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Florida vs. FSU, Game Thread: Gators, Seminoles meet with bowl, bragging rights on line

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone involved in today’s Florida-FSU game of American tackle football deserves better. I want to start from there.

Americans who live their lives in this country deserve to have the full Thursday through Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend off from their jobs — even if those jobs are well-paying or rather fun.

The players who will suit up and play for two of the state of Florida’s finest institutions of higher learning deserve better than both a state government doing increasingly worrying things to track student beliefs and a school taking a cowardly stance when it comes to its professors’ freedoms.

College football players deserve to be paid — or to be paid far, far more than they are getting from any sub rosa inducements to come to or stay at schools, in-kind payments of scholarship and so forth, and their earnings from capitalizing on their name, image, and likeness — and to have the rights and privileges of full employment, given their status as the labor force for an industry that generates many billions of dollars.

Fans deserve better than a noon kick on a Saturday. Those are awful even outside of the state of Florida, because the sun shining on skin for hours and hours is a recipe for sunburn even if it’s far from warm.

At this point, FSU deserves a better nickname than Seminoles as much as the Seminole Tribes deserve to have their name decoupled from both football and all the racist practices that have come with it. (Yes, a crowd of mostly white fans making sounds that came from American movies’ inaccurate representations of indigenous American tribes while their team’s band plays songs with titles like “War Chant” and “Massacre” is racist. Please don’t be so stupid as to fail to grasp this.) An NFL team owned by a total idiot has had the good sense to drop its racist name and move forward; Florida State could, too.

Everyone deserves better than a Florida-Florida State game between two 5-6 teams scrapping for bowl eligibility, or the third game in the rivalry with one team led by an interim coach in the last five years and four meetings. Certainly, everyone wanted the first game between these two teams on a football field since 2019 to mean more than this one does, from the seniors playing their last games to the sophomores made to imagine it last year by an unmerciful and unyielding pandemic.

Dan Mullen deserved to be able to coach this game without having to make a choice about whether it would be a distraction for him to do so — and rightly realizing that it would be. (Billy Napier, elsewhere in the world, deserved to have this week anoint him not as Florida’s clear No. 1 candidate to succeed Mullen, but to put a spotlight on the players whom he would say have put him in whatever position to succeed that he is in.) Florida’s players deserved to have the coach who recruited them for one final ride. Ron Zook and Will Muschamp got those rides, and memorable fights with FSU as a result; Mullen should have, too, but I don’t think there’s a good argument that he wouldn’t have been a substantial distraction from players who deserve as much of the spotlight as possible.

Dameon Pierce deserved more carries this year — but he also probably deserved to have the load-bearing work he’s done shared with his fellow Florida running backs, all of whom are now going to be fresher and less used for their potential pro careers than treating any one of them as a beast of burden would have been.

Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson deserved to have success commensurate to their unparalleled friendship this year, not the roller-coaster ride they embarked on.

The Gators deserved better results than they achieved in 2021 — even if they “deserved” those results, too, by the logic that you only ever get what you manage to take in this world.

FSU — and I cannot believe I am typing this — deserved better than to have Florida deftly diminish any perception that a Seminoles win today puts them in position to pass the Gators by firing its coach and effectively making this game a vestigial tail for a Gators season that came to its conclusion last week. (Again, though: You only ever get what you manage to take — and people with more know how to keep what’s theirs.)

We all deserved better than a color commentator who, while decent at the in-game portion of color commentary, is still prone to saying outlandish, brain-dead things.

Alas, deserve’s got nothing to do with it.

Anyway, here are 10 predictions for Florida’s meeting with Florida State.

  1. Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson will each throw multiple passes.
  2. Richardson will account for more yardage in the game.
  3. Florida will run for more than 125 yards.
  4. Florida will score both rushing and passing touchdowns.
  5. Dameon Pierce will rush for more than five yards per carry.
  6. Florida’s defense will not get a turnover in the first half.
  7. Jordan Travis will complete at least 15 passes.
  8. Florida’s defense will allow at least 10 points in each half.
  9. Florida will lead in the second half.
  10. Florida will win, 27-24.