No. 12 Florida Gators football concludes the regular season Saturday against its biggest in-state rival, the No. 13 Florida State Seminoles.
Here’s a look ahead at the game: what to know and how to watch Florida-Florida State.
Event: Sunshine Showdown / Senior Night
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather: 65°F, cloudy (5% chance of rain), winds NE at 8 mph
Time: 7:30 p.m. EST
TV: ESPN (Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham, Dr. Jerry Punch)
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter
Tale of the tape
|No. 12 Florida Gators||No. 13 Florida State Seminoles|
|Head Coach: Jim McElwain||Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher|
|Record: 10-1||Record: 9-2|
|Conference: Southeastern||Conference: Atlantic Coast|
Spread: Florida +3 | O/U: 43
Florida is a home underdog for the second time this season as it hosts rival Florida State in The Swamp. A 10-1 Gators team being in such a position is almost unthinkable, but so is the way UF has played as of late.
There are plenty of factors that can determine the outcome of this game, including Seminoles star rusher Dalvin Cook, but in the end this will all come down to how Gators quarterback Treon Harris and the defense play. Cook has been explosive for Florida State, but against good rushing defenses he has simply not been nearly as effective. In other words, it’s possible for Florida to bottle him up defensively if it plays up to par.
So with Cook likely to be somewhat managed, the primary question that remains is whether Harris can be capable enough offensively to help the Gators put some points on the board. With McElwain fed up with Florida’s offensive output, one has to believe the offensive gameplan will rely more on Harris’ athleticism than his arm for a change. Fisher is likely to be prepared for some tweaks and tricks, but it may very well be enough to get the job done. The biggest concern for UF should actually be FSU kicker Roberto Aguayo, who gives the visitors a clear advantage as a point-scoring behemoth on special teams.
But despite being prepared to pick the Noles and the points, the drastic movement of the line coupled with the fact that one can get the Gators and their defense plus a field goal at home for a night game in one of the toughest environments in college football makes taking Florida a no-brainer. Oh, and this looks to go under the total … just barely. Whether UF actually wins and continues its magical season, well that just remains to be seen.
ATS picks: 9-1-1 | O/U picks: 7-4
Injuries and absences
» Probable (4): Linebacker Antonio Morrison (abdomen), defensive tackle Caleb Brantley (groin, abdomen), offensive lineman David Sharpe (foot), wide receiver Brandon Powell (foot)
» Questionable (5): DT Joey Ivie (knee), defensive end Jordan Sherit (hamstring), OL Cameron Dillard (leg), OL Martez Ivey (shoulder), DT Thomas Holley (hip)
» Doubtful (3): DT Jonathan Bullard (knee), DE Alex McCalister (foot), DT Taven Bryan (foot)
» Out (3): WR Demarcus Robinson (suspension), LB Alex Anzalone (shoulder), quarterback Will Grier (suspension)
This injury report only accounts for players that have seen significant action in 2015.
True seniors: Though few in number, these Gators made tremendous contributions to the program during their time in Gainesville. Not only did defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard stay around for a fourth year, he’s become the best player on a team that sorely needed talent and leadership in a transition year under McElwain. Similarly, linebacker Antonio Morrison has set a tremendous example for younger Florida players by how hard he fought back from his knee injury and how he’s prioritized football after numerous off-field problems earlier in his career. Defensive back Brian Poole has steadily improved his play over four years and gone from being a potential NFL player to sure-fire draft selection.
The only other scholarship true senior playing his final home game is wide receiver Latroy Pittman Jr., who never truly panned out for the Gators but also never gave up on the team. Walk-ons include tight end Bair Diamond, wide receiver Roger Dixon, LB LeAndre Rembert and kicker Dallas Stubbs, who rejoined the team during the season as an injury replacement.
