GAINESVILLE — Unless Chip Kelly has made up his mind by the time you read this, the Gators are still looking for a new football coach.
There's a chance the rival Seminoles aren't far behind. Industry insiders are speculating that Texas A&M could throw an $8 million salary at Jimbo Fisher. Tennessee and Auburn could come after him, too. That doesn't mean Fisher will leave Tallahassee, but the odds of his departure seem higher this year than they have in the past. We don't know for sure because Fisher doesn't comment on other jobs.
Instead of breaking down the least enticing Florida-Florida State matchup in decades, let's compare the programs as possible coaching destinations:
UF has a bigger athletic department budget and more football revenue ($83.8 million to $55.7 million). But FSU has been more willing to spend it. The Seminoles spent $10 million more on football in 2015, according to figures submitted to the U.S. Department of Education. Fisher's $5.7 million salary ranks sixth nationally (according to USA Today) and is $1.2 million more than what Jim McElwain was making at UF.
Both have new indoor practice facilities. UF is farther along on a football-only complex, but one could be coming to FSU, too. The Gators are trying to catch up in the arms race, but they're still behind other blue-blood programs. FSU recently finished significant renovations to Doak Campbell Stadium, including the Champions Club and massive Jimbotron.
Fisher has outrecruited the Gators, but that reveals more about the coaching staffs than it does the programs. UF has a better academic reputation and is an easier drive from the talent-rich I-4 corridor. The SEC is also a selling point to some prospects, even though the ACC's image has improved.
The programs are tied with three national titles and three Heisman Trophy winners. They've produced almost the same number of NFL draft picks since Fisher took over (42 for FSU, 41 for UF). But FSU has the edge in recent history. That matters a lot; 2018 recruits probably remember the Seminoles' 2013 title, but they were 7 when Tim Tebow won the Heisman. FSU's four-game win streak over UF doesn't hurt, either.
Path to the Playoff
A decade ago, FSU would have been the easy answer. It's no longer that simple. The ACC was the nation's best conference last season, and FSU's Atlantic Division was the top part of the league. Clemson isn't going anywhere, and Miami looks like it's building for the long haul. The SEC East, meanwhile, has stumbled (aside from Georgia). FSU has played the nation's toughest schedule, but eventually the SEC East will become powerful again and make UF's road harder. Right?
It's the least important factor, but how quickly you can win matters. UF has some promising young talent, but FSU has more. The Seminoles have signed four consecutive top-six recruiting classes and have one of the top freshmen in the country (RB Cam Akers). True freshman QB James Blackman has posted better numbers than UF redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, too.
UF and FSU are both top-20 jobs, and that's being conservative. But the edge goes to the Seminoles. Fisher has built a powerhouse in Tallahassee (the ongoing 4-6 disaster notwithstanding), which has FSU in slightly better shape for the future — whenever Fisher leaves.
Contact Matt Baker at [email protected] Follow @MBakerTBTimes.