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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

Toledo feels like a second season opener for Miami Hurricanes

The Miami Hurricanes suit up for practice Tuesday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex

MATT BAKER | Times

The Miami Hurricanes suit up for practice Tuesday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex

LAKE BUENA VISTA - The schedule says Week 4, but it sure doesn't feel that way for the No. 14 Miami Hurricanes.

"It's like opening the season again," defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said Tuesday.

That's because UM, like Florida State, had two games postponed/canceled because of Hurricane Irma. The ‘Canes are still dealing with the storm's aftermath. The team was dismissed two weeks ago to prepare for the storm, and it didn't reconvene until Friday - and not at home. The ‘Canes don't return to class next week, and they're practicing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex and staying in a hotel on Orlando's International Drive.

I'll have more on Miami coming later, but here's one interesting football wrinkle to the situation: This week's opponent, Toledo, has a high-powered offense (16th nationally at 46 points per game) that can up the tempo. That sounds like trouble for a talented Miami defense that could be rusty and a little out of shape given the time off.

"Some of the same issues that you have with opening games, you kind of feel..." Diaz said before Tuesday's practice. "We have to kind of be in midseason form Saturday at 3:30, no excuses."

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Jesuit alum Malik Davis brings juice to Florida Gators' run game

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GAINESVILLE - Jesuit High product Malik Davis had one of the most impressive plays of the Florida Gators' young season - a 72-yard rush against Tennessee.

He also fumbled just before crossing the end zone; that comes with being a true freshman.

But Davis is UF's leading rusher (102 yards on five carries) through two games, with more opportunities potentially coming.

"He brings a little juice, there's no doubt," coach Jim McElwain said Monday. "He's a little bit different. He's a slasher. He does a really good job of sticking his foot in the ground and running through inside arm tackles."

McElwain said Davis is like many young players, who will get expanded roles when they're ready. McElwain believes you can paralyze a youngster by giving him too much too soon.

But given UF's overall offensive struggles dating back to the Will Muschamp era, Hillsborough County's all-time leading rusher looks like a potential spark, starting this weekend against Kentucky.

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AP Top 25: Florida Gators, USF and Miami Hurricanes all up

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF, Florida and Miami all moved up in the latest AP Top 25.

The Gators are up four spots to No. 20 in the updated rankings, released Sunday afternoon. USF is up one (to 21) after Friday's win over Illinois, and the idle Hurricanes rose three spots to No. 14.

Florida State dropped one spot, to 12th.

Alabama remained No. 1 in the rankings, although Clemson chipped away some of its first-place votes to jump to second. Oklahoma is third, followed by Penn State, USC, Oklahoma State, Washington, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Also of note, former Bulls coach Willie Taggart is back in the top 25; his Oregon Ducks are 24th.

Check out the full rankings here

1. Alabama (first-place votes -- 45)

2. Clemson (15)

3. Oklahoma (1)

4. Penn State

5. USC

6. Oklahoma State

7. Washington

8. Michigan

9. Wisconsin

10. Ohio State

11. Georgia

12. Florida State

13. Virginia Tech

14. Miami 

15. Auburn

16. TCU

17. Mississippi State

18. Washington State

19. Louisville

20. Florida

21. South Florida

22. San Diego State

23. Utah

24. Oregon

25. LSU

Dropped out: Kansas State (18), Stanford (19), Tennessee (23), UCLA (25)

My ballot has a different No. 1 team, and no Gators or Bulls. You can see it here.

MORE …

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AP Top 25: A new No. 1 on my ballot, still no Gators or USF

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

There's a new team atop my weekly AP Top 25 ballot: Clemson.

It's nothing Alabama did wrong. The Crimson Tide has the best win (24-7 over Florida State in the opener). But the Tigers have the best overall body of work (two top-25 wins, including Saturday's dominant road win against Louisville). That's enough for Clemson to move up to No. 1 this week.

What looked like a pretty mediocre slate of games ended up having a huge impact on my ballot. Six teams dropped out (Adios, UCLA, Kansas State, Stanford, Tennessee, South Carolina and LSU). Math tells us that six teams had to come enter. Picking the six was brutal, because there were few good options. The six I chose: Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Utah, West Virginia, San Diego State and Kentucky. Two I didn't choose: USF or Florida. …

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Jim McElwain wants Florida Gators to play with passion for the state

Associated Press

GAINESVILLE - -The Florida Gators returned to practice Tuesday and to media availability Wednesday, but coach Jim McElwain's mind was clearly on the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, not Saturday's challenge against No. 23 Tennessee.

