No. 4 Florida vs. No. 20 Florida State
This rivalry game doesn’t carry the same type of weight it once did, but there are still national title implications involved. Florida has BCS title hopes at stake, while FSU does not. Florida is on a huge seven-game winning streak, while Florida State comes off of a big win at Maryland.
Florida wins the game if...
1) They land the first shot early.
Something needs to happen early to take the pro-FSU crowd out of it. Florida needs to make a big play in any phase of the game, whether it is a punt return, an early turnover, or even something as simple as a big hit.
This needs to happen, especially while playing on the road. Florida will have not played in an environment like this since the September trip to Tennessee, and with FSU a huge rival, the crowd will be a little bit more pumped up for this game.
The Gators have absolutely buried teams in every win this season when they land the first shot. In the 10 wins, the Gators have scored 281 points before the other team scores.
2) They force the game into Christian Ponder’s hands.
Coming into the season, Florida’s defense was the major question mark. That is not the case anymore. Florida has stepped up its defensive game to match the play of linebacker Brandon Spikes and is good enough to shut down the Seminoles offense. Slowing down Florida State’s running backs will put the game in Christian Ponder’s hands, which is not good news.
Ponder has been at both ends of the spectrum this season. At times, he has played like a seasoned quarterback—very calm and efficient. Other times, he has been an erratic thrower and has made poor decisions.
His mobility has helped him this year, and he is a threat to run the football. However, with the way the Gators are playing right now, they will make it a long day for Ponder. Florida’s secondary is too talented for Ponder to sneak anything by them, and too athletic for Ponder and FSU’s receivers to beat them straight up.
Florida loses the game if...
1) Florida State controls the tempo of the game.
Florida’s defensive line is banged up, and they will be without defensive tackle Matt Patchan. Florida State has the No. 1 total offense and scoring offense in the ACC, to go along with the No. 7 total defense in the NCAA.
Controlling the tempo against a Gator offense that has put 42 or more points on the board in six straight games will be tough, but they do have personnel to slow down the Gators.
Florida State’s offense isn’t particularly explosive, but they can put up points. A slower tempo would keep the ‘Noles out of a shootout, which the Seminoles would lose going up against Florida.
2) They are looking ahead to Alabama.
Looking ahead to a bigger game already burned the Gators earlier this season. They came off a road win at Tennessee and were looking ahead at a showdown with LSU. Ole Miss caught the Gators looking ahead—Florida played its worst game of the season and ultimately lost the game.
This has the potential to be an Ole Miss type of football game. Plus, it’s a rivalry game. Florida State is an athletic team, especially on defense. They have two mobile quarterbacks who can run the ball and a good but not great collection of skill players.
The X-factor will be...
Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer
With the exception of USC coach Pete Carroll, no other coach in the country can motivate a team like Urban Meyer. The only difference is that Meyer takes it to another level when playing a rival, and the record shows. He is a combined 10-1 against Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida State, including three straight over FSU.
Final score prediction
Florida 41, Florida State 14