You can throw the records out the window when Florida State and Florida get together. Following a thrilling 16-10 win over LSU, the SEC East champion Gators will be looking to snap a three-game skid to the Seminoles on Saturday night at Doak Campbell Stadium. For the FSU seniors, it will be the final contest in front of the Tallahassee crowd as they look to become the first in Seminole history to go 4-0 against both Miami and Florida.
No. 15 Florida State is coming off back-to-back blowout victories over Boston College and Syracuse and has won three straight overall to improve to 8-3. Last week, Dalvin Cook broke Warrick Dunn’s all-time rushing record at FSU and needs just one rushing touchdown to surpass Greg Allen as the school’s all-time leader in that category.
The 13th-ranked Gators have been lauded for their defense this season and it showed with a last-second, goal-line stop against LSU. Both of Florida’s losses this season have come away from Gainesville, and Tallahassee, particularly at night, is a tough place to play. The last victory for Florida in the series however, came at Doak Campbell Stadium in the form of a 37-26 win in 2012.
Florida at Florida State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 26 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Florida State – 7
Three Things to Watch
1. Quarterback Play
As with any big game, quarterback play will be a highly-scrutinized aspect. This week however, the bigger onus on the guys under center may be not to lose the game rather than win it.
For Florida, Austin Appleby has played well in the place of the injured Luke Del Rio. What he’ll be facing this week however, is a team that is among the nation’s leaders in interceptions led by FBS leader Tarvarus McFadden’s eight picks. With Appleby under center, the Gators have hit the big play with more regularity, but the senior needs to be patient and know when to take his shots. The Seminoles have been susceptible to giving up the big play, but this defense has gotten better as the season has moved along. As a road underdog, Appleby simply cannot afford to turn the ball over.
For Florida State, Deondre Francois has been stellar as a redshirt freshman. Mistakes have been few and far between and to get the win on Saturday, it will need to stay that way. The Seminoles look to have the advantage over Florida at the quarterback position, but turnovers can be the great neutralizer. Perhaps no team in the country takes better advantage of turnovers than the Gators. Florida has returned three interceptions for touchdowns this season.
2. The Battle in the Trenches
Points could be scarce on Saturday and the team that wins the battle up front should come out victorious in the end. Florida State’s offensive line has been a revolving door this season with six different lineups in 11 games, but running back Dalvin Cook has still managed to have another remarkable season with nearly 1,500 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Florida is stout up front with Caleb Brantley anchoring the middle. As a team, the Gators are giving up just 3.3 yards per carry, which ranks 13th nationally.
On the offensive side of the ball for Florida, the Gators are very young up front with three sophomores and a freshman starting on the offensive line. That unit will be facing a Seminoles defensive front that has the most sacks in the nation (41) and is led by senior DeMarcus Walker. FSU is coming off of an eight-sack performance against Syracuse and has been holding opponents to fewer than three yards per carry over the last six games.
3. Special Teams
If there is an area where Florida looks to have the advantage over Florida State, it might be in the kicking game. Ricky Aguayo and Logan Tyler have had solid freshman campaigns for FSU, but Florida’s Eddy Pineiro and Johnny Townsend have been better.
The Seminoles also have not done a good job in punt coverage this season, allowing a nation-worst 23.2 yards per return. Antonio Callaway is a dynamic returner who could find a way to get Florida a cheap score in this one. If FSU isn’t up to the task, it could be a huge difference-maker.
The Gators are a banged-up bunch with key starters Marcus Maye, Alex Alzalone and Jarrad Davis out among others. Getting up for Florida State however, won’t be difficult. Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway is a dynamic playmaker who must have an impact on this game for the Gators to have a chance. Defensively, Florida is one of the best units in the country, but the average rank of the offenses it has faced is in the 80s. The Gators also haven’t come close to playing a running back as good as a healthy Dalvin Cook. FSU also appears to have the edge at quarterback as well as the backing of the home crowd. That should be enough to make it four straight wins over its in-state rivals.