College football in Sunshine State not up to usual caliber

Aug 14, 2012 3:00 AM

Lots of newslets being generated for the gaming inclined for August in sub-tropical Florida. Awaiting the next major hurricane and subsequent conflagration, there’s a good bit to nibble on as fall beckons (in New England).

For starters the Villages at Gulfstream have a new owner. The Stronach Group, which already owned 50%, purchased partner Forest City Enterprises’ interest and is now the sole owner of the outdoor mall adjacent to the legendary race track. 

Considered an odd move when it was conceived five years ago, the Villages were a hodgepodge of bars, clubs, national chain retail stores and empty stores for the most part. With Aventura, one of the country’s largest and highest per capita malls less than two miles south, the Villages project really was a long shot. 

The spin doctors are saying that guru Stronach has in mind a complex not unlike the Seminole Hard Rock Casino some 10 miles to the west, complete with a convention center and hotel.

Another spin has Gulfstream elongating its already prime time dates, possibly to year ‘round, including night racing. The idea has been kicked around for the last two years. Some sources indicate Calder (aka Churchill Downs) would have minimal questions addressed to allow the change.

A new casino ship is about to set sail from the Port of Palm Beach. The 160-foot, 500 passenger vessel named Black Diamond should have its maiden voyage any minute now. 

There’s been quite a parade of gambling boats going out of Palm Beach over the years. The Jupiter based company is apparently betting Palm Beach County will not succeed in getting a racino license for Palm Beach Kennel Club at the legislative session this winter.

The IRS is investigating the Miccosukee to determine whether tens of millions of dollars in back taxes from gambling profit distributions are owed by the 600 members of the Tribe. The Indians are accusing the IRS of harassment and are maintaining that as a sovereign Native American Indian nation it does not have to pay taxes.

Though both sides deny any interest, Boyd Gaming and the Florida Panthers casino concept has staying power. Perhaps using gambling graphics to promote a recent Panthers season ticket event might have contributed to the rumor.

State football

College football in the Sunshine State over the past few years hasn’t been up to its usual caliber. Only Florida State has shown signs of returning to championship status under Jimbo Fisher. The Noles appear to be deep enough to blow through the ACC and perhaps show up in a major bowl game. However, FSU is not to be confused with the SEC titans and probably never will be. Rumors that the Bowden boys might scram to the Big 12 are mostly put to rest.

Florida had a disappointing season following a bevy of Urban Meyer dazzlers. Will Mushchamp’s 2011 Gators never got going and under produced considering the level of talent. A new pro-style offense should turn things around and make the end zone again a regular occurrence. Gators open with Bowling Green on Sept. 1. The SEC schedule features LSU, South Carolina and Georgia. The year-end rivalry finale vs. FSU in Tallahassee could well determine which level bowl will invite either. Our prediction: 9-3.

Miami under second year coach Al Golden proceeds under the cloud of sure NCAA punishments sometime during or shortly after the season. Still looking to impress in the ACC, the U opens with Boston College. The schedule is, as usual, a bear, with road games against Kansas State and Notre Dame, plus the big matchup with FSU at the Stadium Formerly Known as Joe Robbie in Miami. 

The ACC schedule is no cupcake with Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. With the U fans’ general intolerance for anything less than a national championship, the team is already on notice that winning the conference and a big bowl invite will barely suffice. Prediction: 8-4. The talent level and depth is still not there.

Central Florida has been slapped by the NCAA for violations. No post season for the Knights who were cited for a lack of institutional control. The school moves to the Big East (if that league still exists) next year. UCF opens with Akron on Aug. 30, and has signature games with Ohio State, Missouri and Southern Miss.

With a relatively soft second half schedule the Knights have a chance to have a winning season under Coach George O’Leary. Prediction: 7-5.

Florida International is steadily creeping into the psyche of the football gaming pubic. Coach Mario Cristobal, who turned down major high visibility jobs, including Rutgers last year, has the Golden Panthers playing at a high level. Cristobal can boast that last year’s star T.Y. Hilton is on the NFL Colts roster this year.

Ex-UM linebacker, Cristobal has built a winning program that is rapidly outgrowing the Sun Belt Conference. The preseason polls allocated three top 25 votes to the Panthers. Total votes for Miami and Florida: 0. That alone says something. FIU opens with Duke on Sept. 1. The schedule is hardly daunting. Another bowl game is in the future. Prediction: 10-2.

Florida Atlantic in its first year without legendary head coach Howard Schnellenberger opens Aug. 31 against Wagner. Notable nonconference games for the Owls are with Georgia, Navy and Alabama along with the usual Sun Belt conference slate. Carl Pelini’s team is reloading and probably a year away from break even. Prediction: 2-9.

South Florida kicks off its season vs. Chattanooga on Sept. 1. The Bulls have a substantial schedule featuring FSU, Temple, Syracuse, Pitt, Miami and Louisville. The team is expected to be in the top tier of the Big East under Coach Skip Holtz. Prediction: 8-4.

Finally, Julio Iglesias, the B52’s, Santana, Bill Maher, headline the Seminole Hard Rock concert hall in August and September.