NBC 6 College Football Preview: Miami-Dade's Small Colleges Have Big Hopes for 2020 Season

Miami-Dade County will be home to not just one, but now two teams playing at the NAIA level during the 2020 season

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While most college football fans think of the Miami Hurricanes and FIU Panthers when it comes to teams in this area, Miami-Dade County will also be home to not just one but now two teams playing at the NAIA level during the 2020 season.

For the second straight year, the St. Thomas University Bobcats will take the field after a 2019 season that was quite surprising when it comes to the fact that head coach Bill Rychel’s team was just one game away from a .500 record.

Just down the road in Miami Gardens is Florida Memorial University, the county’s HBCU that will re-launch their football program for the first time in over six decades being led by one of the top high school football coaches in the area over recent history.

Can the Bobcats push over the threshold and get a winning season in just year two? Can the FMU Lions put the pride back into their program when playing their first games since the school moved to South Florida?

Which team will win the first edition of what should be called the Palmetto Expressway Classic? Here’s a preview of each team’s 2020 seasons.

St. Thomas Bobcats

St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens
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2019 Recap

For Rydell, the first season of Bobcats football went a whole lot better than many expected considering the fact that they were not out of many losses during the year.

St. Thomas started the season 1-4, but winning three of their final five games might be the highlight of the fact STU lost two games on the season by one possession - something St. Thomas will use as motivation heading into the 2020 campaign.

Biggest Question

Can St. Thomas avoid a let down in what has already been a crazy 2020? Yes, the Bobcats did finish with a losing record last season but have plenty to build on and expected to compete for a conference title this year.

Now, just nine games are on the slate this fall include two games each against Southeastern and Warner. With what we have already gone through this season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the second campaign not be nearly as good as the debut.

Biggest Game

September 26th vs. Keiser: While that weekend is going to be defined down the road by the ‘Canes and the ‘Noles, another game taking place in Miami Gardens could be for a conference title.

Last season, the Seahawks brought home the title and are hungry for a back-to-back crown. At the same time, the Bobcats know that a win at Monsignor Pace High School would be a huge step forward to winning a title in year two.

Florida Memorial Lions

Florida Memorial University
Florida Memorial University

2019 Recap

This is the easiest one so far: there is no recap. 2019 saw the school announce it was bringing back a football team for the first time since the school was based in St. Augustine back in the late 1950s.

The Lions are going to mean business early on, announcing the hire of high school coaching legend Tim “Ice” Harris to lead the Lions along with a coaching staff consisting of former stars from Miami’s Booker T. Washington High School and other prep programs in the area.

Biggest Question

Can FMU live up to the hype of Harris leading the program this season? For all the success that Harris was able to have at BTW and his time as an assistant at the University of Miami, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the Lions are starting from scratch for the first time in over six decades - while trying to get this done in just over a year with a global pandemic in the background.

They will have little time for a learning curve with their opener on the road at the defending conference champs.

Biggest Game

October 10th vs. St. Thomas: With two of their first four games coming against reigning champs Keiser, there is going to be a need to get a motivational win in the inaugural season.

The Lions will get a chance to host the first meeting between the schools that sit just miles apart – and getting a win in the first meeting would be something not just for bragging rights, but maybe the first step toward a positive first step in year one.

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