One of the fiercest rivalries in all of college football, the Florida State-Florida matchup continues to live up to the hype. At one time the game was only cared about in the state of Florida, that is, until the 1990s.
Quickly this game became a fixture in the national title race, and the rivalry was kicked up a notch with so much at stake.
Here is a look back at 10 of the best games in this rivalry since Spurrier returned in 1990. Spurrier would leave the Gators, but the importance of the games has not subsided. Enjoy!
It did not take long after Spurrier returned to Florida for this game to start to become a huge national game.
In his first game in this series as the head coach, Spurrier brought in the sixth-ranked Gators. Bowden had his Seminoles ranked in the top 10 as well. Florida State was ranked eighth in the country heading into this game.
The Seminoles would win the game 45-30, as Bowden won his first matchup against Spurrier.
This game was more important in the long run. It marked the beginning of the Gators' and Seminoles' dominance of college football.
These two squads would meet 12 times in the 1990s. They would also win 14 conference championships and three national titles over the same time period.
With the rise of the Gators, the 1990s coined the phrase, “the road to the national championship goes through the state of Florida.”
The stakes were high in the 1990 meeting but were even higher the following year. This was the first matchup in the series history in which both teams were ranked in the top five coming into the contest.
The Seminoles came into the game ranked third after a loss to their other in-state rival Miami the week before. The Gators had won their first ever SEC championship heading into this top five matchup.
This game would be one of the few defensive games as the Gators won the game 14-9. Florida would need a late defensive stand to preserve the win.
It would be Spurrier’s first win over his hated rival. It would also set up another top-ranked meeting the next year in 1992.
This game got ugly even before the first whistle was blown. During the pregame warm-ups Florida starting safety Tony George tangled with two Florida State walk-ons who were not even dressed up to play.
It was rumored during the mêlée that Gators quarterback Doug Johnson tried to hit Bobby Bowden by throwing a football at him. After the game Johnson apologized, saying he had no target; he just threw the ball.
The game, played in Tallahassee, started out with Florida striking first on a 50-yard touchdown pass by Johnson. The Seminoles would get two field goals by Sebastian Janikowski to cut the lead to 7-6.
The Gators would get a safety and a field goal before the half to take a 12-6 lead after two quarters.
The second half would be dominated by the Seminoles.
Marcus Outzen would complete a pass to Peter Warrick for a touchdown. Warrick would also throw a touchdown pass to Ron Dougans.
Florida State’s defense would hold the Gators scoreless in the second half. Janikowski would add a third field goal as the Seminoles won 23-12.
As great as both these teams were in the 1990s, the 2000s have not been as kind to both programs. After Spurrier left Florida, the school struggled to maintain its place as a top team in the country.
This game was mired in controversy with many thinking the ACC officiating crew made questionable calls against the Gators. Most of the calls involved whether or not a player had fumbled the ball.
Still, even with the bad calls the Gators had a 34-31 lead late in the fourth quarter. The Seminoles mounted a late drive, aided by a 4th-and-12 conversion by Florida State quarterback Chris Rix.
Rix would find wide receiver P.K. Sam for a 52-yard touchdown pass to give the Seminoles a 38-34 win.
After the game the Florida State players celebrated their win by stomping all over the Florida “F” at midfield.
Several Florida players took exception to this and started a fight with the Florida State players celebrating. This marked the second fight in five years between these two teams.
Florida State’s athletic director apologized for the events that led up to the fight. The incident only fueled the bad blood between the two teams.
Ron Zook was named the head coach for the Florida Gators after Spurrier left for the NFL. From the moment he was hired Zook was not a popular choice.
While he was able to bring highly ranked recruits to Gainesville, he could not bring wins with the talent he recruited. Zook was fired after an embarrassing loss to Mississippi State midway through the 2004 season.
Zook was allowed to finish the season as the head coach. He would lead the Gators into Doak Campbell Stadium on the night the field was named for Bobby Bowden.
The embattled Florida coach would steal the night away from Bowden with some inspired play by the Gators. Zook would accomplish something not even the great Steve Spurrier could do.
Zook and the Gators won in Tallahassee for the first time since 1986. He was carried off the field after the 20-13 win by his player, and the Florida fans gave Zook a standing ovation.
Florida State named their field after their legendary coach that night. After the win, Gators fans, being tongue in cheek, renamed the field “Ron Zook Field.”
The Seminoles came in to the 1997 matchup undefeated and ranked number one in the polls. Florida entered the game ranked 10th in the polls and a huge underdog at nearly 31 ½ points.
