I don’t have predictions for Florida’s game against Florida State (8 p.m., ABC or WatchESPN) on this Saturday night. I’ve been dealing with the aftereffects of some food poisoning and/or stomach flu thing for the better part of the last week, and most of what I wanted to write in preview of this game was published Wednesday.
It will be a simple game, probably. Florida’s defense against FSU’s offense, and that talented tandem of Deondre Francois and Dalvin Cook, is a strength-on-strength conflict, and if the Gators can limit Cook’s big plays and force Francois to throw in uncomfortable third-and-long situations, they can probably do enough to make this game winnable for their offense.
That offense will face the Seminoles’ underwhelming defense, good at tallying sacks and getting Tarvarus McFadden picks and not a whole lot else, and it seemed to find a reliable plan of attack against LSU, as Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine rammed the ball right back up the heart of the Tigers’ defense.
Special teams would be close to a wash — both teams have big-legged kickers and punters, and fleet returners — if not for Florida State’s punt return defense, which has hemorrhaged 23.2 yards per return and a touchdown this year. If Antonio Callaway can have a 2015 vintage game on those returns, Florida might just win the margins in a big way.
But the truth is that this is likely to be a close, hard-fought game, like any of the games in this series over the last five years other than the Seminoles’ 37-7 rout of the desiccated 2013 Gators. Even last year’s game — a 13-2 game that became a 27-2 game in the final minutes — was contentious in a way that belied the final score.
For Florida, the task is making one of those hard-fought games go its way, and reversing the recent history of a rivalry that has swung firmly toward the Seminoles in the 2010s.
They have another chance to do so on this Saturday night in Tallahassee.