Florida, Florida State and Miami, known as “Florida’s Big Three” for years need to realize they must move aside and accept a new member into the club.
As much as they might not like it, the days of “Gators and Noles and Canes, oh my!” are over in college football.
The most feared team in the Sunshine State the past two years has been UCF. It is time to rename the group, “Florida’s Big Four.”
In the past two years, Florida, FSU and the Hurricanes have not really caused much trepidation in the minds of their opponents, but in that time, the Golden Knights have not lost a regular-season game.
In fact, a look at the last five years show a trend of either UCF climbing into the ranks of its intrastate brethren or the other three have come back to the pack of Florida schools.
All that must be done is to look at the numbers from that time.
Florida has 40 wins in the past five years, Florida State has 45 and Miami has 40. The Golden Knights also have 40 victories.
An analysis of those seasons is quite revealing. If the wins are averaged per year when a team had a win — the Golden Knights were winless in 2015 — UCF has ten, FSU nine, while Florida and Miami have eight each.
In the past five seasons, the Gators have gone 7-5, 10-4, 9-4, 4-7 and 10-3.
The Gators seem to be on their way back to national prominence under coach Dan Mullen, but prior to his arrival in Gainesville, UF fans were not used to four-loss seasons, much less losing to Georgia Southern in the Swamp.
As successful as Florida had been under Steve Spurrier with Danny Wuerrfel and Tim Tebow with Urban Meyer running the show, the program did take a noticeable step backwards during Jim McElwain’s reign.
The Gators’ national titles seem eons ago and, in their history, they have never had an undefeated season.
The Seminoles’ last national title was in 2013, which was the last time they went undefeated.
Since then, FSU has gone 13-1, 10-3, 10-3, 7-6 and 5-7.
In 2018, the Noles missed a bowl game for the first time in decades. In 2017, FSU barely got a bid to the Independence Bowl.
Things have not been they way they were during the Bobby Bowden or Jimbo Fisher years lately.
Wille Taggart seems to have the Seminoles poised to get back to a bowl and he better do it fast. Fans don’t have much patience in Tallahassee.
The days of Miami running out of tunnel through the white smoke and making the opponents swallow their mouthpieces in fear have not really materialized in recent years.
The Hurricanes last went undefeated and won a national championship in 2001.
Since 2007, Miami has won just one bowl game. They either lost in the postseason or didn’t receive a bid to a bowl the other 11 seasons.
During the past five years, the Canes went 6-7, 8-5, 9-4, 10-3 and 7-6. Pretty un-Miami like.
It doesn’t matter how many turnover chains they wear if they don’t win.
The Golden Knights have not won an official national title but went undefeated just two seasons ago and in 2018 didn’t lose a regular season game.
UCF has been all over the place record wise in the past five years. It has gone 9-4, 0-12, 6-7, 13-0 and 12-1.
But the fact they have the same number of wins in that span as Florida and Miami is quite impressive since one of those seasons saw zero wins. So, the Golden Knights had as many wins in four years as UF and the Hurricanes had in five seasons.
Many say, especially supporters of the previous Big Three, UCF has such a successful record because of an easy schedule. Even when the Golden Knights went to the Chik-Fil-A Bowl and beat Auburn, pundits said it was because the Tigers didn’t really want to be in that bowl and their hearts weren’t in it.
That excuse plays into UCF’s favor. It proves that a team can no longer just show up and get a win over the Golden Knights. It shows if a team does not prepare for UCF, it will not only lose, it will get beat.
Still, the argument against UCF is a soft schedule. Well, Florida, Florida State and Miami, that can be easily remedied – schedule them yourselves.
This season, Florida’s out-of-conference schedule includes the annual showdown with FSU and an opener with Miami, but the other two games are Tennessee-Martin and Towson.
Florida State gets Louisiana-Monroe and Alabama State.
Miami plays Bethune-Cookman, Central Michigan and Florida International.
Is it these teams don’t want to play in Orlando? FSU didn’t mind playing Ole Miss there a few years ago. Florida has never turned down an invitation to play in the Citrus Bowl. If Miami played in the land of Mickey Mouse it would save its fans from north of Dade County a lot in tolls.
Or is it these teams don’t want to play UCF?
THERE ARE OTHERS TOO
Don’t forget, there are other teams in the Sunshine State.
South Florida has also won 40 games in the past five years.
Florida International under Butch Davis is an up-and-coming team as is Florida Atlantic coached by Lane Kiffin. Each of those teams have played in bowls and sent stars to the NFL.
Jacksonville University plays as a member of the Pioneer League.
The state boasts teams at other levels as well. Stetson along with HBCU powers Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M compete in the FCS.
Florida Tech and West Florida, who went to the national championship game in only its second season of existence, are members of Division II’s Gulf South Conference.
Florida even has seven schools playing NAIA football.
The reason the state can field that many college football teams is because Florida produces that many players. In the past, many teams above the Mason-Dixon Line had rosters dotted with players from Florida. Those numbers have dwindled as the number of colleges playing football in the state has increased.
Now, many of those players can opt to not go up north and stay and play their college football at home.
So, the players who used to not get offered scholarships from the Big Three do not have to leave the state to further their careers. They can stay home and play at schools with great football programs.
Like UCF, the final member of the Sunshine State’s Big Four.
Started Saturday Tailgate in 2018. Covering all things college football and talking Notre Dame on Twitter.