Things couldn't be any more different for Urban Meyer's Florida Gators and Bobby Bowden's FSU Seminoles this Thanksgiving weekend.
For Florida, it's the last regular season step to a perfect record—for FSU it's the end of a season rife with disappointment and controversy.
The Seminoles' fall from grace has made “FSU Week” a bit less spectacular than in the past, but with the fate of a legendary head coach in the balance and with the last home appearance of several Gator greats, this match will definitely create a few sparks.
Spears and arrows may be flying, but these seven missiles will definitely find their mark against the Noles...
Number of yards FSU’s opposition has outrushed the Seminoles this season.
Being in “the red” may be something of a mantra for FSU head coach Bobby Bowden and his Seminoles, but not when it shows up as a deficit in a primary team statistic.
Bowden’s Noles have had a tough time stopping opponents from moving the ball on the ground this year. At the end of 11 games, Mickey Andrew’s boys own the 105th best rushing defense.
Thanksgiving in Tallahassee may be brief for the Seminole coaching staff since they must plan to meet Tim Tebow and the 15th best offense in the nation.
The average yardage gained on returned Gator punts.
One of the bright spots for the Seminoles this year has been the punt returns of Greg Reid. This season, Reid has snagged 19 punts and amassed 350 yards for an 18.4 average per return. Reid has also been a rock on kickoff return duty.
Florida has only punted the ball 28 times this year, and Chas Henry and the rest of the Gators' third-ranked unit have only allowed four returns for a total of 13 yards.
Reid won’t be only waving to his friends in the stands on Saturday...
The difference in touchdown passes between Gator reserve quarterback John Brantley (seven TDs) and E.J. Manuel (one TD).
Manuel stepped into the lion’s den when he had to replace injured starting quarterback Christian Ponder prior to the Seminoles' game against Wake Forest.
In his two games as a starter, Manuel has posted an amazing completion percentage (over 60 percent), but he has only tossed one touchdown pass and has thrown four interceptions.
Gator defensive captain Brandon Spikes will want his last game in the Swamp to leave an impression on Gator fans, his teammates, pro scouts, and Manuel’s statistics.
The ranking spread between the Gators' last opponent, Florida International (118th total defense), and this week’s victim, Florida State (106th total defense).
Last week, Meyer and his Gators blistered the Golden Panthers for over 580 yards of offense and 62 points. Mario Cristobal’s unit put up a valiant fight but was completely overwhelmed by the talent, speed, and game plan of the Gators.
This week, Bowden may have less of a talent gap to overcome than FIU, but his defense is completely void of the killer instinct and the tactical brilliance that trademarked Seminole squads in years past.
It is entirely possible that Brantley could post better passing numbers coming off the bench in mop-up duty than Manuel could muster all afternoon.
The last chance Bobby Bowden and his Seminoles have to impress supporters and end the regular season on a high note.
Earlier this season, things actually looked promising for FSU after they traveled to Cougartown, Utah and defeated seventh-ranked BYU 54-28.
Since then, it’s been a completely different story.
Bowden, his staff, and his team have all come under fire for underperforming and not living up to FSU football standards. The controversy regarding Bowden’s future has made each game a litmus test for his future as head coach.
Unfortunately for Bowden and the FSU faithful, the Seminoles will need much more than nostalgia, pride, and emotion to overcome an opponent hell-bent on ending the regular season undefeated and building momentum for a showdown with Alabama in Atlanta.
The number of additional opponents the Gators faced this season.
As if going 11-0 wasn’t hard enough this year, Meyer and his Gators also had to contend with these foes that didn’t start out on the published schedule...
* Early team chatter regarding an undefeated season
* The flu
* Tebow’s concussion
* Strength of schedule criticism
* Offensive production issues and concerns
* Spikes and his on-field shenanigans
* Coaching change rumors
Winning easy is, well, easy...this season, however, the Gators have found that simply winning is hard enough and winning big is even harder.
These days, the Gators take nothing for granted, and that fact alone should worry Bowden and his Seminoles the most.
The number of games left to be played at the Swamp for this year’s crop of Gator graduating seniors and other players opting to leave early for the NFL.
Emotions will be running high for Tebow, Spikes, Riley Cooper, Aaron Hernandez, and too many other Gators to mention as they play their last game in Gainesville.
This season has been a roller coaster ride for Meyer and his Gators, and it will all come to a head in the Swamp this Saturday afternoon.
As if things couldn’t get any worse for Bowden...