Florida vs. Florida State, Theater of Operations: Previewing the Seminoles' No. 1 defense

Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

The Florida Gators head to Tallahassee to face off against the Florida State Seminoles and the No. 1-ranked defense in the country. Are the Gators ready? We're about to find out.

Florida vs. Florida State.

It's the biggest game of the season for both teams ... and the two teams that will take the field on Saturday are remarkably similar.

Both teams come into the game win with 10 wins against one loss, both teams have stellar defenses and questionable offenses, and both teams lost a game they shouldn't have. The Gators, as we know, lost to Georgia (which isn't shameful this year) and the Seminoles lost to North Carolina State (which is always shameful).

As we run down the list quickly, we see that the major difference between the teams is that the Gators' offense is ranked 106th nationally while the Seminoles' offense is ranked 14th.

Everything else is so close, and even though the Seminoles have played lesser competition all season long, it's surreal. The Seminoles have the No. 1 ranked defense, while the Gators come in at No. 4. The field goal kicking game is a wash, the return game and kick coverage units are great for both teams ... it just goes on and on.

The folks over at Tomahawk Nation are worried about the Gators' advantage in the punting game, but I think their worries are a bit overblown. The Seminoles' punter is a freshman; of course he is going to struggle. He'll get better just as Kyle Christy has for the Gators this year: Christy has improved his average over last season by more than five yards per punt.

But we're here to talk defense, mostly because the Gators offense has. at times ... okay, make that most of the time, been lethargic. And I'm pretty sure I'm being nice in that description.

Will the Gators be able to move the ball against the Seminoles defense? Well, the Gators are a running team and the 'Noles are No. 1 in the country against the run. The 'Noles are also No. 5 against the pass, but that doesn't even matter because the Gators couldn't pass against Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State.

I'm also totally not even going to discuss that the 'Noles are also No. 5 in scoring defense with their 13.1 points against average. That's partly because the Gators rank No. 3 in that category at 11.7 points against per game.

First one to 14 points wins! (Maybe?)

Play No. 1: Tank Carradine's sack of Tajh Boyd of Clemson


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Carradine is going to come off the edge untouched, mostly because the linebacker blitzing leaves the right tackle confused on whom to block.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

It's like he's never seen a blitz before.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Carradine gets to Boyd and doesn't miss the tackle.

Play No. 2: Terrence Brooks' interception against Mike Glennon of N.C. State


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Soft coverage here by the Seminole defense on third down.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Not really a whole lot of pressure either. But that isn't all that surprising when you're guarding against the pass.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

As the ball is in the air, you can see that Brooks has not made his appearance in the screen yet. The wide receiver commits the cardinal sin, though: He doesn't come back to the ball.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Brooks swoops in at the last second, gets in front of the receiver, and intercepts the ball.

Play No. 3: Bjoern Werner's sack of Shawn Petty of Maryland

I've said this a couple of times on here over the course of the season, so I'll only say it one more time. Werner is one of the best defensive ends the Gators will face this year, and may well be the best. You can believe me or not, but I'd caution you to at the very least not take that statement lightly.

It's also not just his ability to rush the quarterback that stands out: He gets his hands up to knock down passes, creates a lot of mismatches for his fellow defensive linemen, and he can drop back into coverage on occasion. He's also quite strong. Werner can pretty much do it all.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

This play here is a perfect example of the second paragraph. He's going to take on two blockers with hardly any issue.

From a closer angle:


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Werner does a swim move to push the running back out of the way.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

While still getting blocked, he gets to the quarterback. Granted, he got a little help from a quarterback who meandered into his area, but, still, it's a great sack.

In what is expected to be a close game, I can see this game turning out three different ways. A close defensive Gators victory, a close defensive Seminoles victory, or a blowout in favor of the Seminoles. My gut tells me it's more likely going to be one of the latter two, but I'm still remaining positive.

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