Time: Noon ET/ 11:00 a.m. CT
Venue: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL
Watch Online: WatchESPN
Spread: Seminoles are favored by 5 via Oddsshark
The Florida-Florida State Rivalry began in 1958 and the Gators currently hold a 34-25-2 edge in the overall series. The Seminoles are on a four-game winning streak in the series and a win would mark the longest winning streak over the Gators. This rivalry game always had national implications during the 90’s and 00’s, but has plateaued as both teams have not been championship contenders in the same season since 2012.
Yearly reminder: FSU and Florida played 12 times in the 90s. They were both ranked in the Top 10 for all 12 ... That’s just absurd.— Corey Clark/TDO.com (@Corey_Clark) November 20, 2017
This year’s match-up is the first since 1959 where neither team enters the game with a winning record. FSU is hoping to keep their 35-year streak of bowl eligibility alive by winning their final two games against Florida and Louisiana-Monroe. The Gators will recognize 20 Seniors before the game for the annual Senior Day.
The Gators will wear the alternate white helmets, orange tops and white bottoms.
The Seminoles have not released their uniform combination but are expected to wear the gold lids, white tops and classic gold pants.
News & Injuries
- The Gators will again be without offensive linemen TJ McCoy and Brett Heggie. Wide receiver Kadarius Toney and quarterback Malik Zaire are questionable. Defensive end Jachai Polite is expected to play after injuring his shoulder, but safety Jeawon Taylor will likely miss the game with an undisclosed injury. The Gators could be playing with 52 scholarship student-athletes Saturday.
- The Seminoles will be without utility offensive lineman Brett Ruble
- FSU Coaching Changes?
- Latest in UF’s search for new head coach
Florida State Seminoles (4-6)
The Seminoles come into this weekend behind true freshman quarterback James Blackman who has struggled after being thrown into the fire game one. He is completing less than 60% of his passes, has a 12-8 touchdown to interception ratio and a qbr of 42.7.
The passing game has only averaged 198 yards per game behind Blackman and are 73rd in the FBS in passing efficiency. Some of this can be put on the young quarterback (and injuries to receivers Auden Tate and George Campbell), but most can be put on FSU’s underachieving offensive line. Since Blackman took over, he has been sacked 27 times.
The bright spot for the Noles on offense is the emergence of 5-star freshman running back Cam Akers who has accounted for almost 800 yards behind shoddy offensive line play.
The Seminoles defense has not lived up to the preseason hype, but have played well enough to keep them in games. Led by do-it-all safety and consensus first-round pick Derwin James, the ‘Noles defense gives up 346 yards per game, good for 30th in FBS. The pass defense is as stout as always but the run defense has been suspect at times, giving up 149 yards per game.
Florida Gators (4-6)
As poorly as the Seminoles have been on offense, the Gators are even worse. After taking over for Malik Zaire at Missouri, it appears quarterback Feleipe Franks will be the starter for the last game of the season. The Gators only average 179 yards per game passing (no matter the quarterback) and the struggles are attributable to many factors.
The offensive line still cannot pass block, Franks continues to miss open reads and Doug Nussmeier has failed to develop a passing game around a talented young gunslinger. Receivers Brandon Powell and Tyrie Cleveland are reliable and can be playmakers, but the opportunities are rare.
Florida QB Feleipe Franks is completing less than 20% of his throws at 20+ yards downfield this season. pic.twitter.com/xwjyPPrKoO— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) November 22, 2017
The Florida running game had been a bright spot up until the UGA game where leading rusher Malik Davis was injured for the season. Lamical Perine is a powerful option with 8 rushing touchdowns on the season. The offensive line is much better run blocking and the little success the Gators have seen comes in the run game where Florida averages 162 yards per game between three backs. Freshman Adarius Lemons has seen more playing time since Davis’ injury and receiver Kadarius Toney brings the wildcat wrinkle when healthy.
The young Gator defense is extremely talented but inconsistent in spots and very thin at linebacker. Injuries at the position (and suspensions) have led to walk-ons and true freshmen failing to stop the run late in games. They give up 160 yards per game on the ground and are one of the poorest tackling teams in the SEC. Having Kylan Johnson back in the line up at linebackers should help the unit.
The Gators have talented pass-rushers and have 21 sacks on the season as a team. Interim Head Coach Randy Shannon’s hesitancy towards blitzing means the onus is on the defensive ends to get to the quarterback. Jabari Zuniga, Jachai Polite and Cece Jeffereson are fast enough to beat tackles outside and tackle Taven Bryan even has four sacks from the inside.
Both teams are decimated with injuries and have been forced to play freshmen in crucial spots throughout the season. Both offenses are abysmal and their struggles are quite similar. The Gators rank 108th in FBS in total offense (341 yards/game), just in front of the Seminoles at 109th. Florida State averages only 65 plays per game (119th) while the Gators average 67 (102nd), meaning this will probably be a two hour game with lots of punts and field goals.
If not for the rivalry aspect and the chance for the Gators to spoil FSU’s bowl hopes, this game would not have any hype. There are so many uncertainties surrounding both programs, it will be interesting to see which teams show up. If the FSU team that lost to BC and the UF team that lost to Missouri show up, we could see a clinic of disinterested, bad football. The Gators have played much better at home (two losses by three points combined) and the Noles have struggled away from Tallahassee. The Seminoles, while not healthy, are healthier than the Gators and depth may be an issue in a four quarter game where both teams plan to run the ball out of fear of passing. The Gators may have the edge in special teams with the 2nd best statistical punter in the country and a kicker who is 16-17 on the year.
I expect this game to be a struggle for both teams. Whichever team can stay out of passing situations and third downs may have a chance to move the ball against these young and depleted defenses. This game will come down to turnovers and the line of scrimmage (as most games do), because it is unlikely that the perimeter play-makers for either team will be able to get the ball.
The injuries to the UF offensive line lessen the Gators chances that they can rely on the run the entire game and may need to get creative to move the ball if the running game isn’t working early. I do think the Gators will end the 10 quarters of scoreless offensive football against FSU, but have no idea how that happens other than Lamical Perine or a fluke play. This game could be the battle between Perine and Akers and I am guessing that the better performer of the two will be on the winning team.
If the Gators can stop the run and get to Blackman early, they will have the opportunity to run the ball and slow the game. The same is true for the ‘Noles getting to Franks and stopping Perine and company. These two teams are so evenly matched in their strengths and deficiencies, I believe this game will come down to a late turnover or a big special teams play.
damn ESPN already dropped the FSU-UF hype video pic.twitter.com/zSxoNu1pmz— Perry Kostidakis (@perrykos) November 19, 2017
The game will trudge through three quarters before the Gators shoot themselves in the feet and give up a big play late and do not have enough offense to save the day (a la Texas A&M and LSU). FSU makes one less mistake than the Gators with the margin for error impossible to make up and the Gators lose to the ‘Noles for the fifth consecutive year making history in the Rivalry.
Hope is on the horizon after the disastrous seasons these two proud programs have had thus far and both fan-bases want this one something fierce to parlay into the future... whatever it may hold.