Robert Craft

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New Chiefs

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Here are my latest observations about the Seminoles after their 3-0 start this season.

1 — This team’s toughness is legit. Every time things begin to look bleak; these guys find a way to fight back. Whether it’s the defense making a stop or creating a turnover or the offense stepping up to make a play.

Remembering Norvell’s Memphis teams, when we learned that FSU was targeting him for their vacant head coaching job in late 2019, what stood out most was how hard Memphis competed snap by snap.

They were physical on both sides of the ball, and seemed unfazed by the score or situation. Whether ahead or behind, Memphis seemed to play with the same high level of energy and intensity.

It’s such a positive thing to see a strong program battle back after challenging years. FSU fans should be falling in love with this team.

They know there will be times this season when the offense sputters or the defense has major lapses — heck, that’s already happened in the last two games (double heck, this ain’t even pro football! Kids mess up all the time). However, toughness is something that shouldn’t come or go. You have it or you don’t. Grit is absolute.

2 —Trey Benson’s break out. Even though he had 100-plus yards in the season opener against Duquesne, I didn’t think we saw the real Trey Benson in either of Florida State’s first two games.

I don’t know if maybe it was taking a little time to get acclimated to the speed of the game against teams like LSU and Louisville. If that was the case, it would be understandable. Remember, he missed nearly all of last season due to a catastrophic knee injury when he was at Oregon.

Maybe he’s just still getting comfortable with Norvell’s offense. Whatever the case, the guy is 6-foot-1, 215 pounds and built differently than everybody else FSU has in the backfield.

FSU got game(plans). As much credit as Florida State’s players deserve, the coaching staff prepare excellent strategies.

Despite the fact that QB Tate Rodemaker struggled several times in critical situations, Norvell was convinced that he would eventually turn the corner. Rodemaker may have actually done just that.

Injuries + Recruiting. Florida State has been dealing with several injury concerns. Then the list got much longer during the trip to Louisville, with QB Jordan Travis, DE Jared Verse, DL Malcolm Ray, OT Robert Scott, LB Tatum Bethune and others either leaving the game completely or missing time.

I also see the drop off in recruiting the past three years costing the Seminoles for the remainder of this season. With injuries mounting, the lack of depth will hurt the Seminoles as they navigate the remainder of their schedule.

FSU is off to a great start. The was the last time FSU had a 10-win season was 2015.

Will Norvell lead the Seminoles back to glory or will their lack of depth have them come up short?

Hurricane Warning

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Following a humbling defeat at the hands of Appalachian State, Texas A&M dropped all the way to No. 24 in the AP Poll this week.

You won’t hear Miami Hurricanes Coach Mario Cristobal talking much about that, not before Miami makes a ‘business trip’ to College Station this weekend.

The first-year Miami head coach harped on that term repeatedly in his press conference on Monday ahead of Saturday’s big road game.

Miami, of course, has been excellent through two weeks. The Hurricanes have smashed both Bethune-Cookman and Southern Miss.

Neither will present the kind of challenge Texas A&M will, but the Aggies have not been firing on all cylinders so far this season. The Hurricanes are aware of that, yet seem primarily focused on themselves this week.

Cristobal was quick to heap praise on the Aggies, even though their starting quarterback Haynes King has struggled mightily (even Jimbo Fisher stated there may be a quarterback change).

To that end, Cristobal simply needs to show players A&M’s recruiting results.

Even if the talent hasn’t gelled just yet at Texas A&M, it’s clear the Aggies have it in spades. Texas A&M’s 2022 recruiting class ranked No. 1 nationally.

Whatever happens Saturday, one thing is sure: Cristobal will learn a lot from Miami’s business trip.

The Miami Hurricanes have won 5 of their last 7 road games. Tyler Van Dyke is completing 73.9 percent of his passes for 456 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.

Xavier Resterpo and Michael Redding III have combined for 248 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns, while Brashard Smith has 6 receptions.

The Miami Hurricanes ground game is averaging 241 yards per contest, and Henry Parrish Jr. leads the way with 217 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Defensively, Miami is allowing 10 points and 286.5 yards per game. Corey Flagg Jr. leads the Miami Hurricanes with 10 tackles, Jacob Lichtenstein has 1 sack and James Williams has 1 interception.

