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Staff Predictions: Florida State Seminoles vs. Florida Gators

The 5th-ranked Florida State Seminoles are on the road in Gainesville, looking to finish season undefeated vs. Gators

Peyton Baker/Tomahawk Nation

The 5th-ranked Florida State Seminoles are traveling to Gainesville to face the unranked Florida Gators (5-6, 3-5 SEC) Saturday night in the Swamp. The annual rivalry game is being televised nationally on ESPN with the kickoff scheduled for 7:00 p.m.

This will be the 67th meeting between the two programs in a series that dates back to 1958, with the Gators owning a 37-27-2 lead. Florida has won three of the last four meetings in the series including two straight victories vs. FSU in The Swamp.

Both teams have enjoyed significant winning streaks in the series in recent memory. Florida claimed six-straight over FSU from 2004-09, while the Seminoles won five-straight vs. the Gators from 2013-17, and the Noles have won eight of the last 12 matchups.

Across 15 meetings dating back to 2007, only three games in the Seminole-Gator series have been decided by single-digit points, including each of the last two (2022, 2021, 2014). Except for those 3 years, the winning margin by the winner has been by double digits.

Florida State (11-0, 8-0 ACC) is one of just six undefeated teams remaining in FBS, and enter the game with the nation's 3rd-longest active win streak at 17 games.

The Seminoles will be attempting to finish the regular season undefeated for the first time since 2014, and impress the committee for a better ranking in the College Football Playoffs. FSU has already finished their ACC season (8-0) and clinched a spot in the 2023 ACC Football Championship game for the sixth time, and the first since 2014

The Gators are looking to salvage their season by achieving a .500 season record, avoid a second straight season with a losing record, and to become bowl eligible.

The Seminoles are ranked in the top 20 in both red zone offense (17th, 91.3 percent), and red zone defense (16th, 75.0 percent), one of just five teams in all of FBS. FSU’s offense leads the nation in fewest turnovers (5), 2nd in interceptions thrown (2), 6th in touchdowns scored (57), 17th in red zone offense (91.3%), and 17th in passing efficiency (160.43).

Florida ranks 19th in the FBS with a 91.1 percent red zone conversion rate. The Gators have converted on 39-of-41 trips to the red zone across their last 10 games. QB Graham Mertz leads the SEC with a 72.9 completion percentage entering Week 13, and ranks fifth in the FBS.

Last week, while scrambling during an unsuccessful attempt to pull off an upset against the Missouri Tigers, Mertz broke his collarbone and was replaced by Max Brown. Brown completed 4-for-5 for 56 yards and rushed 7 times for 42 yards against the Tigers. On the year, he has completed 10-of-12 passes for 106 yards in mop up duty.

The Gators leading rusher Montrell Johnson Jr., has gained 710 yards on 134 carries and 4 touchdowns. Johnson is backed up by Trevor Etienne who has been coming on strong as of late. Another name you will hear quite a bit during the game will be that of wide receiver Ricky Pearsall, who leads the team with 64 receptions for 948 yards and 4 touchdowns.

The Gator offense will be facing a Florida State pass defense which is one of the nation’s best, leading the country in opponent completion percentage of 47.2%, and pass breakups (65). FSU’s defense also ranks 2nd nationally in total passes defended (73), 5th in fewest passing touchdowns allowed (8), and 5th in opponent passing efficiency (100.87). The Seminoles (47.2%) are the only team in the nation forcing more incompletions than completions allowed.

Florida State has held every opponent they’ve played this season to less than 30 points scored, which makes the Noles one of only six teams to not allow a 30-point game this season in the FBS. The last time Florida State held at least nine straight opponents to fewer than 30 points was a 12-game streak in 2015.

For the first time this season, FSU QB Jordan Travis will not start under center for the Seminoles. Travis suffered a season ending leg injury last week against North Alabama paving the way for Tate Rodemaker to get the 2nd start of his career for FSU. Rodemaker’s only other start of his career was against Jacksonville State in the Covid shortened 2020 season.

A) Read what your TOMAHAWK NATION PROGNOSTICATORS think about this Saturday’s showdown.

