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Week three opponents tougher for Gators, FSU, Miami

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Are the Florida schools ready? Or is there a lingering doubt?

For three of the state’s schools, this week involves road travel to play legitimate opponents, while Miami gets its first out-of-state test. In other words, yeah, the college “preseason,” the weeks against lightly regarded opponents, is over.

This week, FSU travels to Boston College to play its first ACC game. Florida travels to Kentucky to play the first of eight straight SEC games. And South Florida goes to Maryland to play the Terps. Miami will stay home, facing Nebraska.

In other games, Central Florida is host to Furman, Florida International plays North Carolina Central and Florida Atlantic plays Buffalo.

FSU has started slowly in both of its first halves so far, but has ended up twice with convincing wins. Much of the reason is running back Dalvin Cook, who has run for 422 yards in his two games and seems to be working his way into the Heisman Trophy conversation. Quarterback Everett Golson, too, has had bad first halves but has played well in his second.

Boston College has played FSU close in each of the last two seasons. With a strong front seven on defense, the Eagles are hoping this will be the year it can finish. Stopping Cook will be the first chore.

The game is Friday night at 7.

Florida barely won last week against East Carolina, and coach Jim McElwain wasn’t the only guy in the stadium who was upset at the Gators.

This week, an improving Kentucky team – one that upset South Carolina – lies in wait. Against East Carolina, most of the deficiencies were in pass defense, which puts them squarely in the sights of quarterback Patrick Towles, who threw for 369 yards in last year’s three-overtime loss. The Wilcats also have all-purpose back Boom Willliams.

Once again, McElwain will decide between quarterbacks Will Grier and Treon Harris. Grier got the start – and more playing time – last week, but Harris played well enough in flashes to make McElwain reconsider. If Grier starts again, and plays most of the time, the Gators could have their answer a week before the Tennessee game.

For those who have long memories, they are likely to remember that Miami and Nebraska played for the national championship after 1983 and the 2001 seasons.

The Hurricanes had a sluggish first half last week against FAU, perhaps looking ahead to this one. Quarterback Brad Kaaya and running back Joe Yearby lead the way for the Canes.

South Florida played FSU close for a half on the road. Now, they try to play 60 minutes against Maryland.

The Terps, who lost to Bowling Green last week, will turn to quarterback Caleb Rowe to start for the first time since October. Rowe threw three passes last week and two were intercepted.

The Bulls will again turn to sophomore running back Milton Mack.

UCF tries to win for the first time against Furman, and will probably manage it easily. However, there are problems. The running game is the worst in George O’Leary’s 12 seasons, and quarterback Justin Holman is out for a month with a hand injury. The Knights are 0-2.

FIU seems to be in good shape, too. N.C. Central is 0-6 against FBS opponents.

The Panthers had a scare when quarterback Alex McGough was injured against Indiana, but he has practiced and will play.

FAU might not be as lucky. Quarterback Jaquez Johnson hurt an ankle last week and will be a game-time decision. If he cannot play, Jason Driskel will step in.

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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