The Texas A&M Aggies have won 5 of their last 6 home games. Haynes King is completing 64.7 percent of his passes for 461 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

Ainias Smith and Evan Stewart have combined for 290 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns, while Yulkeith Brown has 4 receptions.

The Texas A&M Aggies ground game is averaging 99.5 yards per contest, and Devon Achane leads the way with 108 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Defensively, Texas A&M is allowing 8.5 points and 256.5 yards per game. Antonio Johnson leads the Texas A&M Aggies with 17 tackles, LT Overton has 1 sack and Jardin Gilbert has 1 interception.

Neither team looked great last week, but I’ll chalk some of it up to both clubs looking ahead to this game, which has playoff implications.

With that said, there’s some real concern for the Texas A&M Aggies, who haven’t gotten any offense going through 2 games. Texas A&M can’t run the ball and is 102nd in total offense and 102nd in scoring offense.

The Miami-FL Hurricanes have one of the better quarterbacks in the country, and he currently has a top-20 rushing attack supporting him.

Texas A&M is currently 86th in run defense. Miami will steal this game on the road.

Miami 27   Texas A&M 17

 

Chomping Gators

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Florida Gator football started out strong in its season opener against Utah on Saturday, in which the Orange and Blue put up a gritty, 29-26 win.

The victory represents the first for the program in the Billy Napier era, while extending the Gators’ longest-active home-opener win streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision, which stands at 33 straight games.

With the big win now in the rearview mirror, Napier and company turn their attention to their SEC opener against the Kentucky Wildcats at home this coming Saturday.

The ‘Cats, led by Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback Will Levis, represent another top-25 matchup for the Gators that will test their revamped squad.

The main concern the Cats have going into Gainesville, however, will be the play of the running back and the offensive line.

Let’s first start with the running backs. With the absence of Chris Rodriguez due to suspension, I didn’t think the Cats’ running backs would struggle against Miami of Ohio. On the night Kavosiey Smoke led the rushing attack with seven carries for 32 yards, while the other trio of Ramon Jefferson, JuTahn McClain, and La’Vell Wright all combined for 11 carries and a total of 36 yards.

That won’t be enough to help push the Cats over Florida. Here’s why:

For the offensive-line, it seemed their youth played a huge role against Miami of Ohio. After giving up four sacks on the night, the question now changes to; can they hold up against the Gators front seven?

It will be interesting to see, but Coach Zach Yenser has his work cut out for him this week as he tries to help the young O-line process through the different schemes and stunt recognition they will see Saturday night.

Defensively, it comes down to whether the Cats can contain the run game or not.

Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson stole the show in week one. The highly-touted recruit from Gainesville was only used sparingly as a true freshman under Dan Mullen.

In his first start for Napier, Richardson completed 17-of-24 passes for 168 yards, while he rushed for a team-high 106 yards and 3 touchdowns.

For Florida to reach their ceiling, the young quarterback has to carry the team.

Utah was unable to slow Richardson down and wasted a solid offensive performance due to the defense’s inability to limit quarterback runs.

Kentucky must find a way to make the NFL prospect play strictly from the pocket. With that being said, it’s way easier said than done.

In many ways, the game on Saturday will come down to Kentucky limiting Florida’s ground game. That is only done if the Wildcats can get Anthony Richardson on the ground.

The Gators O-line performed well opening holes for the running game and allowing no sacks.

Florida went 31 years without suffering a loss to the Kentucky Wildcats but has a 2-2 record in the last four games. Credit to Mark Stoops. He took over a program that was second-fiddle to basketball and has built a culture that they recruit and play to consistently win. Stoops has two 10-win seasons and more wins over Florida than his six predecessors combined.

With that said, it is going to be a battle on Saturday night. The crowd, weather (heat, rain & humidity) and overall team talent leads me to pick the Gators by 2 scores.

Florida 31 Kentucky 20

 

 

 

 

Gator Bait?

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

There is a new era beginning for the Florida Gators football program.

Billy Napier’s era will officially begin on September 3, as the Gators host the No. 7 Utah Utes.

Utah finished the 2021 campaign as the Pac-12 Champions. Kyle Whittingham’s team finished the regular season with a 9-3 record. They beat Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game and fell three points short of beating Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. They finished 10-4.

Whittingham has a small connection to UF. He took the head coaching job at Utah in 2005, replacing Urban Meyer.

