My first preview of this game... didn't go so well. Thanks to the way things work in life, I get a second chance at this, and if I'm right about my predictions, FSU fans will like this version much better. While I am fully invested and committed to running my new site, www.inallkindsofweather.com, I wrote my original preview here on AA, so I think it's only fair that I put my corrected version here, too.
I hope I'm even more wrong with this preview than my first one, but in any case...
Florida State Seminoles
2012 season: 12-2 (7-1 ACC)
Coach: Jimbo Fisher, fourth season (31-10)
Last result vs. Florida: Florida 37, Florida State "26" (2012)
Series record vs. Florida: Florida, 34-21-2
Game date: Saturday, November 30, 2013
Game location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL
Who Are You?
The Florida State Seminoles, the Gators' traditional Thanksgiving weekend rivals, will come into this game looking for revenge. Florida dissed them down on their home turf a year ago, and you can bet the Noles will be looking to return the favor this time around in Gainesville. We've already discussed how intense this rivalry is, but it never hurts to reiterate it: these teams hate each other... with a burning passion.
Why Is This Year's Game So Important?
Aside from getting to mock the opponent's arm gestures, both teams really want this win to get the momentum of the rivalry on their side. A Florida win, and it's eight out of ten for the Gators, and two straight. If FSU wins, however, it's the Seminoles who will be on a run, winning three out of the last four. Throw in the recruiting stakes, and the amount of trash both fan bases throw at each other, and well, let's be honest: This game means everything. That's as far as I can go. Define everything for yourself.
Jameis Winston appears to be set to start for the Seminoles, barring an unforeseen plot twist to his alleged rape story. He's broken out as one of the top quarterbacks in the country if not the top. At worst, he's right up there in the same sentence as Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron, Marcus Mariota and Teddy Bridgewater. At best, he's better than all of them, or at least more valuable to his team than all of them. But it's not like this is a one man show. Devonte Freeman and Karlos Williams provide a solid 1-2 punch to back him up in the running game, and Winston has two talented receivers in Kenny Shaw and Rashad Greene, and Nick O'Leary is among the best tight ends in the country. In short: this is a very, very good offense, one that's capable of eclipsing half a hundred.
The history of Florida-FSUTracing the 60-year history of a Sunshine State series.
FSU Offensive Strategy
I said in my first preview that FSU would play smart and try to not turn it over, and while pretty much everything else about this preview is revised, I'm going to keep this part the same, but for a different reason. Turnovers are any underdog's best friend, and Florida certainly is an underdog here. Sure, FSU is the far superior team, but turn it over five times like they did last year against Florida and the better team might lose.
But this time, I'm just saying it as a precaution. FSU can do pretty much whatever they want on offense, and as long as they take care of the ball, they'll be fine. I personally think Jimbo will throw out a balanced attack, designed to keep Florida's already battered defense off guard and establish the running game early, and then allowing Winston to land some haymakers later on. After all, FSU is going to need a running game against Alabama, so why not get a lot of these reps against a (bad, admittedly) SEC defense? Make no mistake, though: It's Winston's show. You will see him get plenty of freedom.
Florida Defensive Strategy
Florida must harass Winston and force him to make quick decisions. As I've said before, turnovers can play a huge role in this game if FSU lets it. The best way to do this is to get after Winston and either strip sack him or force a bad throw into double coverage. Expect D.J. Durkin to routinely send six, seven, and maybe even eight rushers to try to increase the chances of forcing a turnover. As good as Winston is, he's still just a freshman, and this is still the Swamp, no matter how many disgusted Florida fans gave their tickets away to FSU fans.
Note: I said Florida will TRY to do this, not that they will necessarily have any success in doing this.
FSU Offensive Grade: A-
- Florida vs. Toledo
- Florida vs. Miami
- Florida vs. Tennessee
- Florida vs. Kentucky
- Florida vs. Arkansas
- Florida vs. LSU
- Florida vs. Missouri
- Florida vs. Georgia
- Florida vs. Vanderbilt
- Florida vs. South Carolina
FSU's defense is loaded with pure talent between DT Tim Jernigan, Dan Hicks and Mario Edwards on the front line, and Telvin Smith and Christian Jones anchoring the middle level. They've used that talent to record 23 picks (from 16 different players) thus far, including 6 in one game against Wake Forest. Coming against a Florida offense that has been horrible all year, that has to have Jeemy Pruitt and Jimbo Fisher licking their chops.
FSU's Defensive Strategy
We know of Florida's turnover problem on offense this year, and we know of FSU's success in forcing them. So FSU is going to try to make that happen by pressuring Skyler Mornhinweg, Florida's 3rd string QB who's done the best he could to this point but appears to be in over his head. Mornhinweg actually has only been responsible for one turnover, but FSU will try to change that by harassing him. There's really no deep threat, and Florida's lone offensive threat is Kelvin Taylor, so FSU should have nothing to worry about by sending seven guys to stack the box on the majority of plays. Pruitt has to feel confident in his corners in one on one matchups, and trust them to make plays if Mornhinweg does indeed force one downfield.
Florida's Offensive Strategy
The Gators' coaching staff has to ask- no, beg- the banged up offensive line to block their hearts out for 60 minutes, because Kelvin Taylor is going to be Florida' only hope. He's quietly become one of the SEC's most valuable running backs, and he's shown what he can do against good teams like Missouri and South Carolina.
But at the same time, Florida might be a little bolder on offense. Reports have surfaced that Brent Pease will be out as offensive coordinator after this game, but he may be auditioning for another job, so I do expect to see Florida come out of its over conservative shell at least a little bit. Maybe send guys in motion more, and more jet sweeps to the far side of the field, and maybe even a flea flicker here or there. I'm just saying that whatever tricks Florida's got left, they're all coming out of the bag in this game. I don't think it's a whole lot, but Brent Pease is going to be calling this game desperately, kind of like Ron Zook did back in 2004 (remember that gutsy 4th and inches deep in his own territory?).
FSU Defensive Grade: A
FSU Overall Grade: A
Florida's offensive line vs. FSU's defensive line. If the Gators want any chance in this game, they've GOT to block for Taylor and Mornhinweg. Taylor is the only offensive player that makes Jeremy Pruitt worry, and if he gets going, the score could be a lot closer than people think.
Here I go: this is going to be bad. I don't think FSU will put up quite the same ridiculous numbers on Florida that they've put up on the likes of Wake Forest and Syracuse, but just because they can't match those gaudy scores doesn't mean this won't be a bloodshed. FSU is worlds better on both sides of the ball than Florida, and they're playing for a national championship, while Florida isn't even playing for a bowl game.
I do think there will come a time that Florida will get a cheap touchdown off of a Florida State miscue, like the big kick return by Andre Debose in 2010 or the fumble recovery late in the game in 2011. Like Florida did against South Carolina, I honestly do expect the Gators to show up and put up a fight. Unlike the South Carolina game, I don't expect the fight to last for nearly as long.
Here's my revised projection. This series has been known for major Florida upsets (see 1997, 2004 games for clarification), but make no mistake, this will not be one of them. FSU will curb stomp Florida en route to Pasadena.
FSU 41, Florida 7