College football fans in our state aren’t accustomed to having to wait until national signing day for a reason to crow.
Rivals love to brag about themselves and rag on each other and generally make nuisances of themselves but, really, where’s the fresh material supposed to come from when the Miami Hurricanes, Florida State Seminoles and Florida Gators all lose their bowl games?
According to my research, which admittedly falls short of Elias Sports Bureau standards, it hasn’t happened this way since the bowl games that followed the 2002 season. In fact, that’s the only time I can ever find it happening previously.
That 2002 season is particularly painful for Miami to recall because the Hurricanes had the most riding on it. An unbeaten season. A national championship. A Fiesta Bowl matchup with Ohio State that appeared to be won until a late flag spoiled the celebration.
FSU, meanwhile, wrapped up a 9-5 season by losing 26-13 to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Not Bobby Bowden’s finest moment, but the Bulldogs were SEC champions and finished No. 3 in the final AP poll under Mark Richt.
Florida’s 2002 season finale came with lesser consolation. The Gators, working under first-year coach Ron Zook, lost 38-30 to Michigan in the Outback Bowl and got bumped out of the final AP rankings altogether at 8-5.
Of course, our state giants don’t ever stay down for long. The following season, 2003, the Hurricanes and Seminoles were back in major bowls and the Gators, well, they had another Zook year, which brought them that much closer to getting Urban Meyer.
That’s probably what we should be taking out the current funk. Sure, FSU lost to Houston in the Peach Bowl, Miami lost to Washington State in the Sun Bowl and Florida lost to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. Sure, none of this opponents ranked in the Top Ten.
Still, they were only bowl games, incapable of trumping the growing optimism for all three programs.
Jimbo is still Jimbo at FSU. Richt has everybody pumped about starting fresh at Miami. Jim McElwain is the SEC Coach of the Year as he heads into Season Two at Florida.
Cheer up, then, everybody. This is the rarest of occasions and will pass without lasting psychological damage.
Besides, recruiting is underway, and there’s no need to worry about certainty or logic there. Go ahead and howl. We’re No. 1, whoever we are, and the rest of you can only wish.
Now that’s the way it really works in this state, and always will.