For the first time in many years, College Football’s landscape in the Sunshine State looks very different. The usual marquis programs, Florida State (4-6 overall and 3-5 in the ACC) and the University of Florida (also 4-6 overall and 3-5 in the SEC) are both having down years. It’s been a long time since both have been down at the same time.
The much ballyhooed program in Florida this year, and rightly so, is located in Coral Gables. The University of Miami, turnover chain and all, is back! The Canes clinched the Coastal Division of the ACC yesterday with a come-from-behind 44-28 victory over Virginia. Miami is 10-0 overall and 7-0 within the conference. The Canes have a date with second ranked Clemson (10-1 overall and 7-1 in the ACC) on December 2 in the ACC Championship Game.
Much has been made of the University of Miami Turnover Chain this year.
Yes, Miami, Florida State, and Florida are the Big 3 in the state of Florida, but there are other schools that are quietly going about their business this year.
The University of Central Florida was ranked fifteenth in the country coming into play this weekend. The Knights, like the Hurricanes are 10-0 overall and 7-0 in the American Athletic Conference. The University of South Florida lurks right behind the Knights in the AAC Eastern Division at 9-1 overall and 6-1 in the conference. The two schools will meet on Black Friday afternoon as Rivalry Week kicks off.
Although Rivalry Week kicks off next week, there was a rivalry game played here in South Florida last night. This game leads me to the newest kid on the Florida football landscape.
The FAU Owls hoist the Don Shula Trophy after defeating rival FIU in the 2017 Shula Bowl.
Florida Atlantic University’s football program was the brain child of former Canes coach Howard Schnellenberger. The first FAU squad took the field in 2001 as a Division II school with the former Miami legend at the helm. It was Schnellenberger’s vision that Florida Atlantic would one day compete with the “Big Boys” one day, that day could be on the horizon.
In 2002, a similar program was beginning at South Miami’s Florida International University. This program was the brain child of former Miami Dolphins quarterback Don Strock. Both schools made the jump to Division 1 in 2005, but the rivalry dates back to 2002 and the Division II days. The annual rivalry has been named the Shula Bowl, in honor of former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula. Schnellenberger was Shula’s offensive coordinator in the 1970’s, Strock played for Shula from 1974-1987. Shula’s ties to the men who founded both programs led to the rivalry’s naming.
This year’s Shula Bowl had an extra special meeting for Florida Atlantic. The Owls, like the Canes and Knights were looking to wrap up the Eastern Division of Conference USA . FAU’s Owls won the Shula Bowl on their home field in Boca Raton last night by the score of 52-24. The Owls clinched the C-USA East with the Shula Bowl win, they now are 7-0 within the conference and 8-3 overall. Two of FAU’s losses were to big schools (Navy and Wisconsin). The Owl’s played the fifth ranked Badgers close for most of their meeting. Florida Atlantic will host the Conference USA Championship Game on December 2. The winner of the championship game will play in this year’s Boca Raton Bowl at the Owls on campus stadium.
Former Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has led FAU to it’s most successful season in the program’s history.
Last night’s FAU victory has special meaning for this writer. My son Justin, who many of you know took his life this past February, was a senior at Florida Atlantic University. Robin and I received his degree posthumously in May. Justin, I know you are somewhere up there smiling down on your alma-mater. I’ll never forget the excitement in your voice when you called me to tell me that the Owls had signed Lane Kiffin. Last night was the program’s brightest accomplishment to date, more success will be coming to the Boca Raton school under Kiffin’s leadership.
I would like to take this time to wish all of my readers a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday. I’ll see you again next Sunday.