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Can college football in Florida eclipse other states once again?

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Once, this was where college football mattered.

Once, this was where you looked to find national champions (11) and Heisman winners (9). Once, this was the place where the most important games were played.

Can it be that way again?

FSU currently has things rolling its way with six consecutive top 20 finishes. But there is a new energy at Florida, and an even newer energy at Miami. Can this state return to the heights it once enjoyed?

From 1990-2001, all three of the state’s teams made the Top 20 except for one (Miami in 1997). This was where you would find the coaches, and the players, and the moments.

Oh, there is some proving to do. Despite Jimbo Fisher’s success, which includes a national title and a playoff berth, Fisher isn’t held in quite the esteem you might think. Athlon Magazine recently ranked every college coach; Fisher finished only seventh. He was behind TCU’s Gary Patterson, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and — get this — Jim Harbaugh after one season. The top two coaches are Nick Saban and Urban Meyer.

Fisher is 68-14. In five of his six seasons, his team has won at least ten games.

Miami’s Mark Richt ranks 16th in the poll. Florida’s Jim McElwain is 30th. (For comparison’s sake, USF’s Willie Taggart is 56th, UCF’s Scott Frost is 108th, FIU’s Ron Turner is 112th and FAU’s Charlie Partridge is 113th).

It’s a long way from Bobby Bowden, Steve Spurrier, and Jimmy Johnson-Butch Davis-Dennis Erickson-Larry Coker, isn’t it?

Remember 1991? Miami was first, FSU fourth and Florida seventh. How about ’94, when FSU was fourth, Miami sixth and Florida seventh?

Can those days return? Can Fisher get back to the title game one more time? Can McElwain find a quarterback? Will coming home work for Richt?

Stay tuned.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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