November 24, 2017 - by
First and 10: Florida State at Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For the first time in 16 years, Florida State’s annual meeting with the Florida Gators won’t mark the end of the Seminoles’ regular season. But, as usual, there’s plenty of intrigue surrounding the 62nd meeting between the two rivals. Here are the names, numbers and notes you need to know before the Seminoles visit the Gators.

1. Game on

Florida State (4-6, 3-5 ACC) at Florida (4-6, 3-5 SEC)
When/Where: Saturday, noon/Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (91,916) in Gainesville, Fla.
TV/Radio: ESPN/Seminole IMG Radio Network/SiriusXM Ch. 80

2. Know Your Foe

Florida Gators
Coach: Randy Shannon (Interim coach, 1-2 in three games at UF; 29-24 overall)
Last game: The Gators shook off a five-game losing streak with a 36-7 victory over UAB last week. Three UF running backs ran for at least 75 yards, and kicker Eddy Pineiro became the first Gator kicker to make two 50-yard field goals in the same game.
Last game vs. Florida State: One week after becoming FSU’s all-time leading rusher, Dalvin Cook set the school mark for career rushing touchdowns during a 31-13 win over the Gators in Tallahassee last year. Cook’s 45th TD broke a record held by Greg Allen for 32 years. The win was FSU’s fourth straight over Florida, and sixth in seven seasons under coach Jimbo Fisher.
Florida vs. Florida State all-time: Florida leads the series 34-25-2, and is 20-11-1 in Gainesville. But FSU has won four straight and six of seven, and the Seminoles lead the series 23-19-1 since Bobby Bowden took over in 1976.

3. Storylines
  • The Seminoles and Gators each have a chance to gain some good vibes and positive momentum at the expense of the other. While the two teams are entering the game with identical 4-6 records, picking up a fifth win at the expense of the other would brighten up what have been otherwise trying campaigns.
  • For FSU, a win would fit into the Seminoles’ bigger-picture goals. With two games to play, FSU can still reach bowl eligibility with a win over the Gators and another against Louisiana-Monroe next week. Florida, meanwhile, can put an end to the Seminoles’ 35-year bowl streak and 40-year streak of winning seasons.
  • Speaking of streaks, the Seminoles can extend their run of dominance over the Gator to historic lengths. A win would give FSU its first ever five-game winning streak over UF, as well as four straight wins in Gainesville for the first time. The Seminoles’ current run of six wins in seven tries against the Gators is also their best in series history.
  • The game features a matchup of strength versus strength: Florida has one of the top kicker-punter combos in college football, while Florida State has been among the nation’s best at blocking kicks. UF punter Johnny Townsend is the second-leading punter in the country, averaging 48.5 yards per punt. And kicker Eddy Pineiro has made 15 straight field goals, and 28 of 29 since last season. The Seminoles, however, have blocked five kicks (three field goals, two punts), which includes a blocked field goal that Tarvarus McFadden returned 63 yards for a touchdown against Delaware State last week. Only Northern Illinois (six) has blocked more.
4. Ones To Watch

Florida: Big plays have been rare for the Florida offense, but receiver Tyrie Cleveland is UF’s best bet to stretch the field. The sophomore has caught 21 passes for 395 yards (18.8 YPC) and two scores, and is the only Gator receiver to catch more than one touchdown pass.

Hybrid defensive lineman CeCe Jefferson ought to give FSU’s offensive line another busy afternoon. He’s got team highs in sacks (four) and tackles for loss (10.5) while also registering 38 tackles.

Florida State: Two weeks removed from playing in a difficult environment at Clemson, freshman quarterback James Blackman will get another taste in his first visit to the Swamp. How well Blackman learned from that experience could go a long way in determining how much success the FSU offense has this week.

In keeping with the freshman theme, receiver/return specialist D.J. Matthews heads to Gainesville looking to build on a breakout performance against Delaware State. Matthews returned five punts for a total of 138 yards last week, and he took two returns for more than 40 yards.

