After a tough mid-season stretch that sees the Seminoles play the likes of Miami, Louisville, Clemson and Georgia Tech in October and early November, FSU closes out the season with home games against NC State and Chattanooga before finishing their regular season with a visit to the Swamp to take on the Florida Gators. Here is a look at how FSU matches up with UF in history, a look back at the most recent matchup, and what factors for the Gators could influence the game one way or the other.
This year will mark the 60th time that the Seminoles and Gators have met on the gridiron and the 58th straight year in which they will meet in the regular season (The two extra games were postseason matchups in 1995 and 1997). Although Florida holds the lead in the matchup 34 to 23 with 2 ties, Florida State has won the last two matchups over the Gators as well as four of the last five by a combined margin of 139-77. Jimbo Fisher is 4-1 in his coaching career against UF with the lone loss coming in 2012.
Most recent matchup
Florida entered their 2014 matchup with the Seminoles with a 6-4 record and on a upswing that had seen them win three of their previous four games. FSU entered the 2014 matchup at 11-0 and one win away from their second straight undefeated regular season.
After 3 1st-quarter interceptions by Jameis Winston, Florida jumped out to an early 9-0 lead and held the ball at the FSU 9 yard line before Terrance Smith intercepted a deflected pass and returned it 94 yards for a momentous touchdown that amounted to a 14 point swing, cutting the UF lead to 9-7. From that point in the game forward, the momentum never fully swung back to the Gators.
A pair of TD passes from Winston to Nick O'Leary put Florida State up 21-9 in the second quarter and Florida's inability to finish drives combined with inconsistent kicking efforts doomed them in the end as the Seminoles completed back-to-back undefeated regular seasons for the first time in school history with a 24-19 win over the Gators.
Jameis Winston had what is likely the most forgettable game of his Florida State career, throwing for 125 yards, his career low, and four interceptions, his career high. Dalvin Cook carried the ball 24 times for 144 yards, averaging 6.0 yards per carry. UF's average starting field position was at their own 43 but they were unable to take advantage as they went 6-18 (33%) on third downs, totaled only 282 total yards, and missed field goal attempts from 42 and 52, both of which would have given them the lead at that time.
Florida Season Preview
From Bill Connelly's excellent SB Nation preview which you should absolutely read in full.
It's almost a good thing Florida's offense is starting from scratch, as it will keep expectations tamped down. But with this defense, the O needs only to be competent for UF to be an incredibly dangerous team. That was the case each of the last two years, but a new staff and new personnel represent opportunity.
Florida fans should expect a frustrating, encouraging fall. The Gators are just a few line injuries away from playing a ton of freshmen in the trenches, but if the lines remain semi-healthy, the Gators could be good enough to take down Ole Miss or Florida State at home or Missouri or South Carolina. They could also be inconsistent enough to lose to Kentucky on the road or Tennessee.
Bud's take: I get to talk to some good UF sources along the recruiting trail and pretty much in agreement with Connelly. The key is in the inconsistency -- Florida will almost certainly give games away due to the newness of its offensive scheme and the offensive line, but that doesn't mean they will give away every game. Anything from 6-6 to 8-4 seems reasonable. I'd be surprised if Florida misses a bowl or if it goes 9-3.
Will Grier bulking up to 215 pounds is good, because the line is absolutely the weakness of this team. If FCS transfer Mason Halter (all-star at that level) can play effectively, it will help the offensive line a lot. The drop off from the starters to the young reserves is apparently pretty steep. Martez Ivey bulking up to 300+ pounds is a big deal for Florida.
Offensively, expect to see a ton of attrition after the season with the receiving corps, with the Gators looking to sign five or six receivers in the class, as the vast majority of receivers coming back for UF in 2016 not named Powell or Callaway are not very good. They will be able to sell playing time. At TE, it should be McGee, who would have been a weapon for the Gators in 2014 had he not suffered an injury.
Expect Jordan Scarlett to pass Adam Lane and be the No. 2 for the Gators at RB immediately. I think Kelvin Taylor is pretty good.
Defensively, the secondary will continue to be insanely nasty. I don't know if the Gators will be quite as dominant up front. I'm interested to see how Florida compensates for the loss of Dante Fowler, and how it uses Jon Bullard, who can play end or tackle. Florida people have raved about Taven Bryan, and one told me he is the best defensive tackle on the team. I don't know what to think of the linebackers.
Florida State is currently favored by 2.5 points at the casinos that take such early bets, and I believe this line is too low. I'm not suggesting it should be double digits, because winning by double digits in the swamp against a defense of this caliber is a tough chore, but something closer to a touchdown than a field goal feels right to me.