP Top 25

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
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Florida has fallen out of the AP Top 25.

As in the Gators.

And the rest of the state.

The Sunshine State Blues are back. The latest AP Top 25 failed to have a team from the state of Florida on the list for the first time since Nov. 20, 2011. The Gators dropped out, ending a run of 52 consecutive poll appearances.

With that, the state that had 11 AP national championships in a 31-season span from 1983 through 2013 – and none since – was gone from the poll as well.

“We’ve got to play better,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said after Saturday’s 49-42 loss to LSU. “We’ll evaluate it all. We’ve got to coach better, play better, look at our personnel, make sure we’re putting guys in the right position to make plays and get better.”

That may as well be the state college football motto right now.

Sunday marked only the seventh time in the last 638 polls since December 1982 when no team from Florida was ranked by AP voters; the other six times were all in the 2011 season. There won’t be any national championship, almost certainly no conference or even division championships, and at this rate even getting more than one or two bowl bids doesn’t seem guaranteed.

The state has seven FBS teams – Florida, Florida State, Miami, UCF, South Florida, FIU and Florida Atlantic. Of those, only the Gators have a winning record right now, and 4-3 isn’t exactly anything that they’re celebrating in Gainesville these days.

UCF and FAU are 3-3. Florida State and Miami are 2-4. FIU and USF are 1-5. Add it up, and the state is 16-27 this season, on pace for more losses than ever. Plus, five of those 16 wins – and, in Florida State’s case, one of those losses – came against teams from the Football Championship Subdivision, the level that used to be called Division I-AA.

Florida has some of the best high school football in the country and more native players in the NFL this season than any other state.

But the college football statewide, again, mediocre – and that might be too kind a term. Only the Gators and Hurricanes have been ranked this season; Florida reached No. 10, Miami reached No. 14 and those days are already long forgotten.

“There’s a really good team in that locker room,” Miami coach Manny Diaz said after the Hurricanes lost 45-42 at North Carolina on Saturday, the 2-4 start matching their worst in the last 24 seasons. “We don’t have a good record, and we are what our record says we are. I understand that.”

The state’s seven teams are 0-7 against ranked opponents this season, meaning this could end up as the first year without a Sunshine State win over an AP-ranked team since 1975. And this stat might be even more damning: against Power Five opponents, plus Notre Dame, the state’s teams are a combined 4-15 this season – after going 18-14 against those schools in 2020.

“We’re halfway through the season,” UCF coach Gus Malzahn said after his team’s 56-21 loss to unbeaten Cincinnati. “And we’ve got to get better.”

During the statewide appearance streak that started in November 2011, Florida had been ranked 110 times, Florida State 90 times, Miami 59 times, UCF 47 times and USF 21 times.

They’re all on the outside looking in now. And there might not be much hope of getting a Sunshine State team ranked again anytime soon, either – unless Florida finds a way to knock off No. 1 Georgia on Oct. 30.

“We’re all frustrated right now,” Mullen said.

That’s a sentiment shared across the Sunshine State.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.