McElwain was uncharacteristically somber during Wednesday's weekly news conference. He said the storm has affected 60-some members of the team. Some families evacuated from their homes to UF to ride out the storm. Some, McElwain said, are still displaced.

But the game is coming, whether UF is ready or not. McElwain said the team will be prepared and try to play with "a little bit of passion and desire for the people of the state of Florida."

"It's what we do," McElwain said. "It's in our fabric."

In football news ... McElwain had no update on the nine players who are indefinitely suspended for their role in a university-related financial card scandal, and he said he has "no concern" about whether these suspensions will continue to drag on. Those sidelined include leading receiver Antonio Callaway and leading rusher Jordan Scarlett. …

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Tennessee-Florida game is on

Bryan Cox Jr. #94 of the Florida Gators tackles Joshua Dobbs #11 of the Tennessee Volunteers in the second quarter at Neyland Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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Bryan Cox Jr. #94 of the Florida Gators tackles Joshua Dobbs #11 of the Tennessee Volunteers in the second quarter at Neyland Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The SEC announced late Tuesday morning the Florida-Tennessee game will go on as planned Saturday in Gainesville.

Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. CBS will televise the game live.

"The University of Florida has been diligent in assessing the impact of Hurricane Irma on the Gainesville community and has made a thoughtful decision in moving forward with the game," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement.

"We appreciate the communication, coordination and cooperation among the many agencies and groups necessary to produce a game in a safe environment. Our prayers remain with the people of Florida as well as Texas as they recover from Hurricanes Irma and Harvey."

UF announced that fans should expect increased congestion and traffic before the game due to continued storm cleanup, coupled with the capacity crowd that typically accompanies a Gators-Vols contest.

Fans are encouraged to be in their seat 30 minutes earlier than a normal home game. Reserved and RV parking lots will be operational. Additionally, the school expects current road closures on Museum Road by Lake Alice to be operational by the game. …

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Hurricane Irma causes UCF to call off another game

UCF has canceled its second consecutive home game because of Hurricane Irma.

Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS

UCF has canceled its second consecutive home game because of Hurricane Irma.

UCF has canceled its second consecutive home game because of Hurricane Irma.

The Knights and Georgia Tech called off Saturday's game, the school announced Monday. The teams and their leagues explored other options but won't reschedule the non-conference game.

UCF was supposed to host Memphis last week, but that, too, was suspended because of the storm.

Instead of football, Spectrum Stadium and the area near it will be used to help aid recovery efforts.

"We're honored to host the National Guard and play a part in helping our community and state recover from Irma," UCF athletic director Danny White said. "On behalf of our student-athletes, athletics staff and fans, I promise the Knights will do everything we can to assist in recovery efforts."

The hurricane has also caused Florida State and Miami to reschedule their rivalry game from Saturday to their mutual open date, Oct. 7. The SEC is in communication with Florida and Tennessee about their Saturday matchup but has not announced whether it will go on as scheduled.

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SEC communicating with Florida, Tennessee about Saturday's rivalry game

Florida and Tennessee are scheduled to play Saturday in Gainesville

Getty Images (2016)

Florida and Tennessee are scheduled to play Saturday in Gainesville

The SEC has been communicating with Florida and Tennessee about Saturday's scheduled game in Gainesville as the state begins to assess the damage from Hurricane Irma.

"Now that the storm has passed through Gainesville, the University of Florida is working with local authorities to assess the effect of the storm on the campus and the Gainesville community, at the same time ensuring the appropriate security and local officials are available to host a game," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement.

The Gators and Volunteers are scheduled to play their annual rivalry game at 3:30 on CBS.

Another rivalry game slated for this weekend (Florida State-Miami) was moved to Oct. 7, the teams' common bye week.

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AP Top 25: UF, FSU, Miami and USF all drop

Florida State, Miami, Florida and USF all dipped slightly in the latest AP Top 25, despite not playing because of Hurricane Irma.

The Seminoles fell one spot, to No. 11 in the latest rankings, released Sunday afternoon. Miami dropped one (to 17th), and the Bulls are one spot lower, at No. 22. The Gators tumbled two spots, to No. 24.

Alabama, as expected, stayed at No. 1, followed by Oklahoma, Clemson, USC and Penn State. Check out the full top 25 here.

And here's my ballot.

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My AP Top 25 ballot: Oklahoma, USC up, Buckeyes, Stanford down

As meaningless as college football seems right now, games were played yesterday. Not in the state, of course, but elsewhere. As such, my AP Top 25 ballot must be updated.

Florida, Florida State, Miami and USF all had their games canceled because of Hurricane Irma. On principle, I don't think it's right to penalize them or boost them because of the storm, so I locked them at wherever I had them last week (Gators and Bulls unranked, Seminoles sixth and Miami at 16).

