FLORIDA GATORS VS. FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
Time: 12:00 p.m. ET/1:00 p.m. CT
TV: ABC (Check your local listings)
Watch Online: ABC.go.com/watch-live
The Florida Gators are 8-3 in Dan Mullen’s first year as head coach. Although there’s been some bad losses, the season should be counted as a success so far. Doubling the win total and knocking off a top-10 LSU team all contribute. That could all mean nothing however, if the Gators don’t beat Florida State. FSU has won the last 5 matchups and have won most of them by a decisive margin. Florida is seeking to establish a foothold in the perennial power struggle of the state of Florida, but if they can’t beat the Seminoles it will become increasingly more difficult.
Florida State fans are used to excellence. They haven’t gotten it this season. The Seminoles are 5-6 going into rivalry week, having only won 3 conference games all season. Florida State owns the longest active bowl streaks in the NCAA at 36 consecutive bowl appearances. That streak is on the line in this game, as the Noles will fail to qualify for a bowl if they finish at 5-7.
Florida has a matchup advantage in most areas of the field, but Florida State has the ability to make things interesting. FSU’s offensive line has been one of the worst in the country all season, while Florida’s defensive line is one of the strongest units on the roster. Expect the combo of Jabari Zuniga and Jachai Polite to eat. FSU’s o-line woes have also seriously hurt the run game, which Florida should be able to defend.
FSU’s biggest strength is the speed and athleticism of their receivers, and Deondre Francois’ ability to throw the deep ball. The rare times that Francois is able to step up in the pocket, he can really sling it. Florida is thin in the secondary, so it is likely that FSU will attack them vertically all day long.
On the other side of the ball, Florida’s offense has actually been much better than FSU’s all season (I don’t believe these words as they’re typed). The offense is channeled through a dynamite rushing attack with Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett. Kadarius Toney also provides a dynamic spark as both a receiver and rusher. The skill position players aren’t the question; it’s the offensive line and the quarterback. The Gator line has played well lately, but it is matched up against a fierce FSU defensive line. Brian Burns is an elite talent himself, and he is capable of singlehandedly wrecking the Florida offense if they allow him to. Feleipe Franks will need to get the ball out quickly so that the Florida offensive line won’t be put in a terrible situation.
Florida should win the game, as they’ve been the better team all season. But this game is on the road for the Gators, and the Seminoles have still owned the matchup in the last few years. What this will likely come down to is coaching, and Florida wins that matchup. Dan Mullen understands the importance of this rivalry game. He’s been in it before as an offensive coordinator, now he’s a head coach. At the end of the day, that should shine through. Expect Florida to end their losing streak to the Seminoles, but don’t be surprised if it’s close. Very close.