Fresh off a big win, Florida Gators football faces its in-state rival on Saturday as it looks to maintain some momentum ahead of the SEC Championship Game next week.. The Gators will have to accomplish that on the road against a team they have lost to in three straight meetings.
Here’s what you need to know and how you can watch Florida-Florida State.
Location: Doak Campbell Stadium – Tallahassee, Florida [Capacity: 79,560]
Weather: 55°F (feels like 55°F), 0 percent chance of rain, winds N at 3 mph
Time: 8:00 p.m. EST
TV: ABC (Joe Tessitore, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe)
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter
Tale of the tape
|No. 15 Florida Gators||No. 14 Florida State Seminoles|
|Head Coach||Jim McElwain||Jimbo Fisher|
Three things to know
1. Stop the chef: Florida State star running back Dalvin Cook has averaged 25 carries for 165 yards and a touchdown in two wins against Florida. He’s been a thorn in the Gators’ side since he decommitted from them on New Year’s Eve a couple years ago, and you can beat the folks in Gainesville, Florida, are happy this will likely be the last time they see Cook. With both of UF’s starting linebackers out for the game, along with its best-tackling safety, it’s going to be very difficult for the visitors to stop such a dynamic player who can easily break through all three levels of the defense. If the Gators can do that, they’ll have a chance on Saturday night.
2. Find some explosives: Florida is not going to be able to rely solely on its defense. FSU has scored 34 or more points in three of its last four games, and though the Gators should be able to slow down the Noles, they’ll still have to keep up somehow. The best way for Florida to expose Florida State is via explosive plays, which the visitors have not had many of this season. Either that or UF better plan on running the ball 30+ times to keep FSU off the field as long as possible.
3. Line play is key: The Gators’ young and injured offensive line will be in for a massive test going up against the Noles, which rank No. 1 nationally in sacks per game (3.73). As it turns out, Florida is No. 29 nationally and No. 2 in the SEC in fewest sacks allowed per game (1.50), though quick decision making and plenty of running plays certainly helps that statistic. If a line missing at least one but as many as three starters is not able to hold early, Florida State could have a field day defensively and ensure that UF gets held to a touchdown or less for the fifth time in the last seven meetings.
Pick and analysis
Spread: Florida +9 | O/U: 47.5
No matter how good Florida’s defense may be at full strength, it remains seriously hampered with five starters — including its three leading tacklers — out for the game. When going up against the best playmaker UF will face all season in Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, that’s a major problem. Though quarterback Deondre Francois has slowed down a bit as the season’s gone on — in large part due to bad pass protection, he’s still one of the best signal callers the Gators will face this season.
Couple all of that with a letdown spot between LSU and the SEC Championship Game and the fact that Florida’s offense has averaged 17.5 points per game over the last month, and I do not expect the Gators to win on Saturday. But will they cover? A touchdown is truly the perfect spread for the game as it could go either way. Considering Florida does not have the firepower to match Florida State, take FSU at 7 or less and UF if you get the hook or more, plus the under.
2016 records: ATS picks 4-6 | O/U picks 4-6
Injuries and absences
Questionable (1): OL Tyler Jordan (ankle), RB Mark Herndon (undisclosed)
Doubtful (1): OL Martez Ivey (leg)
Out (7): LB Jarrad Davis (ankle), DE Bryan Cox Jr. (ankle), C Cameron Dillard (knee), QB Luke Del Rio (shoulder), DL Justus Reed (undisclosed), DB Nick Washington (ankle), WR C.J. Worton (undisclosed)
Out for the season (5): LB Alex Anzalone (arm), S Marcus Maye (arm), WR Dre Massey (knee), OL Antonio Riles (knee), DB C.J. McWilliams (undisclosed)
» Florida is 34-24-2 all-time against Florida State, and it also holds a 13-2-1 mark over FSU in Tallahassee.
» After the Gators won six straight from 2004-09, the Seminoles have won five of the last six meetings, holding UF to seven points or fewer four times.
» Florida has not lost four straight games in the series since 1987-90.
» UF’s defense has been a hallmark of the program; the Gators are 212-11 since 1990 when an opponent scores 21 points or fewer in a contest, including 17-0 under McElwain.
» Also under McElwain, Florida is 16-1 against unranked opponents and 2-5 against ranked opponents. UF is 14-0 when outrushing an opponent, 16-2 when scoring first and 14-1 when leading at half.
» The Gators own the nation’s longest streak of returning either a kickoff or punt for a touchdown, doing so in 12 straight seasons.
» Florida has the second-most wins in the nation since 1990 (257).
Florida will wear white road jerseys, orange pants and classic orange helmets on Saturday. The team captains, which change weekly, are responsible for choosing the uniforms ahead of each game.