SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Thanksgiving is just days away and, at Florida State, that carries far bigger implications than turkey and mashed potatoes: It’s officially Florida week.
The No. 15 Seminoles and No. 13 Gators will meet for the 61st time on Saturday, and they’ll play under the lights at Doak Campbell Stadium for the first time since a night game in 2004.
Kickoff is at 8 p.m., and ABC will show the game to a national audience.
“It’s Florida. It’s time to go,” junior running back Dalvin Cook said just moments after FSU beat Syracuse on Saturday. “We could play that (game) tomorrow. … Everybody knows it’s the game you (mark) the calendar for. If we can’t get pumped up for this week, we’re at the wrong university.”
That ought not be a problem.
The Seminoles have been exceptional against UF since coach Jimbo Fisher took over in 2010, owning a 6-1 record against their rivals from Gainesville.
And, as usual, stakes are high for this year’s meeting.
Florida State is 8-3 after beating Syracuse and looking to potentially secure a fifth straight appearance in a BCS/New Year’s Six bowl game.
Most projections have the Seminoles spending the postseason in either Jacksonville or Orlando, but at least one national writer – Ralph Russo of the Associated Press – has FSU pegged for a trip to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas.
That, of course, assumes an FSU win over the Gators, who improved to 9-2 with a win at LSU on Saturday and will play No. 1 Alabama in next week’s Southeastern Conference Championship Game.
Even with two losses, wins over the Seminoles and Crimson Tide would vault UF into serious contention for a College Football Playoff appearance.
So each has plenty to gain at the other’s expense. Not to mention the usual annual bragging rights.
“This is one of the reasons you come to Florida State: to play the Florida Gators,” Fisher said. “They’re a heck of a football team. I believe they had a great win (against LSU), so we’re going to be ready to play when they come in.
“It’s Florida-Florida State, two really good teams. We’ve got to be ready to rock and roll.”
The rivalry has brought out the best in several key Seminoles.
Cook has amassed 327 rushing yards and two touchdowns in two games against the Gators, while averaging 6.4 yards per carry.
And senior defensive end DeMarcus Walker had one of the finest games of his career last year in Gainesville – nine tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal that held the Gators’ offense off the scoreboard in a 27-2 FSU victory.
“I’m very excited,” said Walker, a Jacksonville native who grew up in the thick of the rivalry. “You all know how I feel about Florida.”
Other Seminoles, like quarterback Deondre Francois, will get their first taste of the FSU-UF series.
After growing up in Orlando and then starring at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Francois garnered attention from several major college football programs – including FSU and Florida – before settling on the Seminoles.
“It should be fun,” Francois said. “That’s why you come to Florida State – to play in a big rivalry like this. I can’t wait.”