FSU vs. Florida: Key Players Who Will Decide Rivalry Battle

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistNovember 29, 2013

WINSTON SALEM, NC - NOVEMBER 09:  Jameis Winston #5 of the Florida State Seminoles celebrates after a touchdown by his team during their game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB&T Field on November 9, 2013 in Winston Salem, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Florida State is on the brink of an undefeated regular season, but the squad must first survive a road battle against Florida.

Obviously, things have not gone well for the Gators recently, as they have lost six games in a row. As a result, they come into Saturday as 27.5-point underdogs, according to Vegas Insider.

Still, Florida has won seven of the last nine contests against its in-state rival, including last year's 37-26 victory to hand Florida State its second loss of the year. 

Either team is capable of coming away with a win in this matchup, but it will come down to the efforts of the following key players on each side.


Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 07:  Vernon Hargreaves #1 of the Florida Gators makes an interception during a game against the Miami Hurricanes at Sun Life Stadium on September 7, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Although he is a freshman, Vernon Hargreaves III might be the best cornerback in the country. He has the quickness and playmaking ability to be noticed in virtually every game he plays.

Along with Louchiez Purifoy and some elite safeties, the ability to stop the pass is one of Florida's greatest strengths.

This skill will be extremely important against Florida State and the No. 14 passing attack in the nation. Jameis Winston has a host of big-time receivers to throw to in Rashad Greene, Kenny Shaw, Kelvin Benjamin and others. 

Not only will Hargreaves and Co. need to slow down these receivers, but the cornerback will also need to try to force some turnovers that could change the game. With the offense struggling to move the football, he will need to make things happen.


Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 23:  Running back Kelvin Taylor #21 of the Florida Gators runs downfield during their game against the Georgia Southern Eagles on November 23, 2013 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. Georgia Southern defeated F
Michael Chang/Getty Images

Florida is on its third quarterback, but fans should not be expecting too much out of Skyler Mornhinweg. In two games, he has a QBR of only 42.1, which is considered well below average.

As a result, the Gators will have to rely heavily on the run game, specifically Kelvin Taylor. Although most of the offense has struggled, the freshman has actually performed well in the past five games, averaging 77 rushing yards with a total of four touchdowns.

Most importantly, he has topped 20 carries in each of the last two games and is quickly on his way toward becoming a workhorse for this offense. If he can break a few big runs and help control the clock, it will give Florida a chance to win this game.


Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 01:  Timmy Jernigan #8 of the Florida State Seminoles reacts after a sack against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the 2012 ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium on December 1, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

While the Florida State offense has been getting much of the publicity this season, the defense has been just as impressive. The unit allows only 11.4 points per game, which ranks second in the nation.

One of the key reasons for this success is the play of Timmy Jernigan in the middle of the defensive line. He leads the team with 10.5 tackles for loss and is second with 4.5 sacks. When he is not bringing down the ball-carrier, he is getting into the backfield and disturbing the play.

The inexperienced Florida backfield will start to struggle once Jernigan gets penetration.

On the other hand, a poor performance by the defensive tackle will allow the Gators to get going and keep this game closer than expected.


Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

TALLAHASSEE, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Jameis Winston #5 of the Florida State Seminoles drops back to pass during the first half against the Syracuse Orange at Doak Campbell Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Gammons/Getty Images
Jeff Gammons/Getty Images

When a favorite for the Heisman Trophy is on the field, he instantly becomes the most important player in the game.

Winston has taken the nation by storm in his first year as a starter. He already has over 3,000 passing yards with an impressive 32-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. While he is not a big runner, he has enough agility to escape sacks and make plays down the field.

Still, this defense might be the toughest he's faced all season. The Gators have a great deal of athleticism at every level, which could cause problems in the passing attack.

If this pressure gets to him and he struggles, the Seminoles could end up having a tough time getting points in this matchup. 


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