For the first time in ages, Florida-FSU means something.
The 1990s Florida Gators-Florida State Seminoles annual tussle always left the believers with a stat for the detractors.
Every year, from 1990 through 2000, the Gators and Seminoles were each ranked in the Top Ten. Not even Texas and Oklahoma or LSU and Florida, the two most important football rivalries of the 2000s, can make such a claim.
Add a new stat: the rivalry's back.
No. 4 Florida will visit No. 10 Florida State in a matchup that harks back to the Bobby Bowden-Steve Spurrier days. One of the teams—Florida—even has faint national title hopes, should any of the three teams in front of them fall.
As Miami continues to flounder, it's a win for college football to have these two programs back to being contenders.
There's only one stat left that matters: who will win?
E.J. Manuel might beat the Gators three times in a row.
Quarterback E.J. Manuel has become a precision passer.
He is also motivated to win his home finale.
This has been a banner season for the veteran Seminole starter: He completed 68.8 percent of his throws, and has 21 passing touchdowns compared to just six picks.
Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel is not only a young buck, but is also returning from an ankle injury. He's been out for two weeks, and while sophomore Jacoby Brissett is a backup, he has yet to commit a turnover (he also lacks Driskel's mobility). There is some hushed scuttlebutt some Gator fans have told me: UF coach Will Muschamp might use two quarterbacks to beat the stronger team.
James Wilder, Jr., is the muscle of FSU's rushing stable.
Florida State's run game—except against Virginia Tech—has been excellent this season. Even with senior back Chris Thompson out for the year, fullback Lonnie Pryor and sophomore running backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder, Jr., have filled the void.
The Seminoles also boast the No. 2 rush defense, which will do its best to keep Gator back Mike Gillislie and the mobile runner Jeff Driskel (vulnerable and coming off a high ankle sprain) falling backwards. In order to win on Saturday, FSU should keep eyes on fullback Hunter Joyer—who is returning back from a bruise—and Matt Jones, a freshman who had a record day versus Jacksonville State, as potential ground game difference makers.
The Gators' injuries keep them from being competitive in this game. Jimbo Fisher's squad gets the edge here.
No. 95 is a big reason (6'4", 255 lbs.) the Gators will struggle.
FSU ends Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine lead the ACC in sacks.
The Gators' leading sacker, Dominique Easley, only has four sacks compared to the Dynamic Defensive End Duo at FSU: Werner has 9.5 sacks, and Carradine's slobberknockered the opponent 10.5 times.
These boys have each been relatively quiet in the past month, so expect their A-game when they host the Gators.