State Champs! FSU Seminoles' turnaround season stands out around here | STATE OF FOOTBALL

Aside from UCF’s conference championship game Saturday at Tulane, and a few off-Broadway bowl games later in the month, the season is over for Florida’s seven Division I FBS football programs.

Bright spot: Florida State.

Okee-Dokee: UCF.

All the rest: Yuck.

Let’s focus on the positive, since it sticks out like a garnet lily in a briar patch.

A pair of beloved former FSU coaches — Bill Peterson and Bobby Bowden — each lost just three games in their third seasons in Tallahassee (fun fact: “Coach Pete” also had three ties in ’62!). An unloved one — Jimbo Fisher — went 11-2, then won the Orange Bowl and finished 10th in the final poll.

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There will be no trophy for Mike Norvell's "state championship," but his Seminoles can certainly claim a big step forward in 2022.
There will be no trophy for Mike Norvell's "state championship," but his Seminoles can certainly claim a big step forward in 2022.

Mike Norvell is somewhere in the middle of that range of success, and more than happy to be there. He got off to a very rocky start before and during the 2020 Covid season, didn’t improve last year, and with a combined 8-13 record in his first two seasons at FSU, he needed what he got this year: A state championship.

Huh?

That’s right. FSU clobbered Miami (who didn’t?) and outlasted Florida. Don’t sell it short. OK, maybe you can sell it short, but don’t expect Norvell to do the same.

“To be able to finish tonight 2-0 in the state, that’s big,” Norvell said after winning the track meet over the Gators. “Those two games, you know how important it is. We don’t sell it short.”

Told you so.

“It’s critical for us to go and play well in these games and to go win these games,” he continued. “To be able to finish up as the state champs, I’m so proud of our guys.”

All the same, there will be no trophy presentation.

Rank & File: FSU Seminoles, UCF Knights easy 1-2 call over Gators and the rest

The final regular-season rankings for Florida’s seven big-league college football programs, based on results versus expectations, current trends and, this season, smell ... 

1. FSU (9-3): Bowl speculation is all over the map, literally. Two of the best guesses have the ’Noles either staying close to home for the Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando, or jetting westward for the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Either way, remember: State Champs!

2. UCF (9-3): Gus Malzahn’s Knights did all they could to get the coach the eight-win season that seemed his destiny. Their inability to preserve a 28-0 lead against a weak opponent, right up to when they couldn’t even manage a squib kick, makes you want to rank them much lower. Take a gander below, however, and you’ll realize it’s just not possible. Back-to-back bad weeks to end the season, but still a chance for an 11-win year. Maybe a worthy No. 2 after all.

3. Florida (6-6): Well, they beat the Utes, who are playing for the Pac-12 title. They beat the Gamecocks, who beat Clemson and Tennessee. And they beat the Aggies, who beat LSU, which is playing in the SEC title game. That’s all I got. You try making chicken salad out of this one.

T7. Miami (5-7): “There is a small core of players that are tough and talented and want to be really great,” Mario Cristobal said in summing up the season. “Leaders have to own it, eat it, grow from it, and go get better. Miami will be a championship program.” Praise the Lord and pass the ketchup; we ain't eating this one dry.

T7: FAU (5-7): Willie Taggart was terminated as head coach. Here’s a fun game — consider how many schools’ football histories would’ve played out differently if Taggart hadn’t left Oregon in 2017, after one season, for his dream job at FSU.

T7. FIU (4-8): The Panthers were among three C-USA teams to finish 2-6 in the conference this season, tied for last with Louisiana Tech and Charlotte. The Panthers beat both of them, making them best of the worst. So, there’s that.

Jackson State coach (for now) Deion Sanders.
Jackson State coach (for now) Deion Sanders.

T7. USF (1-11): The Deion Sanders saga still includes talk of a possible landing in Tampa. We’ll know Deion’s plans after the SWAC championship game Saturday. The Tampa Bay area isn’t just close to his Fort Myers hometown, but geographically it would give him additional recruiting advantages. The entire State of Football community could use this kind of jolt after the year we endured.

Sunday School: Dolphins' streak ends, but Jags and Bucs win

The ranking of Florida’s three NFL franchises, and a modest flail at picking this week’s results ...

1. Miami (8-3): at San Francisco (7-4). The Fins likely begin this three-game road trip without their two starting offensive tackles, Terron Armstead (pectoral strain) and Austin Jackson (ankle). Would like to get hold of Tua’s Fitbit to check on his sleep patterns this week – Niners 23, Dolphins 21.

2. Jacksonville (4-7): at Detroit (4-7). The Jags came off the bye week looking like a new team and suggesting they were treating the final seven games as a new season. And . . . “You can’t win seven games until you win one,” Trevor Lawrence said after the thrilling win over Baltimore. Mighty high bar, considering the not-so-distant history of things. But what the hell – Jaguars 27, Lions 26.

3. Tampa Bay (5-6): New Orleans (4-8) at home. Some Sundays, the Bucs can’t run the ball. Other Sundays, they simply won’t. All that pressure on the passing game, with a compromised offensive line, is proving to be a tough order. But they still receive their mail in the flagging NFC South, which may still allow them to get into the playoffs and meet an early exit — Bucs 16, Saints 12.

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: FSU Seminoles are 'state champs'; UCF still digging; Jaguars on a roll