Scanning back over the history of the FSU-Florida series, my gaze settles on 1980 as the best analog.
In 1980, the ‘Noles came into the rivalry game with one loss, ranked third in the country and still harboring faint hopes of a national title. The Gators were ranked 19th.
The game pitted two strong defenses.
Florida State featured the best defense to ever take the field in Tallahassee. Just in case you haven't read this article before, a few facts (followed by their 2012 statistical counterparts):
FSU gave up a total of 85 points, 7.7 per game (144, 13.1 per game)
The ‘Noles gave up 2 rushing touchdowns the entire season (6)
Opponents only attempted 11 FG, making just 4 (8 for 11)
Opponents made a total of 129 first downs - around 11 per game (146, 13.3 per game)
Opponent rushing average: 2.4 per play, 89.5 per game (2.3 per play, 70.6 per game - 2012 ahead!)
Opponents completed just 44 percent of passes and had a season QB rating of 82.8 (49.9 percent)
Total offense per game for opponents: 208.2 yards - 3.5 per play. (236 yards - 3.7 per play)
FSU was +23 in turnovers, recovering 22 fumbles and intercepting 18 passes (8 INT, 8 recovered fumbles, -2 TO margin)
Opponents were 33 percent on third down (25 percent on third down)
The Gators defense was no slouch - I can't find full season statistics, but basic math reveals that Gators had only given up 14 points per game.
The ‘Noles only loss was a one-point defeat on the road - at 10-9 heartbreaker in Miami decided with less than a minute to go when an FSU two-point conversion failed after a Rick Stockstill to Sam Childers TD pass.
Stockstill was a senior quarterback operating in the shadow of the Jimmy Jordan/Wally Woodham two-headed monster of 1979.
Florida had suffered three losses, all to rivals - LSU, Miami and the famous 27-21 "Lindsay Scott" defeat to Georgia. But this had been a huge turnaround year for the Charlie Pell-coached Gators - in 1979 Florida suffered through its infamous 0-10-1 campaign.
Florida State entered the game on a rare winning streak against the Gators, having won three in a row after only winning 2 games in the history of the series!
So, there is the backdrop for the game televised by ABC with Al Michaels and Ara Parseghian on the call.
Now, you don't have to rely on me for a description of this game, thanks to FSU YouTube legend "davidraider88" this game is available for your viewing pleasure right here.
But in case you don't have three hours to kill, FSU started very slowly - Lakeland High School's Wayne Peace led the Gators to a 13-3 halftime lead. FSU starting running back Sam Platt was injured and the ‘Noles offense never get untracked.
Florida State took the opening kickoff and something very interesting happened: Griffin, Ga., backup running back Ricky Williams ran a toss sweep. Then another. Then another. Then another. After four in a row netted two first downs, the Gators called timeout. So, the Noles ran it up the middle for another first down. The drive ended with a Stockstill TD pass to Hardis Johnson.
Meanwhile, the FSU D shut down the Gators for the rest of the game.
Florida had 228 yards of total offense in the first half.
In the second half: 29.
Keith Jones picked off two Peace passes and Bobby Butler added another. Butler shut down Chris Collinsworth (again) in the game - Collinsworth, who went 0-4 vs. FSU, probably still has bad dreams about No. 21.
Stockstill would hit Johnson on a second TD pass and FSU won 17-13.
Not a perfect parallel, of course, but looks like a similar defensive struggle could be in the offing.