The AP poll released Sunday revealed something that had not happened in exactly six years to the day: Florida, Florida State and Miami all ranked. That is what big early-season wins can do, especially for the Gators and Hurricanes.
The Seminoles, the preseason No. 8, defeated No. 5 LSU in kicking off the season in Orlando. Miami’s Week 2 win over No. 23 Texas A&M at Hard Rock Stadium lifted the ‘Canes into the rankings and Florida, which began the season with a loss at preseason-No. 14 Utah, opened SEC play with an impressive win over No. 11 Tennessee at the Swamp last week.
FSU checked in at No. 4 in the latest poll, slipping from No. 3 thanks to a scare at Boston College. Miami is No. 20 and Florida No. 25. (The Gators are unranked in the coaches’ poll.)
Long known as the Sunshine State’s Big Three of college football, the teams combined to win 10 national championships from 1983 to 2013. The titles were pretty evenly distributed with Miami coming out on top four times and Florida and Florida State three times.
Recent seasons have not been as kind.
Until last Sunday, the AP poll released September 17, 2017 was the last one with the trio ranked. The Seminoles were No. 12, the ‘Canes No. 14 and Florida at No. 20. The Sunshine State had a fourth representative as USF was No. 21.
Florida State’s time in the top 25 that season, Jimbo Fisher’s last in Tallahassee, was short lived. After opening with a 24-7 loss to top-ranked Alabama in a Labor Day weekend a game played in Orlando, the ‘Noles dropped from third to tenth. Hurricane Irma played havoc with the state and the schedule as FSU did not play again until September 23, a six-point loss against visiting North Carolina State that knocked them out of the top 25.
The Seminoles did not return to the polls until last season when they opened 4-0 and capped a 10-win season with a Cheez-It Bowl victory over Oklahoma. The result was a No. 11 final ranking that set the stage for this season, Mike Norvell’s fourth in leading the program.
At 10-0 and No. 2 in the polls and College Football Playoff rankings under Mark Richt, Miami lost its last three games of 2017, including a 38-3 demolition at the hands of No. 1 Clemson in the ACC championship game. The Hurricanes were No. 13 in the final poll.
The Gators opened the 2017 season at No. 17. After losing the opener in Arlington against Michigan, 33-17, they won three straight and were No. 21 heading into a Swamp date with unranked LSU. The Tigers won, 17-16, and the Gators fell out of the rankings never to reappear that season. In fact, a two-point loss to Texas A&M and an embarrassing 42-7 defeat to Georgia dropped the Gators to 3-4 and ended the Jim McElwain era, an awkward marriage to begin with.
Ironically, the Gators were knocked out of the rankings after a loss to the Vols in Knoxville last season. They only reemerged after beating UT this time around.
After holding off Boston College, Norvell’s Seminoles are back on the road this week to play the team they must finally defeat in order to be considered a legit CFP contender. Clemson has won the last seven meetings between the teams, five by at least 10 points. The unranked Tigers lost their season opener to Duke before blowout wins against Charleston Southern and FAU. While FSU needs to get the monster of its back, this will be a test for Dabo Swinney’s team and first-year starting QB Cade Klubnik.
The Gators, coming off easily the biggest win of Billy Napier’s brief tenure, have a non-conference game against visiting Charlotte on Saturday before getting back into SEC play next week when Kentucky visits Gainesville.
Mario Cristobal’s Hurricanes should take care of business the next couple games. They head to Philly to play Temple on Saturday and, following an open week, host Georgia Tech on October 7. Miami fans should find out how good their team really is the following two weeks when the ‘Canes travel to Chapel Hill to play the Tar Heels and host Clemson.
By the way, the last time any three teams from Florida were ranked in the AP the same week was September 27, 2020 when UF was No. 3, Miami was No. 8 and UCF checked in at No. 11. The Knights tumbled out of the poll the following week after a loss to Tulsa.