It has historically been a game with big-time implications, but this year’s Florida-Florida State game will have a significantly different flavor. Both teams are headed in completely different directions. Florida State (11-0) will be looking for its first undefeated regular season since 1999, which was the last time the Seminoles won a National Championship. At 4-7, the Florida Gators will finish with a losing record for the first time since 1979.
Florida is coming off easily the worst loss in program history, a 26-20 defeat at the hands of the Georgia Southern Eagles of the FCS. The Gators don’t have much to play for other than pride at this point. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Florida State is coming off of a blowout win over Idaho, winning 80-14. With a win this week and in the ACC Championship game on Dec. 7, the Seminoles can all but secure a spot in this season’s BCS National Championship game.
Saturday will be the 58th all-time meeting between the schools, with Florida leading the series 35-21-2, including a 37-26 win in Tallahassee last season. However, Florida State won the previous meeting in Gainesville, 21-7 in 2011.
Florida State’s offense, led by redshirt freshman and Heisman Trophy candidate Jameis Winston, has been playing at an extremely high level all season long.
The Seminoles wide receiving corp is as talented a group of playmakers as they come. Junior Rashad Greene (57 receptions, 889 yards, nine touchdowns), senior Kenny Shaw (47 receptions, 828 yards, five touchdowns) and sophomore Kelvin Benjamin (36 receptions, 626 yards, nine touchdowns) have all had breakthrough seasons for the Seminoles in 2013.
However, Florida’s defense is still elite, and its pass defense ranks among the best in the nation. Through 11 games, opposing quarterbacks are completing just 48.6 percent of their passes and the Gators have allowed just five passing touchdowns all year, the fewest in the country. It will be up to Florida’s talented trio of cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves III, Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson to try and limit the Seminoles’ passing game.
Offensively, it looks like Florida will yet again be without quarterback Tyler Murphy, meaning redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg should make his third consecutive start. Other than a couple of nice throws here and there, it has been a struggle for Mornhinweg.
To try and take some pressure off of Mornhinweg, and in being consistent with their game plan of late, the Gators should look to establish the run early. Florida is not going to score a whole lot of points, and its only chance against an explosive FSU offense, that averages 55.2 points per game, is to keep them off the field by dominating time of possession.
It’s a long shot. A win by the Gators would be nothing short of a miracle. But, if Florida can pull off the upset, ruining FSU’s perfect season and national title hopes in the process, it would help make up for what the Gator Nation has had to endure this season.
Kickoff is scheduled for noon and the game will air on ESPN.
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