Redshirt seniors: Offensive lineman Trip Thurman decided to return to football rather than end his career despite a torn labrum causing him to go through a major rehabilitation process in the offseason. “I just couldn’t let my team down. I love this team, and I love football. I didn’t want to miss out on my senior year, missing out with these guys,” he said this week. Thurman is one reason why Florida’s line has had hits moments this season as opposed to being a unit in even worse shape. “Him coming back is something. He’s playing beat up. He’s not I’m sure what he was when he first was here, but having that body, that presence has been – there’s another guy that [you look up to],” McElwain said. “What he’s given to the Gators, he’s gonna feel for years to come. I’m sure glad he chose to come back. … We need a little bit more energy out of that group; he’ll provide it.” Joining Thurman in his last game is WR Valdez Showers, who like Pittman stood by the Gators and has been an assert on special teams.
Jake McGee (Virginia) leads a long group of graduate transfers who joined Florida within the last two years; the tight end is the most successful, of course, and has been huge for the Gators’ offense in its first year under McElwain. “There’s a lot that can be taken for granted when you’re young,” said McGee when asked how the team will move on next year. “It’s something that the guys that had been here from the beginning have been through a lot of the ups and downs. Me individually, I’ve had ups and downs. You can’t let the good moments get to high and the bad moments get too low. You have to embrace each day as it comes. … This year there’s been a lot of good stuff. As young players, you can hold the bar up there, but you can’t take these moments for granted and let them slip away.”
But he’s certainly not the only one who has played an important role for Florida as OL Mason Halter (Fordham) gave the Gators a starter up front, LB Anthony Harrell (Georgia Tech) provided insurance in the defensive front seven, and quarterback Josh Grady (Vanderbilt) has been a veteran voice and safety valve behind Harris. Also on the field for the last time will be walk-ons WR Evan Schroeder and lineman Dakota Wilson.
The team captains, which change weekly, are solely responsible for choosing the uniforms ahead of each game.
» Florida is 34-23-2 all-time against Florida State with a 20-10-1 record in Gainesville. The Gators have not beaten the Seminoles in The Swamp since 2009, but UF still holds a 6-4 record against FSU in the teams’ last 10 meetings.
» The Gators enter Saturday’s game struggling offensively; the Noles have held them to exactly seven points in three of the last five meetings dating back to 2010.
» Florida swept the SEC East and will play in the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2009. It is UF’s 11th division win since 1992.
» This is the sixth season that the Gators have started 6-0 dating back to 1995. UF finished the previous five seasons with at least 11 wins.
» McElwain is the first coach in Florida history to win 10 total games or seven SEC games in his first season with the program; he’s accomplished both feats.
» McElwain is the first UF coach since Galen Hall (1984) to win the first six games of his career at the school. He’s also the third coach in SEC history to advance to the SEC title game in his first season.
» Florida returned to the top 10 of the AP Top 25 for the first time since the 2013 preseason and was placed in the College Football Playoff Rankings for the first time since its inception in 2014.
» The Gators’ defense has been a hallmark of the program; it is 203-11 since 1990 when an opponent scores 21 points or fewer in a contest.
» UF is currently ranked No. 3 nationally in scoring defense, No. 6 in total defense and No. 8 in both rush and pass defense.
» Florida’s turnover margin of +10 is first in the SEC and 12th nationally.
» The Gators own the nation’s longest streak of returning either a kickoff or punt for a touchdown, doing so in 11 straight seasons, including 2015.
» Florida is one of only four teams nationally to play three or more consecutive games away from home in 2015 (Arkansas, Arkansas State, Louisiana-Monroe).
» UF has the second-most wins in the nation since 1990 (249, Ohio State – 256).
Senior Day, this one will be just as special as the last one! Running into the Swamp one last time as a Gator. Love the #GatorNation 🐊
— Mason Halter (@MasonisOHIO) November 28, 2015
— Jon Halapio (@Jhalapio67) November 28, 2015
— BrandonSpikes55 (@brandonspikes55) November 28, 2015
— BrandonSpikes55 (@brandonspikes55) November 28, 2015
— Max Garcia (@MGarcia_76) November 28, 2015