Meyer, of course, left Utah to accept the head coaching job at Florida and went on to win two National Championships in Gainesville.

The Gators don’t have a coach entering their 18th season at the helm, like Whittingham at Utah. Billy Napier was hired 276 days before the game kicked off. There are much easier ways to begin your tenure, something Napier jokingly acknowledged at SEC Media Day.

One of the biggest question marks for the Gators in 2022 is: Can they stop the run? Last season Florida finished 10th in the SEC allowing 163.92 yards per game. That was nearly 100 yards more than Georgia and nearly 78 more than Alabama.

The Gators have a ton of pass rushers but they’re thin on the interior defensive line. Is Florida stout enough to plug up the middle and stop Utah from running it up the gut? It won’t take long to find out what kind of defense the Gators will have this season.

Cameron Rising and Tavion Thomas are a very tough combo to beat. Rising was a 64% passer last season with 20 TDs and just five picks, while Thomas added a school-record 21 rushing touchdowns, third-most in the FBS last season, with a 5.4 ypc average.

Returning that core, which tortured Ohio State’s D in the Rose Bowl, is vital in a cross-country road opener, especially against a soft Gator front.

This game is incredibly conflicting to me. If we know anything about the Pac 12 in recent years, it’s that they will eliminate themselves from playoff contention as soon as possible. The best team in the conference suffers a big loss at the beginning of the year almost every year. This would be that spot.

Last year, however, Florida was one of the worst teams against the spread because they were simply given credit for being Florida; even though they were a bad team. They went 6-7 and played in the SEC, yet they were only a home underdog once.

Now, Billy Napier comes to town after an incredible run at Louisiana and has Anthony Richardson at quarterback. Richardson only attempted 64 passes last year and is already considered a potential first round pick in the NFL draft. That’s how good he is.

Napier brought in a lot of transfers from Louisiana on the offensive line and in the backfield. The team should become familiar with his system quickly and the offense could hit the ground running.

The Swamp will be sold out and the weather should be welcoming. Game time temperature is expected to be 81 degrees with 88% humidity and 50% chance of rain with close to 89,000 hyped up Florida fans.

The weather, crowd and The Gators will make this a miserable trip for the Utes.

The Utes Don’t Care About The Weather or The Crowd, this is the most important opening game in Utah’s history.  UTAH 31 FLORIDA 24

The Knights Conquest

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The UCF Knights play seven home games during the 2022 football schedule; four of the first five games are inside the Bounce House at FBC Mortgage Stadium.

The most attractive home games from a fan perspective are likely Power 5 opponents Louisville and Georgia Tech, as well as in-conference foes SMU and Cincinnati.

The road games feature an in-state battle with Florida Atlantic, as well as trips to East Carolina and USF.

The road game for the Knights against the Bulls might be the last between UCF and USF for quite some time, as UCF heads off to the Big XII on July 1, 2023.

To win the AAC title in the last year of the AAC’s existence, the Knights will need to be very good during the back end of their schedule. Starting with the road game against East Carolina (Oct. 22), UCF played six consecutive conference games that contained their own pitfalls.

2022 UCF Knights Football Schedule

Sep. 1, South Carolina State: The HBCU National Champions are no match for The Knights. UCF wins in a blowout.

Sep. 9, Louisville: This is Louisville’s first ever trip to Orlando. As we learned first-hand in last season’s match-up, Cunningham’s dual-threat ability has been a problem for UCF historically.

The Bounce House will be Rocking for revenge after last season’s heartbreaking loss. This is a measuring stick game for The Knights. The crowd and humidity will play a big role in this game. UCF 31 Louisville 27

Sep. 17, @ Florida Atlantic: This is UCF’s only true road game in the entire first half of the season. UCF flies by the Owls 48-17

Sep. 24, Georgia Tech: This game in Orlando was initially scheduled for September 16th, 2017, but was canceled due to Hurricane Irma. This is Georgia Tech’s first-ever trip to The Bounce House and they’ll get bounced back to Atlanta. UCF 38- GT 20.

Oct. 1, SMU: The Knights kick off conference play against a team that blew them out last year. Tanner Mordecai has found a home at SMU after sitting on the benching at Oklahoma for three years.

