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Florida vs. FSU, Preview: I guess we have to talk about this

The Gators and Seminoles meet on Saturday, despite virtually no one wanting them to do that.

NCAA Football: Alabama-Birmingham at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Both the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles have losing records, at 4-6.

But both are coming off blowout wins — Florida’s a 36-7 rout of UAB, FSU’s a 77-6 demolition of 2-9 FCS team Delaware State — and thus this is a clash of teams that could theoretically get to bowl eligibility with victories.

Sure, Florida would have to be near the top of the line of teams with losing records and great academics, and would need accept a bowl berth to some bowl so far beneath the Gators that it would never happen, while FSU would only need to win this game and its new season finale with Louisiana-Monroe, rescheduled almost exclusively to attempt to get to six wins and preserve a streak of bowl appearances that the NCAA does not recognize because the ‘Noles were forced to vacate a bowl victory after a cheating scandal centered around a music appreciation class — which is different from the bowl a year later in which FSU lost to Kentucky with dozens of players suspended for their part in that scandal, mind.

There’s something on the line today besides “We’re not worse than you despite being awful in our own right!” bragging rights, though! Get excited!

When Florida has the ball

Florida running game vs. FSU rush defense

Florida’s gotten more out of Lamical Perine, Mark Thompson, and now Adarius Lemons than I think most expected from this season, and a reshuffled offensive line did well against overmatched UAB.

FSU’s defensive line is really good, though, and the Seminoles have only given up more than five yards a carry once this year — to Lamar Jackson and Louisville, a team that Florida, charitably, cannot quite compare to.

Edge: Even

Florida passing game vs. FSU pass defense

Florida State’s pass rush is occasionally fierce — but the ‘Noles have just 22 sacks on the year, and six did come against Delaware State. One would expect better numbers from a unit including Josh Sweat, Brian Burns, and Joshua Kaindoh, but that simply hasn’t been the case this season.

Similarly, FSU’s secondary should probably have been better than it is, given that Derwin James, Tarvarus McFadden, and Levonta Taylor all have five-star pedigrees. But FSU has just six picks on the season — two came against Delaware State — and has been vulnerable underneath, though it has done a fairly good job of preventing explosive passing plays.

Sounds like a defense that is ripe for exploitation by noted underneath thrower and checkdown maestro Feleipe Franks, doesn’t it?


Edge: FSU

When FSU has the ball

FSU running game vs. Florida rush defense

Florida State has a Dalvin Cook-alike in Cam Akers and a bruiser who has never done anything against Florida in Jacques Patrick, and it spread the ball around to those backs and Amir Rasul and Ryan Green in steamrolling Delaware State for nearly eight yards a carry.

But Florida’s run defense, which fell off a cliff for a few weeks, played admirably against a very good UAB back, and the Gators do tend to play FSU’s running games under Jimbo Fisher well until which point Dalvin Cook does amazing things. And Akers is only a Cook-alike — for now, anyway.

Slight edge: FSU

FSU passing game vs. Florida pass defense

James Blackmon is the sort of bad that gets called inconsistent because his stat lines are inflated by one to three very good throws in otherwise forgettable games. Florida’s secondary is still green, but has recovered after being young-boy’d by Georgia and torched by Missouri.

Oh, and Florida State’s pass blocking is horrific as ever, and Florida does have a few good pass-rushers.

Slight edge: Florida

Special teams

Johnny Townsend is the best punter in college football. Eddy Piñeiro is arguably the best kicker in college football. Florida is bad at everything else on special teams.

FSU, though, is worse.

Strong edge: Florida

Other factors

It is Senior Day for Florida, and Florida’s going to be playing in front of sincerely dedicated Gators fans, while the FSU fans who trekked to Gainesville to watch a battle of two 4-6 teams are probably masochists, if we’re being honest.

Florida may be squandering some of the specialness of the day by pairing white helmets with orange jerseys for a decidedly non-traditional look, but the Gators would seem to have slightly more pride on the line: A FSU win gives the Seminoles their first five-game winning streak over the Gators ever.

Edge: Florida