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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

Florida Gators, Kevin Knox get preseason SEC basketball honors

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

After last year's run to the Elite Eight, the Florida Gators are one of the favorites in the SEC.

UF is picked to finish second in the league, according to a panel of college basketball media members.

Kentucky, of course, is projected to win the conference.

Guard KeVaughn Allen is UF's lone individual honoree; he's first-team pick to the all-SEC team.

Wildcats freshman Kevin Knox - a former star forward at Tampa Catholic - is a second-team choice.

You can see the full preseason honors here. 

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A punter is the state's only first-team, midseason All-American

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Here's another indictment of how mediocre the state's college football season has become.

The AP released its midseason All-America team on Tuesday, and the only first-team selection from Florida was ... Gators punter Johnny Townsend.

Two other players from the state were second-team selections: USF kicker Emilion Nadelman and Florida State safety Derwin James.

For comparison, the state had four players on the preseason team, including two first teamers (James and FSU cornerback Tarvarus McFadden).

You can see the full All-America teams here.

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Charlie Strong, Gulf High and the best (old) Jon Gruden-Tennessee rumor

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

As Butch Jones keeps losing, Tennessee Vols fans are turning to one of the media's favorite pastimes.

Jon Gruden coaching rumors.

This feels like a good time to bring up one of my favorite Grumors from the archives. It involves Charlie Strong, Gulf High and someone called BuckHeadVol1, so you know it's good.

When the Derek Dooley era finally ended in 2012, the Vols needed a new head coach. Strong (now at USF) was one of the potential candidates, but he opted to stay at Louisville.

Message boards turned their lonely eyes to Gruden.

On page 251 of a VolNation thread that ended after 588 pages, someone named GuRu shared this Grumor:

Babyvol is implying that a high school coach in fla is friends with gruden and resigned this week and it's the same type of deal as the south Pitt coach. Name is Tom Carter. Anyone know if this is true

At least part of the story was true. Carter had indeed stepped down from Gulf High the previous week after going 2-18 in two seasons. Someone named jefferson shared a link to our story about it.

"Ant (sic) the plot thickens," Burnt Orange said.

BuckHeadVol1 chimed in: "The smoke signal is getting taller and I am sure non-believers are second guessing now!" …

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Could the Florida Gators really fail to make a bowl game?

MONICA HERNDON | Times

The Florida Gators are 3-3 for the third time since 1986, and things could be getting worse.

They might not make a bowl.

That's the conclusion of SBNation, at least, which doesn't have UF in its latest bowl projections.

It's hard to see UF beating Georgia in Jacksonville on Oct. 28, so that leaves four games to get three wins. At Missouri (Nov. 4) and home against UAB (Nov. 18) are the two best options, but the Gators would still need to either win at South Carolina or beat Florida State (in Gainesville) for the first time under Jim McElwain.

It could happen. But it's no guarantee.

For what it's worth, two other notable sites do think the Gators will make a bowl. ESPN projects them to make it to either the Belk or the Taxslayer Bowl, and CBS also thinks UF will play in Jacksonville.

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AP Top 25: Miami Hurricanes back in the top 10, USF and USF jump

MONICA HERNDON | Times

Thanks to a 5-0 start, the Miami Hurricanes are back in the top 10 of the latest AP Top 25 poll.

Miami is No. 8 - its highest ranking since midway through the 2013 season. I had the ‘Canes at No. 5 ion my ballot (which you can see here).

USF continued its rise. The Bulls jumped two spots to No. 16 after beating Cincinnati on Saturday evening. That's USF's highest raanking since 2011. 

UCF is up two spots, too, to No. 20.

Alabama is the unanimous No. 1 team, followed by Penn State, Georgia, TCU and Wisconsin. No. 6 Ohio State is the nation's top one-loss team.

You can see the full AP Top 25 here.

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My AP Top 25 ballot: Miami Hurricanes in the top five, USF, UCF up

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

After a predictably unpredictable weekend of college football, filling out my AP Top 25 ballot took a lot longer than usual.

I'll let a fellow AP Voter, also awesomely named Matt B., explain:

Coming to terms with the fact that there is no ballot that can be submitted today that will make perfect sense

So yeah, my ballot doesn't make perfect sense. It can't, because this weekend was ridiculous. Fun, but ridiculous.

