When: Saturday, November 26, 2016
Where: Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Radio: Gator IMG Sports Network & Seminole IMG Sports Network
Odds: The ‘Noles are 7.5-point favorites, via OddsShark.
The No. 15 Florida Gators (8-2, 6-2) are coming off their biggest win of the season after last week’s triumph at LSU to clinch the SEC East. Now, the Gators head to Tallahassee to take on the No. 14 Florida State Seminoles (8-3, 5-3).
It’s been a disappointing season of sorts for ‘Noles. Losers of three conference games, FSU was eliminated from ACC title contention back in October after a loss to Clemson. Two of Florida State’s three losses have been at home in Tallahassee.
Led by freshman quarterback Deondre Francois, the ‘Noles have the nation’s No. 25 offense, averaging over 482 yards per game. As good as Francois has been at times, FSU’s offense goes through junior running back Dalvin Cook.
Cook, Florida State’s all-time leading rusher, is having another tremendous campaign. Cook has rushed for 1,467 yards and 17 touchdowns this fall and now has over 4,000 career rushing yards. Cook should be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
The Gators clinched the SEC East on the backs of another strong defensive outing. LSU had several chances inside the five-yard line to win the game last week, but the Gators held on in impressive fashion.
Austin Appleby will once again start at quarterback for the Gators. Appleby, who’s been in and out of the lineup due to injuries to starter Luke Del Rio, has won his last two starts. Appleby didn’t play particularly well last week, but he managed the offense efficiently and didn’t turn the ball over. To beat Florida State, the Gators need more from Appleby.
Wide receiver Antonio Callaway is Florida’s best weapon in the passing game. He’s caught 37 passes for 545 yards and two scores this season in a limited offense with quarterback issues. Callaway is a dangerous returner, too.
Cook versus Florida’s front seven will be where this game is won. Cook has gone over 100 yards in seven of his last eight games. Florida, meanwhile, has a good run defense. The Gators rank No. 20 against the run with opponents barely averaging over three yards per carry.
Florida leads the all-time series, 34-24-2, but the Seminoles have won the past three meetings and five of the previous six. The Gators won six in a row from 2004-09.
This is a special game for FSU’s senior class as it has the chance to go undefeated against the state of Florida’s other two flagship programs: Miami and Florida. Currently, the ‘Noles’ seniors are 7-0 against the Gators and the Hurricanes.
So, what happens?
Florida State has had its share of issues this season. Francois has put together a strong season, but it hasn’t always been easy. The 63-20 home loss to Louisville is one that will stick in Jimbo Fisher’s craw for a long time.
Despite FSU’s issues this season, Florida has yet to face a team as strong as the ‘Noles in 2016.
The Gators’ defense always gives them a chance. That’s why they’ll stay in this game. However, Cook will have another big game, rushing for well over 100 yards and a pair of scores and the Seminoles will win this one rather handily.
Prediction: Florida State 34, Florida 17