Here lies the remains of Power Five football in the state of Florida. Time of expiration: 10:09 p.m. EDT. That’s when Florida completed its dismal home loss to perennial foil Kentucky — yes, Kentucky, which hadn’t beaten the Gators since 1986. The Wildcats outplayed Florida in The Swamp all night, and for once didn’t self-destruct with a chance to beat the Gators in hand.
At the same time Florida was losing that game — and running its losing streak against Power Five opponents to seven — Florida State was trailing FCS Samford in Tallahassee. The Seminoles, favored by 31 points, would trail for 52 minutes and 20 seconds before finally taking a lead with 4:03 left. It was the first time FSU has led this season, after being housed 24-3 at home by Virginia Tech last week.
The Seminoles pulled out the victory, but it was a night of endless embarrassments. They were outgained by 71 yards, their secondary ripped by a Samford quarterback, Devlin Hodges, whose previous claim to fame before Saturday night was winning the Alabama state duck calling championship. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Hodges lobbed some ducks to the Florida State secondary — his four interceptions were instrumental in FSU rallying to win. For Samford to be minus-four in turnovers and have its top defensive player ejected for targeting in the third quarter, and still have a great chance to win, is a stark condemnation of the Seminoles’ execution and preparation.
These were the second games for new head coaches at both schools — Dan Mullen at Florida and Willie Taggart at FSU. There was the usual fresh-beginning optimism in both locales. That optimism is gone now, replaced by a sobering return to the reality of 2017: both programs are pretty bad.
Combine that with the defrocking of Miami last week against LSU — the Hurricanes’ fourth straight loss, dating to the end of last season — and the malaise is statewide. From the panhandle to the Keys, the state that once ruled the sport has fallen hard. The combined nine national titles between Florida, Florida State and Miami aren’t getting any younger.
The indisputable fact: Central Florida, its winning streak now at 15, remains the best team in the state by a wide margin. South Florida might be second best. The traditional powers are in no position to argue.
I get how this Florida team could lose to Kentucky — the ‘Cats at one point were 8 for 9 on third-down conversions and the Gators defense got whistled for having too many men on the field coming out of a timeout, both examples of peak Grantham — but how in Gawd’s name does FSU go +4 in turnover margin and still struggle to put away Samford? Their end of the year meeting is shaping up as one for the ages.
Bonus snide remark: Mike Bobo has more SEC wins so far this season than Dan Mullen.