Florida State squandered an opportunity in its last game against rival Florida.
After starting 0-4 last season, the Seminoles compiled a 5-2 record and were in position to finish on a high note. Their 24-21 loss to the Gators, though, kept them one win away from achieving bowl eligibility.
One year later, and No. 16 FSU (8-3) now has a chance of redemption when hosting Florida (6-5) in Doak Campbell Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday (TV: ABC).
And with a win, the Seminoles would end a few droughts.
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They would finish 5-0 for the first time since 2016. They would defeat the Gators for the first time since 2017. They would beat Florida and Miami in the same season for the first time since 2016. And they would keep their chances alive of earning an Orange Bowl bid, along with winning 10 games for the first time since 2016.
Per Bet Online on Wednesday evening, the Gators come in as a 9.5-point betting underdog. They have experienced an up-and-down season under first-year coach Billy Napier. They are coming off their first loss at Vanderbilt since the 1988 season, falling in 31-24 fashion.
So, how will this game likely unfold? Why would FSU win, and why would Florida come out with the victory? Below is a breakdown of those scenarios, along with a score prediction.
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Why FSU will win
Florida probably won’t be able to stop the run.
The Gators have the second-worst run defense on the Seminoles’ schedule, allowing 171.5 yards on the ground per game (No. 92 nationally). They also have given up a 100-yard rusher in seven of their last eight games against FBS opponents.
Not to mention one of their best players, sixth-year senior linebacker Ventrell Miller, will miss the first half because of the targeting penalty he received against the Commodores. He ranks second on the team in tackles (73) and run-defense grade (77.2) on Pro Football Focus.
Running the football has been FSU’s biggest strength this season. The Seminoles average 5.54 yards per carry (9th) and 217 rushing yards per game (14th). They are looking to surpass 200 rushing yards for the seventh straight game, which has not happened for this program since 1987.
Overall, Florida could struggle to stop an offense that has the most plays of 20-plus yards (80) in the country and ranks No. 6 in third-down conversion percentage (51.4%). The Gators are No. 127 in third-down defense (48.3%), along with No. 78 in scoring defense (27.3 points allowed per game) and No. 98 in total defense (408.5 yards allowed per game).
On defense, FSU probably won’t shut down standout Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson. But the Seminoles could slow him down enough to win. They were dominant defensively in the last four games, holding opponents to 104.8 rushing yards and 121 passing yards per game.
FSU’s starting defense has not allowed a touchdown this month. The Seminoles also will face a Gator offense that, at best, will have only five of their 10 scholarship wide receivers available for the game.
On its depth chart Wednesday, Florida listed receivers Justin Shorter (lower body), Ja’Quavion Fraziars (upper body), Xzavier Henderson (lower body), Marcus Burke (upper body) and Thai Chiaokhiao-Bowman (upper body) as out with injuries. Receiver Ricky Pearsall (upper body) was listed as questionable.
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Why Florida will win
With Richardson, Florida always has a chance.
The Gainesville product has shown enough this season to be projected as one of the first quarterbacks selected in the 2023 NFL Draft. His arm strength and dual-threat ability certainly makes opponents have to defend every blade of grass on the field.
Only two other quarterbacks in the country have passed for 2,300 yards and rushed for 600 yards. Richardson also is one of seven players to record 12-plus passing touchdowns and nine-plus rushing touchdowns. His 6.6 yards per carry ranks second among quarterbacks.
Until its four-game winning streak, FSU ranked No. 85 in run defense (157 yards allowed per game). The Seminoles have since improved to No. 53 (138 yards allowed per game), but they only faced one top-80 offense during that stretch, in Syracuse (44th).
So maybe FSU will struggle against the best rushing attack on its schedule.
The Gators are second in yards per carry (5.9) and 15th in rushing offense (209.3 yards per game). Along with Richardson (93 carries, 613 yards, 9 TDs), the Seminoles will have to account for running backs Montrell Johnson Jr. (127 carries, 742 yards, 9 TDs) and Trevor Etienne (93 carries, 576 yards, 5 TDs).
On defense, it is unrealistic to expect Florida to wreak havoc. But the Gators rank No. 8 in turnovers gained (23). In a high-scoring affair, Florida could force a couple turnovers that would end up being the difference in this game.
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There should be a lot of offensive fireworks in this one.
Don’t be surprised if this game – which has an over/under of 57.5 points – is a shootout.
It also would not be surprising to see Florida play inspired and start well. But FSU ultimately has been playing much better defense and is more balanced on offense. The Gators are too short handed on offense and won’t be able to slow down this vaunted Seminole attack.
Expect FSU to win by a double-digit margin.
Score prediction: FSU 38, Florida 27.
Who: No. 16 FSU (8-3) vs. Florida (6-5)
When/where: Friday, 7:30 p.m.; Doak Campbell Stadium
TV/Radio: ABC/94.9 FM
Live game updates: www.Tallahassee.com; @CarterKarels on Twitter; @Ehsan_Kassim on Twitter; @JimHenryTALLY
Reach Carter Karels at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @CarterKarels. You can also follow our coverage on Facebook (NoleSports) and Instagram (tlhnolesports).
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