The Gators took possession of the ball with 2:33 left in the fourth quarter down 25-29. Doug Johnson would hit Jacquez Green on 63 yard pass to get Florida down to the Florida State 17 yard line.
Fred Taylor would carry the ball on down to the 2 yard line on the next play. Taylor scored on the following play to give the Florida a touchdown after driving 80 yards in three plays in just 44 seconds.
Linebacker Dwayne Thomas would intercept Thad Busby with 1:06 left to play to seal the game for the Gators. The hero of the game would be Taylor who rushed for 162 yards and four touchdowns.
The loss would cost the Seminoles a shot at the national championship that would split by Michigan and Nebraska. The game would be called “the greatest game ever played in the Swamp”.
The third-ranked Gators entered the 1995 matchup one win away from the school's first undefeated regular season. Florida State was 9-1 and ranked sixth in the polls.
The only loss Florida State had suffered was to Virginia. The loss to the Cavaliers was the first ACC loss for the Seminoles since they joined the conference.
Florida would defeat the Seminoles 35-24 in Gainesville. The Gators would go to participate in the first ever Bowl Alliance title game.
In the game Florida would face Nebraska and would be unable to complete their perfect season. The Cornhuskers spanked the Gators 62-24 in the Fiesta Bowl. The game would later be dubbed the “Fiasco Bowl.”
This game was the final regular season matchup of the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked teams in the decade. The 1996 matchup was the high point in this series in the 1990s.
The game featured several college football stars on both sides of the ball. The Gators were trying to erase the bittersweet memories of the 1995 season, heading into the game a perfect 10-0 and ranked No. 1.
The Seminoles were looking to win their second national championship and entered the game 10-0 as well and ranked second. Florida came into the game a heavy favorite to win in Tallahassee for the first time since 1986.
It was the Seminoles who got off to a fast start when Peter Boulware blocked the first Florida punt in the game, resulting in a touchdown. The Gators' legendary quarterback Danny Wuerffel would throw three interceptions in the first half.
The Seminoles would take a 17-0 lead into the locker room at the half. Wuerffel would get going in the second half, throwing for three touchdowns.
The final Wuerffel touchdown went to Reidel Anthony with just over a minute to play. The touchdown would cut the Seminoles’ lead down to three points.
The Gators would try to recover an onside kick after the score, but the ball would go out of bounds to the Seminoles.
Warrick Dunn led the Florida State offense as he rushed for 185 yards.
Wuerffel would throw for 362 yards to go along with his three touchdowns.
The Florida State defense would come under scrutiny by Spurrier’s perception that the Seminoles defenders were hitting his quarterback late. Spurrier would accuse the Florida State defenders of playing dirty.
Bowden would say that his defenders played to the echo of the whistle but were not dirty.
If the 1996 matchup was the highlight of this series so far, the 1993 matchup showed just how good this match could be. This matchup was the start of the culmination of the work of Bowden and the start of what Spurrier built.
The Seminoles came into this matchup with only one loss after losing to Notre Dame in what many called the "Game of the Century."
The Irish took Florida State’s No. 1 ranking that season, but not for long after they lost to Boston College the next week. Florida State came into the rivalry game ranked No. 1 once again.
The 1993 season would see the start of the Gators winning four straight SEC Championships. Florida was already in the mist of winning five straight SEC East titles. The Gators came into the 1993 contest with a top 10 ranking.
This game would also feature two future Heisman trophy winners and two talented freshmen. Early on the game looked to be a blowout as the Seminoles built a 27-7 lead in the fourth quarter.
The Gators would make a comeback behind freshman Danny Wuerffel, who would lead Florida to two quick scores to cut the Florida State lead to 27-21.
Charlie Ward would win the Heisman trophy on what happened next.
With six minutes remaining in the game and the Seminoles facing a third down and 21, the Swamp was shaking so hard it registered as an earthquake.
Ward would not be fazed by the noise or the shaking. He would find the other talented freshman Warrick Dunn, who raced down the sideline for the 79-yard touchdown.
The 33-21 win would secure a place in the national championship game for the Seminoles. They would beat Nebraska by making a late field goal and the Cornhuskers missing one.
There was controversy with undefeated West Virginia being left out of the title game. Florida helped out their rival by beating the Mountaineers 41-7 and ending their hopes of a split title.
The Gators and the Seminoles both entered this game with a 9-1 record. Florida had Wuerffel back under center, and Florida State had Danny Kanell to replace Ward.