2) Then look over and digest all of the FREE PREGAME CONTENT we’ve posted below.

D) We would love to hear your thoughts about how you feel about this game and your final score prediction in the comments.

  • NoleThruandThru (Season record: 11-0)

Between the inspiration Jordan Travis has provided and the passion of this rivalry, I see no reason why FSU shouldn’t come out with a fire in its belly. The key will be to channel that emotion into discipline instead of penalties. In a battle of the backup quarterbacks, Max gives FSU fits on the ground but Tate takes it late.

FSU 27, Florida 20

  • Jon Marchant (Season record: 11-0)

There’s so much riding on this game that I’m insanely nervous.

Even without Jordan Travis I think FSU has the advantage in this game and matches up well against the Gators. UF gives up quite a few explosive plays and Tate Rodemaker likes running shot plays. UF will be forced to run a lot with their starting QB also out, and FSU has a very good defensive front that should have relatively fresh legs due to the insane rotation Norvell has insisted on this year.

On the other side, Ricky Pearsall scares me. Trevor Etienne is a good player. Gators backup QB Max Brown is a very quick athlete but appears to still be raw as a passer.

Princely Umanmielen is a very good pass rusher and could cause FSUs OL a lot of problems. Can FSU protect Tate and open up rushing lanes? Or will the Gators stuff runs and force Tate into some turnovers? I’ve got my heartburn meds ready to go but I have to think Noles find a way to finish.

FSU 27, UF 23

  • LastNoleOfKrypton (11-0)

Tate Rodemaker needs our help; not really but he will need the help of his elite set of skill players in Keon Coleman, Johnny Wilson, Jaheim Bell, and Trey Benson. Florida’s defense struggles with explosive plays and consistently getting to the quarterback. There will be opportunities for FSU down the field. I expect Mike to do a lot to help the offensive line now that quick, twitch ability of Jordan Travis is no longer factored into pass protection. Play-action, quick throws, and easy reads for Tate early.

On defense Florida has two really good playmakers at wide receiver in Ricky Pearsall and Eugene Wilson. They also have two good running backs in Trevor Etienne and Montrell Johnson Jr. If FSU’s front seven doesn’t control the game then Florida will have the ability to move the ball down the field; luckily for FSU I do think they will be able to control the game up-front. UF’s offensive line is not as good as it was last year and now they could very easily be down both starting tackles; advantage FSU.

It’s going to be a raucous environment but I expect Mike Norvell to be in his bag on Saturday night as the 2023 ‘Noles become the fourth team in program history to go 12-0.

FSU 31, UF 20

  • FrankDNole (Season record: 12-0)

I would not be surprised if this is still a close game going into the 4th quarter. Talent wise, the gators and the Noles are about equal, so I wouldn’t count on either team successfully bullying the other.

On offense, we need to run the ball better than we have all season. I feel Tate is just as good/better than Mertz. Maybe Billy will want to shock the world and make a statement by starting the freshman Brown at QB.

The Noles will keep their current win streak against the gators intact and by the end of the day will have doubled the number of wins in a row.

FSU Seminoles 37, Hogsville Jort Wearers 27

  • Jordan Silversmith (Season Record: 10-1)

Anything can happen Saturday night.

The backup bowl should be one for the books. The swamp will be on fire a few hours from now, and with both teams having postseason success hinging on this game, the stakes are sky-high.

I think the keys to the game for both sides should be similar. Florida State and Florida want to run the ball. Florida State needs to stay two-dimensional to allow for the full Mike Norvell offense. If they are able to pick up yards on the ground and force the Florida safeties into the box, even I can throw the ball to Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson while feeling confident in the process. On the Florida side, running the ball is what they do. The 1-2 punch of Montrell Johnson JR. and Trevor Etienne ensures neither wears out and produces explosive plays for 60 minutes. If they can shorten the game and allow fewer possessions for Tate Rodemaker to develop a rhythm, the Gators will hang tough in this one. On the defensive side, whichever pass rush can speed up the clock of the opposing quarterback will be in the best position to win this game. Rodemaker can make every throw, but he processes the field slower than Jordan Travis. If UF puts the heat on the Georgia product, some of his turnover-prone tendencies may rear their ugly head. On the Florida State side, I imagine they will treat this game similar to how they played Emory Williams in the second half. Bring the safeties down, bring the house, and bring the blitz. Adam Fuller, all season has had no problem dialing up pressure, and I expect more of the same here. FSU wants to initiate the fight, and I predict a defense flying all over the field.

