By Scott Carswell Jr.
On this Thanksgiving Saturday at noon the Seminoles will host the rival Gators on ABC in Doak.
The Florida Gators are 8-3 and ranked 11th in the College Football Playoff poll. Their 8 wins have come against Charleston Southern, Colorado State, Tennessee, Mississippi State, LSU, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Idaho. Their 3 losses have come against Kentucky, Georgia and Missouri. Florida is 3-0 on the road this season.
Last year the Seminoles took advantage of four Gator turnovers to help fuel a 38-22 victory in the Swamp.
The last time the Seminoles played UF at home was two years ago when the defense sacked Austin Allenby six times helping the home team secure the 31-13 win.
The last time Florida defeated FSU was in Doak Campbell Stadium in 2012. EJ Manual threw 3 interceptions in the 37-26 defeat.
Observations from the Boston College game
Inserting Leonard Warner into the starting lineup and moving Dontavious Jackson to outside linebacker seemed to help defend Boston College’s great running attack. Coverage of the opposing tight end was a little shaky as Tommy Sweeney was open quite a few times.
Walt Bell continues to give the opposing defenses different looks and is helping create holes for Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick.
Deondre Francois was very erratic for the first three quarters throwing two interceptions. Some of his misfires were throwaways deep downfield to avoid the sack.
The offensive line played better against the power pass rushers from Boston College and we will see how they do against the speed guys of Florida. Brady Scott came in for Jauan Williams in the second half and that move helped get the offense going. Florida State scored on three out of the five possessions that Scott was in the game.
Florida State offense versus Florida defense
The Seminoles once again go up against a great pass rush. Going up against the pass rushers from Miami, Clemson, NC State, Notre Dame and Boston College have prepared the offense well for this rivalry game. Jachai Polite (8.5 sacks) and Jabari Zuniga (5.5 sacks) use their speed more than their power when trying to get to the opposing quarterback. CeCe Jefferson is also a good pass rusher but has missed a few games and is still trying to work his way back. The Florida defensive tackles are not that disruptive in terms of tackles for loss but take-up blocks that help the linebackers fill in the hole and make tackles.
The Gators top tacklers are linebackers Vosean Joseph and David Reese as well as safety/linebacker Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham likes to bring the blitz to try to create pressure just like his counterpart, Coach Barnett. This got Florida in trouble early on against South Carolina but they dial it back and started to make stops that helped them come back. I’m curious to see what he does against a struggling FSU offensive line. If the Gators are not able to get home on a blitz Tamarrion Terry, Noonie Murray and others might be able to get behind the coverage to make a big play.
The Gators secondary is young but very talented. They played well against decent quarterbacks but good quarterbacks like Drew Locke from Missouri were able to pick them part. Francois has to improve from the last game to take advantage of the young secondary.
Florida State defense versus Florida offense
The Gators like to run the ball with four different players. Running backs Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine split carries most of the time with Dameon Pierce getting a few here and there as well. Feleipe Franks used to be a quarterback that ran just to keep the defense honest on the read option. Lately he has been using his power on designed runs. He has scored six TDs on 84 carries this season.
This season Florida Coach Dan Mullen likes to pass the ball only necessary as the Gator offense has run the ball 121 more times than they have passed the ball. Franks has struggled with his accuracy against good defenses but does possess a very strong arm. Expect Florida to try to test the FSU safeties, Hamsah Nasirildeen and AJ Westbrook, deep in the middle of the field. Hopefully cornerback Lavonta Taylor (2 interceptions against Florida last year) will most likely be back for this matchup so that Stanford Samuels can move back to safety. Samuels really hit his stride at corner last week so it will be interesting to see what Harlan Barnett wants to do with him.
Franks has done a good job spreading the ball around to different receivers. Five Florida receivers have more than 18 catches. Van Jefferson has been his favorite target with 27 catches for 347 yards and five TDs. Quick receivers Kedarius Toney and Josh Hammond are targeted for short passes while Tyrie Cleveland and Trevon Grimes are red zone threats. Florida tight ends have only accounted for 10 catches which is good news for FSU because the Seminoles have had trouble with this position the past couple weeks. Florida State will go up against an experienced and big offensive line once again. Every starter on the Florida line has been in the program for at least 3 years. Marvin Wilson, Demarcus Christmas and Brian Burns will need to take up blocks so that Warner and Jackson can get to the ball carriers easier.
Florida has the advantage in the kicking and punting game. Gator kicker Evan McPherson has only missed two kicks on the year and his long is 48 yards. Florida punter Tommy Townsend is tied for 26th in the FBS in yards per punt at 44. Ricky Agauyo had a good game last week and hopefully that confidence will carry in to this week. Logan Tyler has continued his steady pumping. Both teams possess an electrifying return man but I think DJ Matthews has the edge due to his experience.
Florida State is still last in the FBS and penalties per game, however Florida is sixth to last in the same category. Both teams like to take the ball away but are also prone to giving it up. So whoever makes the least amount of poor decisions and undisciplined plays will have quite the upper hand. Against Boston College the Seminoles were able to have a decent start but were still down 7-6 going to halftime. (Still a great improvement from 17-0). The ‘Noles have to get out to another start like that to give themselves a chance.
Yes there are several streaks on the line for this Seminole squad putting a lot of pressure on this game but there’s also plenty of pressure for Florida. The Gators are trying to end a five-game losing streak to their rival, put their name in the hat for a New Year’s Six bowl game and of course they are trying to end all of the streaks for the Seminoles.
Due to FSU’s experience with dealing with talented pass rushers it won’t affect the home team as much as the Gators are hoping. With the new lineup in the linebacking corps I think the Seminoles will be able to deal with the Gators 4-headed rushing attack (Franks, Scarlett, Perine and Pierce).
Florida State will play just good enough to start to keep them in it but with a big second half they will take the lead. With the Seminoles clinging to a 3-point lead in the final minutes the Gators will attempt a game-tying field goal. With every FSU knowing it will go through the Seminoles will block it sending Doak into a frenzy and to a 30-27 victory.