Before we dive into the ridiculous, remember the criteria: The rankings are based on results, not reputation. They're reactionary, not predictive. I put a significant emphasis on quality wins, and I highly value head-to-head wins (as the voting guidelines say).

Miami jumped all the way to No. 5 on my ballot. The Hurricanes have a solid, but not great, resume, and winning all your games is kind of the goal. Georgia Tech was a tricky spot - a pretty good triple-option team coming off a bye and facing a UM team banged up after beating Florida State. To come out with a win was impressive. …

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How Nike designed Florida Gators' swamp green alternate uniforms

University of Florida

Florida's Gator-themed alternate uniforms have been one of the most talked about topics in college football this week.

That can be good or bad, depending on how you feel about UF's decision to ditch its traditional orange and blue for Saturday's home game against Texas A&M.

But what about the perspective of Nike's lead designer on a project that was 18 months in the making?

"This alternate uniform was and is an opportunity to tell a unique part of the Gators story in a way that has never been told before," Nike art director Clint Shaner said.

Shaner explained that story, and more, in an email interview with the Tampa Bay Times Wednesday: …

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Frustration showing after slow starts at Florida, Florida State

MONICA HERNDON | Times

Things are not going well at 3-2 Florida and 1-3 Florida State.
And it's beginning to show.

Like this tweet, from Gators receiver Dre Massey, after last week's 17-16 home loss to LSU.

Smh

That's "shaking my head," if you don't speak Internet. It's not a good thing.

Neither is this, also after the LSU loss, from backup quarterback Malik Zaire.

Smh! What. A. Shame. #OnlyLordKnows

Or this, from Hillsborough High product Zachary Carter.

Free 94

Carter, of course, wears No. 94.

UF coach Jim McElwain said some griping about playing time is natural; no one wants to sit on the bench. But losing causes the frustration to bubble, even in what McElwain calls a close-knit group.

"I'm sure they are (frustrated)," McElwain said. "They want to win as bad as anybody. Ultimately it's about winning and we didn't win this last game."

FSU players aren't allowed to use social media during the season, so it's harder to get their candid feelings. Linebacker Dontravious Jackson, however, broke the rule by writing "Free 5" (his jersey number) and tweeting "2 plays" - clear references to his (lack of) playing time.

Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said that matter has been handled internally.

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Twitter thinks the Florida Gators' Swamp uniforms are just awful

University of Florida

Florida announced this week's new Gators alternate uniforms Monday night.

The Twitter reaction was ... not very kind.

A sampling:

Wow, even if Florida wins on Saturday they'll still take an L for this hideous uni. Yikes https://t.co/xNZqixxwLH

I have seen some bad sports uniforms in my time but

uh https://t.co/vrcW5Du1C0

#DrainTheSwamp https://t.co/lssgg0LY4Z

They say when you look good you play good. Florida will get hammered that game. https://t.co/XBpIpu1ZtS

Florida, it’s not too late to change your minds. These are awful. https://t.co/USUZVljhqb

The only opinion that matters, though, is that of recruits. We'll see what they say after they see these uniforms in action Saturday against Texas A&M.

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Jimbo Fisher's interesting vote of confidence for embattled Charles Kelly

MONICA HERNDON | Times

As far as votes of confidence go, the one Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher gave to defensive coordinator Charles Kelly on Monday was ... interesting.

Kelly is under fan scrutiny for an underachieving defense. I asked Fisher about that Monday during his weekly news conference.

"I have extreme confidence in Charles," Fisher said. "Charles is a great football coach, coached a very good game. They made a couple plays at the end, and he's done a really nice job. We'll continue with Charles being our coordinator, and go through this year, and hope to finish the year very strong."

Did you get all that?

Through this year.

Maybe it's parsing words too carefully. Maybe it's a verbal slip by a coach who talks as fast as an auctioneer. 

Or maybe vocal FSU fans might be getting their wish.

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There's a Go Fund Me page for FSU defensive coordinator Charles Kelly's buyout

MONICA HERNDON | Times

Florida State fans aren't exactly handling the Seminoles' first 1-3 start since 1976 well.

A fan in Birmingham has started a Go Fund Me page to pay for defensive coordinator Charles Kelly's buyout.

"Charles Kelly gets paid to do one job, and he continues to prove that he cannot do that job," the page says. "It's time for FSU to move on and take a step forward."

