Gators look to snap five-game skid to Seminoles
Dan Mullen of Florida and Willie Taggart of Florida State will get their first taste of one of college football’s greatest rivalries as head coaches on Saturday as the Gators make their way north to take on the Seminoles. FSU has won five straight in the series, but Florida is a road favorite for Saturday.
FSU will need to win to get to 6-6 and become bowl eligible for a 37th season in a row. The Gators are holding out hope for a New Year’s bowl, but that won’t be possible unless they’re able to snap the five-game skid to their most bitter rivals on Saturday. Only one of the five contests during FSU’s winning streak over Florida has been decided by fewer than 16 points.
FSU is coming off a thrilling 22-21 victory over Boston College, while the Gators drubbed FCS opponent Idaho on Senior Day, 63-10. Florida State got the better of Florida last season with a 38-22 win in Gainesville. The Seminoles prevailed 31-13 in the last meeting in Tallahassee two years ago. The last Florida win in the series did come at Doak Campbell Stadium in 2012 by a 37-26 score. The five-game winning streak is the longest ever for FSU over the Gators.
Florida at Florida State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 24 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Florida -5
Three Things to Watch
1. Quarterback play
Over the last several years in the rivalry, quarterback play has hardly been a thing of beauty. This season, FSU has asked more of Deondre Francois than Florida has of Feleipe Franks. It’s been an up-and-down season for Francois, but he has managed to come through late in games for the Seminoles with game-winning drives against Samford, Louisville and most recently, Boston College. Francois has gotten off to some rough starts in recent weeks and has fallen out of favor with a large portion of the fan base, but he will have a chance to join the likes of Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke and Jameis Winston as FSU quarterbacks to win their first two starts against rival Florida.
In the case of Franks, he’ll be tasked with not losing the game, rather than having to win it. Franks was a disaster in last season’s 38-22 loss to FSU, accounting for four turnovers, including two that went the other way for Florida State touchdowns. That number would have been three had it not been for a premature celebration by linebacker Matthew Thomas on an apparent interception return for touchdown. In 2018, Franks has managed to limit his turnovers, but in losses this season, the redshirt sophomore is completing just 48 percent of his passes while averaging 140 yards passing.
Whether it be Warrick Dunn, Fred Taylor, Jacquez Green, Tim Tebow, Charlie Ward, Peter Warrick or more recently, Dalvin Cook and DeMarcus Walker, big-time players have always found a way to come up big in this annual rivalry game. Although neither offense qualifies as a juggernaut, there will be plenty of talent on the field on Saturday. For Florida, the Gators feature a deep stable of backs and receivers. Jordan Scarlett has been the focal point of the ground game for Florida this season, while Kadarius Toney does a little bit of everything and Freddie Swain is the deep threat.
On the opposite side of the field, FSU redshirt freshman Tamorrion Terry leads the ACC in yards per reception and is tied for the conference lead in touchdown grabs with eight. Cam Akers, a sophomore, is one of the nation’s more talented running backs but has been bottled up most of the season. Akers rushed for a season-high 110 yards and a touchdown last week against Boston College on just 14 carries.
There’s so much to dissect for this week’s Florida-Florida State matchup that goes beyond the field. For instance, Florida State is looking to preserve streaks of 36 straight bowl appearances, 41 straight winning seasons and six straight wins over its arch rivals. This FSU team doesn’t want to be the team that allows all of the aforementioned streaks to end. Florida, on the other hand, is looking to get its first win over the Seminoles since Barack Obama's first term.
Both teams are also led by first-year head coaches in Mullen and Taggart. A victory on Saturday would go a long way in achieving Sunshine State supremacy. Untimely turnovers, miscues, crowd noise and big plays on special teams could all be game-changers in Saturday’s contest. While this one may not have the national implications that the contests of the 1990s did, there will be nerves aplenty.
With so much on the line for Florida State, expect a solid effort from the get-go from the Seminoles. After getting embarrassed three weeks in a row, FSU got a huge emotional win last week over Boston College — its first against a ranked foe in nearly two years. With newfound confidence and the home crowd, FSU appears to like its chances on Saturday. With that said, Florida comes in with the better record, better running game and more consistent defense. The Gators have also been a more disciplined team and tends to shoot itself in the foot less often than the Seminoles. That could be a significant factor on Saturday.
Prediction: Florida 24, Florida State 21