Doak Campbell Stadium had fireworks going off, Florida State athletes were jumping into the crowd, and the Tomahawk chop was being performed by fans. 

After a thrilling 31-28 victory over Miami, the Seminoles won 10 points. This included a winning drive that began with a 59 yard pass. It required a fourth-and-14 conversion in order to score the winning touchdown. 

It had almost everything you’d want from a Miami-FSU game: Momentum-changing plays, a dramatic finish, even a confrontation at midfield between the two teams during a television timeout.

Imagine if this really mattered. 

While fans debate which Georgia College Football Playoff teams to play, Florida’s utter insignificance is second on the list of most intriguing stories in the sport.

There is no region in the country that produces more football stars than Florida State, Miami and Florida. A few smaller programs also share this talent.

And yet this season, Florida’s seven FBS programs are a combined 28-42 without a single one of them in the mix to play for anything significant this postseason.

The idea of college football players unable to get to a Las Vegas blackjack table is almost as unlikely as eating in New Orleans. This is almost impossible to achieve.

Sure, in the context of what they’ve been through this season, Florida State deserves to celebrate after breaking Miami’s four-game winning streak in the series. The Seminoles have had a rough go of it since Jimbo Fisher’s final season in 2017, and finally — two coaches later — it looks like Mike Norvell is building some competence back into the operation. 

FSU’s record is still 4-6, and it is most likely that FSU will lose its fourth consecutive season. Miami, a preseason top-20 team, is now 5-5 and headed toward a big decision on coach Manny Diaz’s future. The Florida Gators have sunk so low that they were celebrating in the locker room Saturday after an embarrassing performance against Samford that could hardly be called a “win,” even if it goes in the record books that way. Even UCF, which lost 27 points to SMU, is now mediocre at 6-4. 

Is there anything going on in Ponce de Leon’s name? 

Success tends to go in cycles, but historically it’s pretty common for at least two of the big programs in Florida to be good at the same time. Maybe one of them dips a little bit, but there’s always enough talent in the state to bounce back quickly. 

What we’re seeing now, though, is a historic confluence of awfulness from Florida, Florida State and Miami. In fact, you’d have to go back to 1978 — well before any of them became national powers — to find a season where none of the three finished in the top 25.

This was unexpected. The Hurricanes came into the season ranked 16th, but they’ve been digging out of a hole ever since getting smacked by Alabama in the season opener and falling apart in the fourth quarter against Michigan State back on Sept. 18. In Gainesville, Dan Mullen seemed as secure as ever coming off three straight trips to New Year’s Six bowl games. The Seminoles were the only ones that seemed behind, rebuilding their roster following the disastrous Fisher exit and Willie Taggart’s 21-game stint. 

Lo and behold, Florida State sits here three months later with perhaps the only fan base in the state that is somewhat pleased with the state of their program — and that’s only because expectations were nonexistent to begin with.

Every program has some flaws and obstacles to success, but there’s no explanation other than mismanagement for how all three of these programs have gotten so sideways. 

Certain, there is more competition in today’s landscape than in 1980s or 1990s, when the entire season was dominated by rivalries such as FSU-Miami and Florida-FSU. Nowadays, there is more programming on national television. All coaches in all corners of the country are competing for players to Florida. Though they’ve made up some ground in recent years, all three of those schools fell way behind their peers for a period of time in the facility wars. 

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However, the recruiting trends are very clear. According to’s ranking of the top 20 high school prospects in Florida, only three in last year’s signing class went to Florida and two went to Miami — the same number that went to Maryland. Alabama took seven, however. 

For the 2020 freshmen, it was the exact same story. Florida State, Miami and Florida State landed nine of the top twenty spots, while the remaining went to schools such as Georgia, Clemson or LSU. 

If three top-shelf programs with great tradition, history and geography aren’t landing the majority of blue chip recruits in Florida, that’s a serious problem. And it’s why Florida fans have been so frustrated this season with Dan Mullen’s public dismissiveness over questions about whether he’s getting the job done in recruiting. 

You can find many great colleges across the nation that offer college football. But the idea that the Hurricanes, Seminoles and Gators can’t convince the best kids from Miami or Tampa to come to their schools is so antithetical to the nature of the sport that it truly defies all logic and belief. 

Until that changes, though, the most relevant state in the union to college football’s talent pool is going to be missing in action when it comes time to win championships. 



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