At the end of the day, Florida State should pull this one out. All year, FSU found ways to win while the Gators found ways to lose. The lack of defensive production for Florida in the last month makes me believe the Seminoles should be able to move the ball and settle Tate into this game. The elements of this game, plus UF needing a win to stay bowl-eligible, means that it will be a 60-minute fight. However, FSU has to many talented players on both sides of the ball to lose to a backup QB. Win, but no cover.

Florida State 28 Florida 24

  • Evenflow58 (Season record: 11-0)

This game is going to be decided by the quaterbacks and the would seem to be little doubt about that. Florida is going to try and run the ball into the ground but FSU had a pretty good run defense. FSU would like to do the ame but the FSU OL is pretty bad at run blocking. Luckily for them the UF secondary is pretty bad. I think Tate Rodemaker is good enough to handle UF and make them pay for stacking the box. That is being said with a healthy level of hope to go along with that belief.

  • Florida State 33 UF 21

  • Matt Minnick (Season record: 10-0, ATS: 6-4)

No Jordan Travis, no problem for the Seminoles. The FSU defense gives up a couple of big plays early due to overaggressive angles of pursuit on Gator QB Max Brown, but Tate keeps getting the ball to the ‘Noles playmakers in space and eventually the dam starts to break. Strong halftime adjustments for the defense lead to a third quarter clampdown and FSU leads for the last 25 minutes of the game to complete the 7th undefeated and untied regular season in school history.

  • FSU 34 UF 23

  • Perry Kostidakis (Season record: 11-0)

This is the sort of game on paper that makes college football great — one team looking to solidify a perfect regular season, the other hoping to earn bowl eligibility, both fielding backup quarterbacks in a rivalry matchup that has had no love lost over the years.

One would assume the loss of Jordan Travis would neutralize the explosiveness of Florida State’s offense, but you only have to look back to how Tate Rodemaker performed against Louisville and his utilization of Johnny Wilson to negate that worry. Yes, the chance of the moment being too big for the redshirt junior is possible, especially seeing how he got flustered in his early appearances for the Seminoles, but there are not many bigger moments than replacing a potential Heisman Trophy candidate down 13-0 and not many more hostile environments than Louisville at night.

Florida’s defense should also allow Rodemaker the chance to get grooving — Just three times this season (vs. Utah, Tennessee and Vanderbilt) has an opponent not put up at least 30 points. Florida is particularly susceptible in the passing game, where they’re allowing 14.3 yards per completion (No. 127) and have given up an FBS-worst 20 passing plays of 40-plus yards. Overall, the Gators rank dead last in the country for 30-plus yard plays allowed (and 40-plus and 50-plus and 70-plus and 80-plus) against Power 5 competition, are No. 118 in opponent yards per play (7.2) and No. 95 in opponent yards per game (448.9).

The Gators’ offense does have the potential to rack up yards and points — they’ve managed to keep things decently close in shootouts these last three weeks before either self-inflicted wounds or an inability to stop Jayden Daniels shut down any hopes of comebacks. Redshirt freshman quarterback Max Brown did decent in his first major action, fumbling but also leading two scoring drives to almost steal a win against Missouri.

The hope heading into Saturday night is that after a major shock to the system resetting the need to execute at a high level, Florida State is able to withstand any shenanigans and weirdness that we’re sure to see play out (it is a FSU-UF, after all). UF’s offensive line is exploitable (30 sacks allowed vs. FBS competition this season) and its defense swiss cheese — give me a game full of fireworks and highlights, but relatively devoid of drama as Florida State shoots out to a two-score lead and stay ahead by that margin for the bulk of the game.

Florida State 38, Florida 28

Florida State Seminoles vs. Florida Gators

Pre-Game Coverage from Tomahawk Nation