Arguably the most important day off the field in NCAAF this season is Wednesday's National Signing Day, which is when future powerhouses are built. So what team will control the Sunshine State?
Case for Florida State
There can be no arguing which Florida school currently has the most talent and gets the best recruits. That's easily Florida State, which has been built into arguably the second-best program in the country outside of Alabama under Coach Jimbo Fisher -- who learned under current Tide head coach Nick Saban. Of course the Seminoles won the final BCS National Championship Game in the 2013 season. They won the ACC championship again this past season and took a school-record 29-game winning streak in the Rose Bowl in the College Football Playoff against Oregon, which was favored on NCAA football odds at sportsbooks.
FSU was blown off the field in the second half against the Ducks due to turnovers, with Oregon winning 59-20. The Ducks scored six straight times in the second half, with four of the touchdowns coming after FSU turnovers. Overall, FSU's five turnovers led to 34 points. Ironically it was Florida State's most turnovers since its last defeat, which was at the end of the 2012 regular-season against Florida.
The Rose Bowl was the final college game for FSU quarterback and former Heisman winner Jameis Winston, and determining his replacement is Job No. 1 this spring. I looked at that race recently here at SBR. FSU brings back just 11 starters overall, which is tied for 100th in the nation. Florida State also appears poised to get the country's No. 2 recruiting class on Wednesday, as ranked by ESPN, behind only Alabama. Last year the Seminoles got the No. 3 overall class. Florida State is +3500 on NCAA football odds to win next season's College Football Playoff.
Case for Florida
Ever since Tim Tebow and then Urban Meyer left Gainesville, the Florida football program just hasn't been the same. Will Muschamp replaced Meyer and did lead UF to an 11-2 record in 2012 and a Sugar Bowl win, but that was the exception. Muschamp built a good defense, which is his specialty, but simply couldn't find a good quarterback. He was fired after this past season, finishing with a 29-21 mark. Muschamp is now Auburn's defensive coordinator.
Florida hired Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain to replace Muschamp, and McElwain also is from Saban's coaching tree. He was Saban's former offensive coordinator and spent the past three years with CSU, turning it into a pretty good program. It seems like a solid hire, but when Michigan is able to lure a huge name like Jim Harbaugh, well, it doesn't really make Florida's choice look as good. And Florida is a better job than Michigan, although Harbaugh of course played at Michigan and grew up around the program.
McElwain has a lot of work to do as the Gators bring back a scant 10 starters, which is 114th among Division I teams. UF's recruiting class is also not ranked highly as of this writing, although the Gators could close strong as they are in on some top guys and have already flipped a couple.
UF is +6600 on college football odds to win next season's national title. This program won't be down long.
Case for Miami
Miami has a huge disadvantage right away compared to FSU and FU in that it's a small private school so it can't match the facilities of the Seminoles and Gators. And those state schools obviously have much bigger fan bases and thus boosters willing to give money. What Miami does have is arguably the greatest recruiting area in the country in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties in the Hurricanes' backyard. Coach Al Golden has done just decent recruiting that "state of Miami" but not as well as he should. Golden is definitely on the hot seat entering 2015 with Miami coming off a hugely disappointing 6-7 season.
One edge the Canes have for next season is the best quarterback in the state and probably one of the nation's best: Brad Kaaya. As a true freshman thrown into the starting role, Kaaya had one of the best seasons for any QB in Hurricanes history and was named the ACC Rookie of the Year. Kaaya led the ACC in touchdowns (26) and passer rating (145.9) and was second in passing yards (3,198). That's why the pressure is on Golden next season because players like Kaaya don't come around often. Anything short of nine wins, including a bowl victory, probably means Golden is gone.
Miami, which should sign a Top-20 recruiting class on Wednesday, is +8000 to win the 2015 College Football Playoff at sportsbooks.
NCAAF Free Pick: Florida State's in the best shape right now overall but don't count out Miami perhaps being the best of the three teams next season if Kaaya continues to improve.