He’s a Walter Camp, Davey O’Brien, and Maxwell Award Watch-lister coming into 2022. With that being said, UCF has never lost to SMU at home. UCF 34 SMU 30

Oct. 13, Temple: The Owls new coaching staff will bring a new energy, but this is a bad football team. UCF smokes another parliament of Owls.

Oct. 22, @East Carolina: The Knights first real road game. The Pirates have 14 returning starters, East Carolina is poised for another winning season and will be a tough out in the American Athletic Conference.

This is a trap game with the Knights looking ahead to the showdown with Cincinnati. ECU 30 UCF 28

Oct. 29, Cincinnati: This will be the big one for American Athletic Conference play.

The Bearcats have lost a ton of talent especially at the skill positions.

Who is going to replace Desmond Ridder, Jerome Ford, Alec Pierce on offense and Sauce Gardner, Coby Bryant and Bryan Cook on defense?

There will be an electric atmosphere at The Bounce House and The Knights will feed off the crowd in a shocker. UCF 27-Cincinnati 24

Nov. 5, @Memphis: The 2022 Tigers are full of veterans on offense, Memphis should be strong in the defensive backfield, and overall, they should be just a wee bit motivated by being left out of the BIG 12 expansion. This should be a true American Athletic Conference shootout. UCF 48 Memphis 38

Nov. 12, @Tulane: The Knights will surf the Green Wave. UCF 37- Tulane 16

Nov. 19, Navy: Navy can play! Their offense can still control the clock, the running game was ninth in America, and their defense even finished 34th in the nation and wasn’t bad.

The Knights sail easily by the Midshipmen all things considered. UCF 31 Navy 10

Nov. 25, @USF: The Cows are still crying about being left out of the BIG 12. This may be the final ‘War on I-4” and the Knights will sacrifice the Bulls. UCF 53-USF 13

Gus Malzahn overcame a rash of injuries to put together a solid 9–4 season in his UCF debut. With 14 returning starters and a host of plug-and-play transfer additions, The Knights will leap back into the AAC championship game.

Return Of The Chomp?

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Florida Gators are under new management for the fourth time in the last decade. That much turnover can be necessary and detrimental to a program.

There’s not much debate that Florida needed to move on from Will Muschamp in 2014. Or that Jim McElwain’s self-destruction and death threats didn’t warrant a change.

Dan Mullen’s recruiting incompetence was written off because the team was winning. He was the first head coach in UF history to win 10 games in each of his first two seasons. In the end, it became clear that the direction of the program under Mullen was going the wrong way — and just on the trail.

Billy Napier was hired to rebuild the Gators. He was tasked with reviving UF recruiting and getting talent back to Gainesville. He called college football a “talent-acquisition business” and began by building the biggest support staff UF ever seen. The Gators hauled several blue-chip recruits like Kamari Wilson, Shemar James, and Chris McClellan.

The team also has Anthony Richardson returning, who should give the Gators a chance anytime he’s on the field.

The Gators only leave the state of Florida three times in 2022. Their home schedule is fantastic. Utah, LSU and Kentucky are all great games to host in The Swamp.

With that being said, the opponents are strong. The Gators draw, somehow again, Texas A&M from the West. UF has played the Aggies three times since they joined the SEC and 2022 will be the fourth matchup. Meanwhile, Florida has played a former yearly rival in Auburn just once in that same time period.

The Gators also begin a home-and-home series with Utah. The Utes are the reigning Pac-12 Champions. Utah returns 60 letter winners and 17 total starters in 2022.

Billy Napier prescribes to a motto of “put the ball down and let’s play” but it would be easy to put the ball down against a small directional school rather than a loaded defending conference champion.

The Gators have also lost twice to Kentucky in the last four seasons. Mark Stoops has built that UK program for a decade. What was once an assured win, is now a presumed toss up.

Every year the SEC is tough. This year, will be a very difficult one for the Gators, thanks to their tough season opener and road trip to College Station.

Optimistic: 9-3, with three straight wins to end the year and all sorts of hype heading into 2023. Anthony Richardson proves to be the perfect dual-threat quarterback in Billy Napier’s system.

Tailback Lorenzo Lingard looks like the 5-star who signed with Miami out of high school, same for wideout Justin Shorter.

The Gators’ defense takes a big step forward without Todd Grantham calling the shots. Gervon Dexter emerges as the best defensive lineman in the conference.