Oklahoma was very impressive against Ohio State, but I kept my top two the same (Alabama, then Clemson). USC yo-yoed back to fourth (where I had them in the preseason) thanks to a good win against a good Stanford team.

Farewell to Notre Dame and its glorious, one-week run in my rankings. Welcome, Maryland. My rankings: …

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A rest stop on the way away from Hurricane Irma

LAKE CITY -- It looked like the parking lot after a football game.

Cars parked anywhere they could fit, sitting on the grass and nearly blocking the paths in and out. Bits of plastic and paper were scattered all over. Portable toilets were brought in as backup.

The scene had nothing to do with football, of course. There is no football in the state this weekend. 

Florida, Florida State and UCF canceled home games. USF and Miami canceled theirs on the road. All were originally scheduled for today. None will be played. There are more important things - like what was going on at the northbound Interstate 75 rest stop between Gainesville and the road to Tallahassee.

At least a hundred vehicles - probably more - parked for a few minutes, or longer.   A man and woman napping in the front seat by the entrance. Big dogs and small dogs on leashes to stretch their legs. Children running around or snacking before getting back in the car to head north, away from the path of Hurricane Irma. 

A man hosed down the portable toilets, anchored down by cinder blocks. Considering the lines to the restroom, they were a welcome sight.

  …

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Florida State-Louisiana Monroe called off because of Hurricane Irma

Florida State became the latest football team to cancel Saturday's game because of Hurricane Irma.

FSU announced late Thursday evening that they will not host Louisiana-Monroe. That game had been scheduled for 7 p.m., then moved up to noon as the storm approached.

Florida, USF and Miami all canceled their non-conference games because of the hurricane, too.

The Seminoles are scheduled to host rival Miami on Sept. 16 at 8 p.m.

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Florida Gators' Northern Colorado game canceled

Florida and Northern Colorado don't share an open date, so the game won't be rescheduled.

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Florida and Northern Colorado don't share an open date, so the game won't be rescheduled.

The Florida Gators' home game against Northern Colorado has been canceled because of Hurricane Irma.

"We have been in constant communication this week with University and government officials," athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a statement released by UF on Thursday evening. 

"As the Hurricane's track has approached the state of Florida, it's become obvious that playing a football game is not the right thing to do. The focus of our state and region needs to be on evacuations and relief efforts. There is a tremendous amount of stress currently on the roads of this state, and the availability of gas, water and other supplies are at critical levels. Playing a college football game Saturday would only add to that stress.

"Gainesville is also close to some of Florida's heaviest traffic points this week, specifically Interstate 75, which is a key statewide evacuation route." …

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Hurricane Irma moves up Florida Gators' kickoff to noon

The Florida Gators have moved up Saturday's game against Northern Colorado to noon.

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The Florida Gators have moved up Saturday's game against Northern Colorado to noon.

The Florida Gators have moved up Saturday's game against Northern Colorado because of Hurricane Irma. It will now kick off at noon.

"We have worked closely with campus and regional authorities during the last 48 hours to find the best possible solution that allows us to play the game and takes into account the safety of our fans, players, staff and personnel working the game," athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a statement.

"With tropical conditions possibly expected in our region on Saturday night or Sunday morning, moving the game from 7:30 to noon will give people a chance to come to the game and return home before any expected weather or effects hit our area.

"We will obviously continue to monitor the weather and we ask fans to consider their own safety and the safety of others before traveling to the game. In addition, we also ask that fans who had hotel rooms that will no longer need them, to notify their respective hotels immediately as those establishments are looking to house evacuees from around the state and region."

UF coach Jim McElwain said on the weekly SEC teleconference that te team has given up its hotel rooms to potential evacuees.  …

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FSU kickoff moved up to noon, Miami Hurricanes game canceled

Florida State moved the kickoff of Saturday's home game against Louisiana-Monroe up to noon.

MONICA HERNDON | Times

Florida State moved the kickoff of Saturday's home game against Louisiana-Monroe up to noon.

The threat of Hurricane Irma continues to affect college football.

Florida State moved the kickoff of Saturday's home game against Louisiana-Monroe up seven hours. It will start at noon.

"We have moved the game time after consulting with a number of state agencies and based on the information we have on the potential impact on the state," FSU president John Thrasher said in a statement. "The earlier start will give ULM the opportunity to travel safely after the game, and provide many of our fans a chance to come to the game and return home in time to make any necessary preparations."

It will be televised on the syndicated Raycom Sports network.

Saturday's Miami game at Arkansas State has been canceled and won't be rescheduled. …

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