Florida vs. Florida State Preview: Can the Seminoles Finally Beat the Gators?

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Florida vs. Florida State Preview: Can the Seminoles Finally Beat the Gators?
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

2003 was the last time Florida State beat in-state rival Florida. 2003!

Along the way the country watched as Florida became a dominant force in college football, tearing through its competition and winning two national titles, along with bringing home a Heisman Trophy for Tim Tebow.

They held the mantle that Florida State ruled for nearly 14 years, and now it seems that both teams are fighting to get back to prominence even with Florida coming off a one-loss season a year ago.

Now Florida sits at 7-4 and is unranked, while Florida State sits at 8-3 and ranked No. 22, hoping that Maryland can come through and beat N.C. State this weekend to send them back to the ACC Championship Game for their first appearance since 2005.

Florida has experienced highs and lows this year. All four losses have come in the conference against Alabama, LSU, South Carolina and Mississippi State. They aren't ranked in the top 25 of any offensive or defensive category, and for the first time in four years they don't have a true quarterback.

Florida coach Urban Meyer has used three different quarterbacks in John Brantley, Jordan Reed and Trey Burton—none of whom has showed any kind of resemblance to Tim Tebow. Florida's offense still has speed to kill with Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps being offensive weapons, while Carl Moore and Deonte Thompson have provided solid receiver play.

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The Florida team as a whole lacks an identity. Gone are the departed Joe Haden, Brandon Spikes, Major Wright and Jermaine Cunningham. The defense has been inconsistent, and all of those 5-star-caliber guys that were expected to set the world on fire have been disappointments in their young campaigns.

Florida State, on the other hand, has seen its share of disappointments. After being blown out by Oklahoma, they won five straight games only to drop back-to-back games against North Carolina State and North Carolina by a combined total of six points. They bounced back last week against Maryland, but their offensive troubles have never really been solved all season.

Christian Ponder was supposed to put up Heisman-like numbers and was dubbed a preseason Heisman candidate, but his season has been hampered by injuries. Joining Ponder in the backfield is a stable of reliable running backs in Jermaine Thomas, Chris Thompson and Ty Jones, all of whom have over 450 yards rushing.

Bert Reed, Willie Haulstead and Taiwan Easterling have been big play receivers, but at times they have dropped the ball—literally.

Florida State's defense is the story of this team. When the offense has struggled, the defense has been solid.

The secondary has had its issues, but they are young and for the most part inexperienced. Nigel Bradham leads the team with 80 tackles and has been the standout of this defense, while ends Brandon Jenkins and Markus White have combined for 17.5 sacks. Greg Reid and Xavier Rhodes both have three interceptions, and the defense as a unit has 41 sacks, which leads the country.

This is the first time in years that on paper Florida State has a better team than Florida, and it's the first time in years that FSU is the team ranked and Florida is not.

Finally, it's the first time in years that Florida State actually looks to be able to beat its storied rival in a dramatic home game that will seal the season as victorious for first-year head coach Jimbo Fisher and show that Florida State is finally back and ready to compete with the big boys again.

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