First and 10: Florida State at Florida
5. Numbers To Know

Total offense: FSU: 340.3 YPG (109th nationally); UF: 341.5 YPG (108th)
Scoring offense:  FSU: 24.0 PPG (97th); UF: 22.1 PPG (108th)
Passing offense: FSU: 198.6 YPG (86th); UF: 179.1 YPG ( 102nd)
Rushing offense: FSU: 141.7 YPG (92nd); UF: 162.4 (69th)

Total defense: FSU: 346.4 YPG (30th); UF: 362.6 YPG (38th)
Scoring defense: FSU: 23.1 PPG (41st); UF: 26.2 PPG (63rd)
Passing defense: FSU: 196.6 YPG (32nd); UF: 202.1 YPG (36th)
Rushing defense: FSU: 149.8 YPG (47th); UF: 160.5 YPG (60th)

6. They Said It
  • “I grew up watching this game, and to play in it for the first time in the ‘The Swamp’ for me, it’s going to be very fun. … The atmosphere is amazing. They get their fans in there and they get loud. I’m looking forward to playing in it.” – FSU kicker Ricky Aguayo on the FSU-Florida rivalry”I remember we were 12-2 (in 2012) and lost to Florida that year and won an Orange Bowl and everyone was mad. We won the ACC. First ACC title they’ve had in over eight years and won an Orange Bowl that year and won 12 games for the first time. First New Year’s bowl in over 13 years. And people weren’t happy.” – Jimbo Fisher on how the Florida game shapes perception of a season
  • “These teams always challenge each other, no matter what. So no matter what the record is and what the talent level is on both sides of the football, it’s going to be a very hard, physical game that you want to be a part of.” – UF interim coach Randy Shannon, who also coached against FSU as Miami’s head coach from 2007-10.
  • “There’s not much to look forward to this season. We hear they have an opportunity at a bowl game, so we’re going to just spoil that.” – UF receiver Dre Massey
  • “I’m starting to feel myself. I’m starting to get a feel of getting comfortable like I was before the injury. I see a lot of plays on film that I’m making in practice and taking it to the field.” – FSU safety Derwin James on his recent run of strong play.
7. Nole Notes
  • Florida State is 17-2 against in-state opponents under Fisher. That includes a 6-1 mark against Florida.
  • FSU and Florida are meeting with sub-.500 records for the first time since 1959. That’s a span of 58 years and includes 59 games.
  • FSU is 9-2 against the Southeastern Conference under Fisher: Florida (6-1), South Carolina (1-0), Auburn (1-0), Mississippi (1-0), Alabama (0-1)
  • Florida hasn’t scored an offensive touchdown against FSU since the second quarter of the 2014 game in Tallahassee, a span of more than 10 quarters. The Gators scored via a fumble recovery last year, and scored only a safety in 2015.
  • In addition to their records this season, FSU and UF have almost identical records over the last three years. FSU is 23-11 since the start of the 2015 season, while UF is 22-11.
  • While the Gators have struggled overall, they have been much better at home. Their two home losses – to LSU and Texas A&M – came by a combined three points.
8. Watch And Learn

While Gator fans are celebrating the 20th anniversary of a certain game in this rivalry – the details of that one escape us, currently – here’s a happier memory for the Seminoles: Thirty years ago, in 1987, FSU arrived in Gainesville with a No. 3 ranking but also the weight of a six-game losing streak to the Gators.

Led by two touchdowns from Dayne Williams and three Derek Schmidt field goals, the Seminoles rallied from a 14-3 deficit and a big outing from UF freshman running back Emmitt Smith (20 carries, 100 yards) to top the Gators, 28-14, to snap their skid and pick up coach Bobby Bowden’s 100th victory as Florida State’s head coach.

The Seminoles went on to beat Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl and finish No. 2 in the nation – the first of 14 straight seasons of top-four finishes.

9. Further Reading
10. The Bottom Line

Call it a hunch, but the feeling here is that, despite the circumstances, FSU and Florida turn in a memorable game that comes down to the fourth quarter. The Seminoles have too much to play for – the history of a 35-year bowl streak and a 40-year winning-season streak – while the Gators will be extra motivated to be the ones who bring those streaks to an end.

This will also likely be the last game for UF interim coach Randy Shannon, who is popular in the locker room, especially among Gator defenders.

So if the Seminoles think they’ll find a downtrodden UF team ready to roll over, they’ll probably be in for a surprise.

That said, last week’s win over Delaware State seemed to light a spark under FSU. While DSU is hardly a juggernaut, it was the first time this season that the Seminoles played to their full potential – scoring from all over the field and exerting dominance in all three phases. That kind of performance can do a lot for a team’s confidence, particularly with a road game at a rival up next.

With the Seminoles riding that momentum and spurred by their place in program history, they’ll make just enough plays to pull out their fifth straight victory over the Gators.

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