Pessimistic: 5-7 and no postseason appearance in Year 1 for Napier. Florida opens the year 0-2, with home losses to Utah and Kentucky. After dismantling South Florida, the Gators lose at Tennessee for just the second time in 18 years.

They stumble at Tallahassee against Florida State to end the season. Richardson is up and down — or worse, gets hurt again and Jack Miller isn’t up to snuff. The lack of explosiveness at receiver is problematic all season.

The front-seven once again struggles to stop the run. Penalties, team character and chemistry remain lingering issues despite the coaching change.

Realistic: 7-5 with one signature upset against either Utah, Kentucky, Tennessee or Texas A&M.

The Gators certainly could go 0-2 to start the year, but I see a split. While the roster has depth issues (particularly at receiver, defensive line and linebacker), there’s a lot of quality talent in Gainesville.

The pass rush, led by Brenton Cox Jr., is fierce, and cornerback Jason Marshall is one of the better defensive backs in the SEC.

Richardson has flashes of brilliance and frustration, ultimately leading him to return to the team in 2023.

Arizona State transfer Ricky Pearsall has a solid season but is not the band aid solution to Florida’s receiver problems.

Key Points: Starting out against Utah isn’t a given at home, and finishing up at Florida State in Tallahassee will be tough.

In between there’s a road game at Tennessee, LSU – as always – is on the slate, and then there’s the killer two-week stretch against Georgia and at Texas A&M.

It’s Florida. It’s going to be a problem for the other teams in those tough games, too. It’ll work its way to eight wins in an improved year, but factor in three losses somewhere in the mix to go along with one 50/50 game.

Seven wins will be okay, eight will be fine, nine or more would be terrific, but …

It’s the Florida Gators. It’s time to start winning more.

War Path

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Florida State football program has suffered a severe fall from grace over the past few seasons. With that newfound mediocrity, comes an automatic lack of promise entering this season.

Can the Florida State Seminoles take advantage of a manageable schedule and return to some relevance as a result? Or, will they once again fall victim to bigger fish in the Atlantic Coast Conference? Let’s find out.

Vs. Duquesne (W)

Sure, the Florida State Seminoles have seen better days than the ones currently surrounding them, but they haven’t fallen so far that this matchup is a toss-up. Anything less than a 40-point win here would be a darn shame, even for a season opener.

Vs. LSU (L)

The LSU Tigers may have seen a downgrade in 2021, but they will be led into New Orleans by new head coach Brian Kelly. With that said, there is a very small chance that the Noles come out of this one with a win. Kelly should take this one by two or three scores, making an early impact in his still-young tenure at LSU.

@ Louisville (L)

Following a dog fight in New Orleans with LSU fails to make things any easier. The bye week placed between the games will help, but not really. The Noles will lose a close one here.

Vs. Boston College (W)

BC will be heading to Tallahassee while Florida State is desperate to make an impression. Expect a convincing Noles win from this one.

Vs. Wake Forest (L)

To put things delicately, the Demon Deacons were not nice to FSU last season. In a 35-14 loss that included a plethora of turnovers, the Seminoles were dealt what ended up being their worst loss of 2021. The Noles may not lose by 21 again, but a disheartening defeat is almost a guarantee, nonetheless.

@ North Carolina State (L)

Now FSU will travel to Raleigh, where they have not prevailed since 2016. If Wake Forest is going to down the Noles on the road, what NC State has in store for them at home the very next week feels almost unimaginable.

Vs. Clemson (L)

Boy, the punches just keep on coming. The Tigers are still expected to be a top-tier contender in the ACC for 2022. And especially with who all they will face leading up to this game, the Seminoles will fail to stay at Clemson’s level .

Vs. Georgia Tech (W)

Finally, we can see a rainbow through the storm. Most GT fans will probably end up praying for this one to end as soon as possible.

@ Miami (L)

Nothing about this matchup leaves the Seminoles with a positive outlook when entering it. Yes, they won the 2021 battle, but the Hurricanes have new head coach Mario Cristobal and they also look like the better team.

Due to the stigma of any big rivalry, the game will probably be closer than it should be. However, Miami should still be the victor by the time the game clock hits zero.

@ Syracuse (W)

This won’t be a blowout, but the Noles are a better team.