Florida State came into the season as defending national champions, and their only loss was to in-state rival Miami early in the season. Florida was ranked No. 1 in the season until a loss to Auburn knocked them down.
The Gators, ranked fourth in the polls, got off to a fast start against the seventh-ranked Seminoles. After a 35-yard field goal from Dan Mowery for Florida State, Florida scored 31 unanswered points.
The Gators' first score came on a 58-yard pass from Wuerffel to Aubrey Hill for the first touchdown of the game and a 7-3 lead. Next Wuerffel found Jack Jackson for a three-yard touchdown pass and a 14-3 lead.
Judd Davis would add a 35-yard field goal to extend the lead to 17-3. Right before the half Wuerffel would find Jackson again on a 28-yard pass to give the Gators a 24-3 lead at halftime.
In the third quarter Wuerffel would run a quarterback sneak into the end zone for the 31-3 lead. The score was the final score of the game for Florida, and the Gators entered the fourth quarter with a 28-point lead.
The fourth quarter would see Spurrier uncharacteristically call running plays to Fred Taylor and playing prevent defense. The Seminoles would take advantage of this by making a comeback.
Florida State’s first touchdown would come on a first and goal from the five-yard line as Zack Crockett plowed into the end zone to cut the lead to 31-10. After a Florida punt the Seminoles marched right down field, and Kanell found Andre Cooper for a six-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 31-17 with a little over 10 minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
Florida State was not done scoring yet. After they nearly blocked a Florida punt, the Seminoles were on the move again. With 5:04 left to play in the game Kanell found the end zone with his own quarterback sneak to cut the lead to 31-24.
The Gators looked to have righted themselves in the final minutes after Wuerffel found Reidel Anthony for a 15-yard gain. Two plays later Wuerffel would throw the ball where only Seminoles could catch it, and they did.
The Florida State fans were going wild as the Seminoles took over on their 40-yard line. FSU drove the ball down the field on a 37-yard catch and run by Warrick Dunn to get the ball to the Florida 23-yard line.
The Seminoles would hit pay dirt, scoring with 1:45 left in the game on a four-yard run by Rock Preston. Down by one, Bowden decided to kick the extra point to tie the game rather than going for two and the win
There was no overtime in college football at this time, so a tie would be the end of the ball game. Bowden did not want to waste the comeback by missing a two-point conversion. Florida State would kick the extra point and tie the game 31-31.
Both teams would try to win the game in their next possession but could not get enough offense to win the game.
The game would end at 31-31, and the Seminoles players celebrated after the game like it was a win and the Gators looked dazed and stunned. Both teams knocked themselves out of the national championship race with the tie.
After the tie in “the Choke at the Doak,” Florida State and Florida met again in the Sugar Bowl. The Seminoles and the Gators both wanted to walk away from the game with a win this time.
The Gators bounced back from the fourth quarter collapse to beat Alabama in the SEC Championship game to earn a Sugar Bowl berth. The Seminoles earned their trip to the “Big Easy” by winning the ACC.
This game was highly hyped, but Florida would not find redemption in the game. The Seminoles would get a bowl victory over their hated rival.
The 23-17 win by Florida State did not disappoint. The game was highly entertaining, but the Gators had the Seminoles in their heads.
This would be the first of two times these teams met in the Sugar Bowl. The next one would be for a lot more than a bowl win after a tie ball game.
Everything fell in place for this game to be for the national championship. The first was Florida beating Alabama in the SEC championship game.
Both teams were helped out by an underdog Texas team beating third-ranked Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game, where James Brown, the Texas quarterback, guaranteed that the Longhorns would beat the Cornhuskers.
The rematch took on even more importance the night before the game was played. In the Rose Bowl, second-ranked Arizona State would be upset by fourth-ranked Ohio State.
The Buckeyes' win over the Sun Devils made the Sugar Bowl game between the No. 1-ranked Seminoles and the third-ranked Gators for the title.
The entire talk heading into the game was about the late hits Spurrier thought Florida State put on Wuerffel. Spurrier installed the shotgun formation to counter the Florida State pass rush. The formation worked and gave Wuerffel the time he needed to find his receivers.
This game was very close at 24-20 in the second half, but the Gators pulled way and turned the game into a rout in the fourth quarter. Spurrier would not take his foot off the gas after the “choke at the Doak.”
Wuerffel, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1996, passed for 306 yards and three touchdowns. The win would give the Gators their first national championship, made even sweeter with the win over their hated rival.