ESPN Analyst Slots Florida Behind FSU, UCF In State Power Rankings

You got me, ESPN. I’ll bite. This graphic is absurd enough to warrant commentary.

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Chris Cotter ranked UCF ahead of Florida as far as in-state team strength. Below is his reasoning for the power rankings, courtesy of UCF Rivals.

“Here’s how I see the state of Florida right now in terms of how strong the programs are today in this football-rich state,” Cotter said. “Florida State is No. 1 clearly, the defending national champions. I’ve got Central Florida at No. 2. They’ve had three 10-plus win seasons out of the last four. George O’Leary, a lot of stability down there in Orlando. Florida is No. 3 based solely off the 4-8 year and losing to Georgia Southern.”

That sounds like balanced reasoning. Take UCF’s Fiesta Bowl season, its Beef O’Brady Bowl season, its No Bowl 5-7 season and its Liberty Bowl season, and stack that up against UF’s abysmal 4-8 year (complete with an historic loss to Georgia Southern). I forget what Florida did in 2012, anyway.

What do you think, Joe Schad?

The first thing I think about is how last year wasn’t a fluke. George O’Leary has done a terrific job. They’ve competed and won championships in Conference USA. They went to the Big East, now called the American. It’s constantly evolving. Louisville is leaving. This year, even without quarterback Blake Bortles and running back Storm Johnson who accounted for 87 percent of their team offense last year, they’re still expected to compete for a conference championship with Houston and Cincinnati and going to a top-tier bowl like the Fiesta. Let’s give them credit. A wonderful program-changing win against Baylor.

Imagine that: a program losing 87% of its offense, and it still being favored to win the conference. That’s pretty impressive, considering they have to go through the murderer’s row of Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, Georgia Temple, Tulane, SMU, Houston and NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion UConn.

If we’re talking about the school in the best position to succeed, then yes UCF should top Florida. They play in a watered down basketball conference, while UF must run through the SEC’s rolodex of plausible national champions. The deck is stacked favorably for UCF.

But strength? Is a No. 3 NFL Draft pick that easy to replace? If we strip away both squads offenses (considering UCF’s is an unknown), doesn’t UF have a much stronger defense? Here’s a hint: they were No. 8 in total defense last season, versus UCF’s ranking of 28. Both are exceptional numbers, but one was done in a far superior conference.

Sorry, but I just can’t get behind the notion that UCF is stronger than UF. Especially when comparing one program’s greatest season ever, to the other’s worst performance in over 30 years. UCF is most assuredly on the rise, but just not there yet.

So thank you ESPN, you did your part by kickstarting the discussion. And in fairness, you did nail the Miami ranking. So while the Florida/Central Florida debate will probably carry on throughout this season, there’s one thing both fan bases can agree on: it sucks to be U.