Vs. Louisiana (W)

The game should start out good, but FSU will most likely pull away in the second half.

Vs. Florida (L)

The Gators have also won the last three meetings with the Seminoles. The Gators will keep Florida State out of the bowl season again. The Gators are more talented and better coached. This game will not be close.

Conclusion:

The Florida State Seminoles will finish their 2022 regular season slate with a final record of 5-7. It will be their 3rd-straight season without a bowl appearance, and their 5th-straight season with a losing record.

The Real Question:

Will Mike Norvell keep his job if my predictions come true?

Category 5

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The University of Miami ended the 2021 season with 7 wins. They’re entering 2022 with new coaching staff.

So, as I look at this year’s schedule for the Hurricanes, it’s not hard to predict that this team can … and perhaps should be… a 10-win team.

The three tough games? Texas A&M, Clemson and Pittsburgh, putting those in order of toughness.

If you believe in the oddsmakers, Miami’s No. 3 in the conference at +700 to win the ACC behind Clemson -150 and Pitt + 450 (per WilliamHill.com).

With that said, here’s how I see this year shaping up:

* Bethune-Cookman, Sept. 3: Easy win. 1-0 record.

* Southern Miss, Sept 10: Easy win. 2-0 record.

* Texas A&M, Sept. 17: This is a team that beat Alabama last year but went on to lose four games but with a great defensive front and receiver room this is going to be a very tough road game for Miami. Texas A&M wins by 14, Miami leaves College Station with a 2-1 record.

* Middle Tennessee State, Sept. 24: Easy win, 3-1 record.

* North Carolina, Oct. 8: UNC loses its star quarterback, Sam Howell, and this is a team that has question marks on both sides of the ball off a disappointing 6-7 season. At home, I like the Canes to win by a touchdown or more. 4-1 record.

* Virginia Tech, Oct. 15: It’s never a gimme playing on the road against the Hokies, but on paper Miami is a much better and more complete team. So, I think this will be a win by a touchdown or more. 5-1 record.

* Duke, Oct. 22: The Blue Devils are probably going to be the worst team in the ACC. 6-1 record.

* Virginia, Oct. 29: This team always seems to give the Canes problems, with Brennan Armstrong back at QB, this might be a high scoring game. On the road this is a game you worry about, but if Miami is as good as I think, then this middle-of-the-road ACC team shouldn’t be a problem. It might be a close game, but I believe Miami will pull it out for a 7-1 record.

* Florida State, Nov. 5: The Canes lost a heartbreaker in Tallahassee a year ago, but this year they get FSU at home. Is FSU as talented a team as UM?  No, not really. UM wins this heated rivalry and moves to 8-1.

* Georgia Tech, Nov. 12: The Yellow Jackets are not a good team. Easy win and 9-1.

* Clemson, Nov. 19: It was a down year for Clemson in 2021, and the team still won 10 games, so that tells you the hill Miami has to climb. The Tigers have question marks on offense, a really inconsistent area last season, but should have one of the nation’s top defenses. This will be a tough game for Miami to pull out on the road. While I’m not saying UM can’t win this, in all likelihood it’s a loss simply looking at it on paper. So, Miami is looking at a 9-2 record at this point of the season.

* Pittsburgh, Nov. 26: The Panthers were a surprise last year, winning the Coastal and finishing with an 11-3 record (Pitt’s lone Coastal loss was to the Canes). Miami has this game at home, and it could wind up determining which of these two teams goes to the ACC title game. To me, this is a 50-50 game. So, I see Miami finishing the regular season at a 10-2 record and rematch with Clemson in the ACC Championship.

If it all comes together, I can see Miami perhaps only losing one or two games – Texas A&M and/or Clemson.

In Year 1 there are bound to be some hiccups, but Canes fans can be hopeful with a manageable schedule to test the new generation of coaching in Coral Gables.

Buyer’s Remorse?

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Through two seasons (one impacted by the pandemic) things have been disappointing for Mike Norvell at Florida State University.

In his third season as the head man in Tallahassee, Norvell is already setting high expectations. “We have great expectations,” said Mike Norvell. “The daily expectation with the season expectation is for us to go out there and do our best to improve daily, to go out there and not only be competitive, but to push to new limits of where we are and also where we’re going.”

