Just two games stand in the way of Florida State and a berth in the BCS National Championship game. In a normal year, Seminole fans would be at least a little nervous going into the Florida game, especially one that will be played at the Swamp. That isn’t the case this year as the Gators come crawling in with a 4-7 record, have lost six straight, and are fresh off a loss to FCS Georgia Southern at home.
Things obviously haven’t gone well for Florida this season as the injuries have piled up. Nowhere is this more evident than at quarterback. Florida has lost two quarterbacks to injury (Jeff Driskell and Tyler Murphy) and one to transfer before the season (Jacoby Brissett). Freshman Skyler Mornhinweg has started the last two games and has been less than impressive.
The Florida offense has been unusually inefficient this year and ranks 96th in the opponent-adjusted offensive F/+ rankings, which also eliminate garbage time statistics. To put that in perspective, Syracuse and NC State both rank ahead of Florida in this measure. Part of the reason for their offensive struggles are the injuries that have plagued the offensive line. Starting tackles Chaz Green and D. J. Humphries are out for the year—and Green’s replacement Tyler Moore is also out.
The injury bug hasn’t been limited to the lines, however, as running back Matt Jones and wide receiver Andre Dubose are both out for the year as well. Florida is 80th in pass efficiency with a 124.70 team passer rating. More significantly for an offense that wants to pound the football, the Gators are 98th nationally in rushing, averaging a remarkably anemic 3.65 yards per carry. This inability to run the football or pass efficiently has resulted in 18 turnovers, good for 58th nationally.
The Florida defense has actually been quite good this year (the 479 yards rushing by Georgia Southern notwithstanding), ranking 12th in the defensive F/+ rankings. This is in spite of an injury bug on defense that has made the offensive woes look tame. Five linebackers, one cornerback, and two defensive linemen are out for Saturday’s game.
After last weekend’s game, the Gators are 76th in rush defense, allowing 4.38 yards per carry. That figure displays the difference in their defense brought by the injuries on the front seven—most notably star defensive tackle Dominique Easley, without whom the defense simply has not been the same. Easley was Florida’s equivalent to Timmy Jernigan, and his absence has left a huge hole in the middle of the defense.
Their strength, however, is defending the pass, as Florida is sixth in pass efficiency defense and third in yards allowed, allowing only one yard per game more than Florida State, and has only allowed six passing scores all year against nine interceptions. The one thing the Florida defense isn’t doing well this year is forcing turnovers, as they rank 73rd with only 18 forced all year.
On the other hand, the Seminoles come in rolling at 11-0 on the season and fresh off an 80 point performance against Idaho. Florida State is first in the Offensive F/+ rankings and fourth on defense, illustrating just how dominant the Noles have been so far this year behind redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston, widely considered the favorite for the Heisman trophy.
FSU is also third in the nation in turnover margin at +16, having forced 29 and only given up 13. Florida State has four players averaging over 15 yards per catch and three players with at over 50 carries averaging at least 6.5 yards per rush.
All this goes to say that this is an absolute mismatch in what was the premier rivalry of the 1990’s. The Gators have nothing left to play for but pride, meaning they have nothing to lose. This can sometimes make for a dangerous opponent, but it’s more probable that the Noles crush whatever remaining pride the Gators have left fairly early in this one.
This FSU team has won every game by at least 14 (ten by 27+) and has been putting the game out of reach early. Winston has only thrown 18 total fourth quarter passes this season and rarely even takes a snap after the third quarter.
Wayne: I expect the same from this game. I fully expect Florida State to go into Hogtown and lay a whooping on the mighty Gators. ‘Noles crush the Gators 45-10.
Jason: Because of the quality of the Florida secondary and the pass rush ability of Ronald Powell and Dante Fowler, Jr., I expect FSU to run the football a bit more in this one than usual, shortening the game a bit and limiting the points scored. That said, Florida’s offense is so anemic that the FSU offense will likely get short fields on several occasions, leading to easier scores. The biggest concern for FSU is the game getting overly chippy and leading to a key injury. Look for FSU to break the national record for most games in a row with over 40 points, winning 45-6.