Points? Where we're going we don't need points. This year's rivalry features two teams that look like an amalgam of the 2011 and 2012 teams, each featuring elite defenses and questionable offenses.
An unstoppable Cook v. an immovable run defense
The Florida Gators run defense is daunting, boasting the 3rd best run defense nationally per S&P+ and 6th nationally in simple YPC allowed this season at 3.18. The identity of that success is largely predicated by the Gator's ability to shut down opponents from consistently gaining yardage against them, boasting the 9th best opponent rushing success rate at a mere 33.1%. Even worse, the Gators stop run plays at or behind the line of scrimmage 26.2% of the time, good for 8th nationally. Florida State has had issues moving the ball with any regularity, they have the nation's 43rd best rushing success rate (44.7% of the time) and the Noles running plays get stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage 22.3% of the time, good for 101st nationally.
What's worse, once the Florida defense has teams off schedule, they tend to keep them there, allowing successful plays of any kind on passing downs a mere 19.8% of the time; their defensive S&P+ on passing downs moves up to 2nd nationally. A Florida State team that has struggled to drive the ball efficiently downfield using its run game is going to continue to do so against this Florida front seven.
There is a ray of hope for the FSU run offense though, and it is unsurprisingly the home run power of Dalvin Cook. Florida's opponent adjusted explosive run prevention is a much more pedestrian 69th nationally; they will be up against a Florida State team that is 3rd nationally in explosive running.
If you're looking for precedent against an elite run defense, FSU has already played two this year on the road. Against Boston College (2nd nationally in S&P+ run defense) Dalvin Cook had a forgettable 54 yards on 3.6ypc. Against Clemson (11th nationally in S&P+ run defense) Dalvin Cook had a Heisman-statement production of 194 yards on 9.24ypc. The polarity of these results could very well paint a picture of what an FSU win and an FSU loss in Gainesville might look like.
Can Florida State pass? Maybe, a little
Although it has taken many forms, Jimbo has found a way to keep the passing offense respectable, if never truly threatening, moving the ball successfully in the passing game 45.8% of the time (good for 21st nationally). This is one usual strength where Florida State will most likely struggle. The Florida defense has been able to keep opposing teams from passing the ball at a successful rate a soul-crushing 69.3% of the time, good for 4th nationally; and working in concert with that ability to stop a team's passing game, they have the nation's 4th best adjusted sack rate on passing plays. Going hand in hand with the way their run defense has been, it's easy to see the Gators are a well-oiled machine at blowing up their opponent's drives.
Think of the Gator's defense as a break-don't-bend that rarely breaks. If the Noles want to score it's going to come from big downfield passing and gashing runs; the Seminoles have to feel some encouragement that Maguire provides something rationally related to a downfield passing attack, and much more hopeful that Cook's uncanny ability to turn 7 yard gains into 40 yard gains is the only real exploitable element the Noles have to work with.
Florida offense? Not good!
Flip the possession around and a similar result is produced for very different reasons. The Florida rushing offense is quite poor in all facets, ranking only 96th in efficiency and 103rd as an explosive run threat, and there is no part of the FSU rushing defense deficiency the Gators can exploit; the Noles do not rank outside the top-45 in any major statistical category.
Despite what you may hear following any of the Gator's last three wins, Treon Harris has managed to post a not-terrible 62nd best passer rating in his five games as the starter... that said with the corollary that a 6-4 TD-INT ratio and failure to hit 60% completion percentage in any of those five games leaves much to be desired. Still, the strength of the Seminole's defense is undoubtedly the passing game, where they rank 13th nationally overall, and have proven particularly adept against passing efficiency, allowing successful passes a mere 33.2% of designed pass plays. The well-roundedness of this Seminole defense has been absolutely crucial to getting to 9 wins, and if it maintains form it's not hard to see the Noles keep the Florida offense frustrated throughout the game.
Pray we don't have to spend the second half catching up
Jimbo Fisher has a made a reputation for himself, specifically in 2014, for being a master of halftime adjustments. He'll have quite a task in front of him this weekend as Geoff Collins has done an extraordinary job with the Gator's second half defensive adjustments. UF's defensive S&P+ for the first and second quarters are a respectable 17th and 38th respectively, however in the 3rd quarter they are ranked 1st nationally by a considerable margin over 2nd place Alabama. Simply put, opposing offenses are worthless against the Gators in the 3rd quarter.
While the FSU defense has been quite good this year, that has mostly been in the first three quarters, where the Noles rank 9th, 43rd, and 11th in each respectively. FSU defense drops off dramatically in the 4th quarter to 70th nationally, making the idea of a close game in Gainesville a scary proposition.
Seriously, points will be precious.
In the off chance that either of these teams are able to move the ball down the field, there is still plenty of work left to be done. FSU and UF rank a stout 17th and 18th nationally in red zone touchdown defense, allowing opponents to turn a possession in the redzone into a touchdown 44.4% and 45.8% of the time respectively. FSU may end up settling for a good number of field goals Saturday, as they boast the 102nd best red zone scoring offense, turning just 53.7% of their drives that reach the red zone into touchdowns. Florida on the other hand may elect to not kick any field goals at all; the Gator's kicker Austin Hardin is kicking 45.5% on the season, good for 111th of 113 qualified kickers.
Oh, and If you weren't fully convinced this was going to be a low scoring game UF plays at the 104th in pace nationally, which still easily eclipses FSU's 120th overall pace. There is a very real chance neither of these teams breaks 60 offensive snaps.