The page is trying to raise $4 million. As of 11:30 Monday, it has raised $50 - so it's pretty much there.

After Saturday's 24-20 home loss to Miami, the Seminoles defense loaded with talent is No. 47 in scoring, No. 29 in yards per play allowed, 66th in sacks and No. 124 in turnovers forced.

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Miami Hurricanes' Mark Walton out for the year with ankle injury

Getty Images

Miami's first win over Florida State since 2009 came at an enormous cost.

The Hurricanes will be without standout running back Mark Walton for the rest of the yeaar after he sustained a right ankle surgery during Saturday's 24-20 win in Tallahassee. Walton will have surgery at the UHealth Sports Medicine Institute. UM coach Mark Richt told reporters Sunday evening that the 5-foot-9, 205-pound junior will not return this season. Because Walton will be eligible for the NFL draft, his college career could be over. 

Walton was one of the ACC's best players with 428 rushing yards and three touchdowns in UM's first four games. His 7.6 yards per attempt ranked No. 23 nationally, and he added 79 receiving yards at Duke.

The loss is a big blow for the ‘Canes, who rose to No. 11 in the latest AP Top 25 poll Sunday. Travis Homer, UM's next back in line, rushed for 29 yards Saturday.

The ‘Canes host Georgia Tech this week in a battle between two Coastal Division contenders.

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Florida Gators fall out of AP Top 25

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

The Florida Gators have fallen out of the AP Top 25.

UF's 17-16 loss to LSU knocked the Gators out of the latest poll, which was released Sunday afternoon. UF also fell off my ballot, which you can see here.

There are, however, three other state teams ranked, starting with Miami. The Hurricanes rose two spots to No. 11 after they ended a seven-year losing streak to Florida State.

Idle USF stayed steady at No. 18, and UCF jumped three spots to No. 22 after a rain-shortened win over Cincinnati.

Alabama stayed at No. 1, followed by Clemson, Penn State, Georgia and Washington.

Check out the full top 25 here.

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My AP Top 25: Florida Gators drop out, UCF and Miami move up

Tampa's Tyree St. Louis celebrates Miami's win over Florida State on Saturday.

MONICA HERNDON | Times

Tampa's Tyree St. Louis celebrates Miami's win over Florida State on Saturday.

One of the most common questions I get about my AP Top 25 ballot is this: Where will you rank (insert team here)?

The answer is always the same: It depends. Rankings do not occur in a vacuum. This week is a perfect example of the moving parts involved.

My top two teams (Clemson, then Alabama) remain the same. I moved Georgia up to No. 3 because the Bulldogs have dominated, and their win over Notre Dame keeps looking better. But that meant bumping Washington down, even though the Huskies beat Cal by 31 points. Call it collateral damage.

Oklahoma obviously deserved to fall from third after losing at home to Iowa State. But how far? Remember, too, that the Sooners have maybe the most impressive win of the season (at Ohio State), so they must be ranked higher than the Buckeyes. And the Buckeyes have been rolling since that game. Did OU deserve to fall lower than seventh, where I put them this week? Maybe. But behind whom? And how can you do that without punishing Ohio State too much? I'm not ready to put Miami ahead of either, despite snapping its losing streak to Florida State. Same with Washington State. …

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Wharton alum Auden Tate comes up big (again) for FSU

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

TALLAHASSEE - Florida State receiver Auden Tate was 1:24 away from being the hero - again.

The junior from Wharton High looked like he scored the game-winning touchdown for the second game in a row. Last week it was a 40-yarder at Wake Forest with 53 seconds. This one was a 20-yard grab at home against rival Miami.

It didn't happen, obviously. The No. 13 Hurricanes scored with six seconds left to end their seven-year losing streak to FSU.

But Tate remains one of the few positives for a Seminoles team that's 1-3 for the first time since Bobby Bowden's inaugural season.

"He went in and made the plays he had to do," coach Jimbo Fisher said. "He's a mature guy and doing a heck of a job."

The problem is that he's not getting much help. FSU has scored six touchdowns this season; Tate has four of them.

Tate injured his shoulder two weeks ago here against North Carolina State, and he's clearly not 100 percent. He was targeted sparingly early and didn't have a catch through the first three quarters.

But he made the one that mattered most, until it didn't.

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