“To see this team come together and to play as one. Those are the things that we’ve seen in laying that foundation this last year and to be able to see the growth, to see the confidence that our players have. I’m going to put no limits to what these guys can accomplish.”

To fix issues on the roster, Mike Norvell has leaned heavily on the transfer portal. He’s hoping that those players will be able to fill gaps.

The rest of the team is filled out by players Norvell recruited and developed. It’s a group that Norvell has a lot of confidence in.

“I’ve got an unbelievable amount of confidence in them,” Mike Norvell continued. “But ultimately, for us, it’s about us showing up every single day and going to perform and to execute at that level with an incredible level of consistency throughout that process. We have great expectations as a program.”

Through his first two seasons, Mike Norvell is 8-13. Florida State fired his predecessor, Willie Taggart part-way through his second season for going 9-12. The pressure is on Norvell and his players to win at Florida State, and win now.

“When you are at Florida State, that’s part of it. You don’t choose to come play at Florida State, you don’t choose to coach at Florida State unless you embrace that opportunity and embrace those expectations to go out there and play at an extremely high level on a day-in and day-out basis.”

Last year, Florida State played Miami and Florida as they were going through internal turmoil. They managed to beat the Hurricanes at home while losing to the Gators on the road.

Based on these spreads, Las Vegas clearly expects Miami to be the toughest challenge for FSU in 2022.

LSU, despite the game being played in New Orleans, has tons of question marks to answer. FSU has not played the Tigers since 1991.

At Florida, new head coach Billy Napier has tried to lower expectations in year one, pointing out challenges in rebuilding.

Whether or not FSU can win these key games will determine if their season is successful and disappointing.

QB1 Room

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It’s about that time in Athens, Ga. You can smell it in the air. We’re weeks away from the Georgia Bulldogs padding up for preseason camp.

For the first time in 41 years, Kirby Smart and company will be starting the 2022 NCAAF season as the defending national champions.

There are certainly a lot of questions to answer, and competitions to be had.

Losing a record 15 players to the NFL Draft creates uncertainty at some key positions.

However, several starters on offense, as well as a couple of key leaders on the defensive side of the football, will help ease any concerns.

I’ll take the time to provide a preview of the quarterback group in red and black.

Stetson Bennett returns after leading Georgia to the National Championship in 2021.

Starting 12 of 15 games including each of the last 11, Bennett threw for 2,862 yards and 29 touchdowns on 185-of-287 passing.

There were times where he didn’t look great – turn on the tape from Florida (10-of-19, 161 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions) or the SEC Championship Game against Alabama (29-of-48, 340 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions).

However, there were also times that he was spectacular. Bennett tied the program record for touchdowns in a single game with five scores in the first half alone against UAB.

The Blackshear, Ga. native threw three touchdowns over Kentucky in a top-15 SEC Game of the Week. He didn’t throw a single interception in that game or their game against Auburn.

Two touchdowns against Missouri and four against Georgia Tech with 255 yards in both contests helped the Bulldogs finish the regular season undefeated.

Then, of course, there were the Playoffs when Bennett earned Offensive MVP of the Orange Bowl against Michigan and the CFP Championship Game against Alabama, combining for 537 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.

So, like lots of quarterbacks, Bennett has lots of good that comes with the occasional bad. You just have to be able to help him out and put him in good situations.

Because Bennett isn’t perfect and because he wasn’t the highest-rated recruit, some question Kirby Smart’s decision to stick with him.

Carson Beck seems to have solidified himself as the backup. Beck, a four-star and the No. 16 quarterback in the Class of 2020, threw for 274 yards during Georgia’s G-Day spring scrimmage.

Beck was awarded Mr. Football in the state of Florida for 2018 after leading Mandarin High School to a Class 8A state championship.

Brock Vandagriff also offers a talented option off the bench. A former five-star and the No. 4-ranked quarterback in the Class of 2021 from right down the road in Bogart, Ga.,

Vandagriff has the ability to make plays with both his arms and his legs. Georgia fans have been calling for a player like that for quite some time.

Finally, Gunner Stockton is the fresh face in the quarterback room. He’s just a freshman, don’t expect to see him often.

He’ll be busy learning the playbook and running the scout team.

Bennett elected to return for another year with the Bulldogs, which is a large reason why I rank the Dawg’s quarterback room the very best in the SEC.

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