Second and 13th at Florida State’s 32-yard line, Matt Jones rushes for a 32-yard touchdown to seal the game for the Florida Gators, allowing them to play in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Growing up as a fan, especially at a young age, I was blessed to watch Tim Tebow play in his last game in televised “The Swamp”, the Jeff Driskel era, Jameis Winston and Dalvin Cook leaving on the Gators years later , and then three straight victories over Florida State, starting in 2018. After watching this rivalry for over 10 years, I really learned how impressive this game is and how this is the game that is on the calendar for both teams state. Years of watching rough, gritty and intense football made me realize what a real rivalry looked like.
Statistical point of view
Statistically, the Florida Gators lead Florida State 37-26-2 in the all-time series. Currently on a three-game win streak, but Florida State is looking to break that streak on Friday. Florida State is a 9.5-point favorite, but as of this college football season, it doesn’t matter how many points you’re a favorite to win by. All that matters is which team wants it more. This season, the Gators have beaten only one ranked opponent and that was against Utah in week one. The Gators will face a team that averages fewer yardages than they do, but they are almost evenly matched when it comes to average passing yards, rushing yards and points scored per game. The Gators will face a much more confident Jordan Travis, who has thrown 21 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson has already whistled his shot for the game, currently Richardson is coming off a spectacular pass against Vanderbilt, but also a crushing loss. The theme for the Gators this year was Who’s Showing Up?
How to beat the state of Florida
Unlike Florida, Florida State has not won against a ranked opponent this season. Since week one against LSU, where it was a sloppy play by both teams, Florida State has come extremely far in terms of growth. In each of Florida State’s losses, the run attack had significant total distance, but each runback was held to less than 100 rushing yards. In some cases even less than 80. Stopping the run game will be key for Florida; however, the Gators allow an average of 171 rushing yards, which is 46 yards short of Florida State’s average per game. The Gators will have to widen that gap so that it forces Jordan Travis to throw the ball. The bad thing about forcing Travis to throw the ball is that with Travis’ unique style of play, he can be extremely deadly on the ground and through the air.
In the pocket, Travis has been able to adapt to the pressure, meaning he’s great against the blitz. On the other hand, Florida State doesn’t have a very good offensive line, and with a defensive front like the Gators, if they can panic Travis, they can force fouls. The key to playing Jordan Travis is not letting him find that deep ball. He has solid awareness and game recognition while in the pocket, but he can also take off, meaning the Gators will have to play more style when they faced Hendon Hooker. They can’t allow Travis to do what Hooker did to their defense. Dual-threat quarterbacks have been a challenge for the Gators, and if you keep Travis in check, they’ll win this game.
On the other side of the ball, the Gators’ offense has to be perfect in this game, with no mistakes. Currently, the Gators average 230 passing yards and 209 rushing yards. The Seminoles defense has averaged about 155 passing yards allowed and 138 rushing yards allowed. The Gators’ offense could prove a major challenge to the Seminoles’ defense. Whether it’s running or throwing Anthony Richardson will be the biggest factor because when he excels at both, the Gators usually win. Richardson will have to be in his A-game on Friday night, he can’t get sloppy, and he can’t let Florida State’s defense beat him mentally. Running the ball shouldn’t be a problem as Montrell Johnson Jr., Trevor Etienne and Richardson are capable of running all over the court regardless of who they’re up against. I imagine Johnson and Etienne will play a fantastic game as we’ve seen in the past over the years how hard the State of Florida has tried to stop Florida’s ongoing assault but failed.
The stakes are not as high for Florida as they are for the ranked state of Florida, but pride and bragging rights are always on the line. If the Gators clinch the win, their win would give it four consecutive wins against Florida State, and it would certainly be a bigger blow to FSU’s bowl game projections. A win would also give freshman head coach Billy Napier an argument for why he should stay head coach and why he’s the right fit. A rivalry match is always the best thing to watch, and I really think both teams will fight hard no matter what their records are. The Gators will have to be perfect both offensively and defensively to emerge victorious.