Seminoles hope to salvage lost season

Like the Miami-Florida State game, Florida-Florida State has lost some of its luster the last few years with both schools struggling. But bragging rights and recruiting advantages are still on the line.

There's one last chance for the Seminoles (7-4) to salvage something from a wrecked season.

In a year that did not live up to preseason hope or perception, Florida State will try to produce a second consecutive sweep of rivals Miami and Florida. This has not happened since 1998-99, the years they played for national championships.

"It's one of the reasons you coach and one of your goals that you set every year, that you target and win because of the importance of it to your alums, your boosters, your kids and what you do in recruiting," said FSU coach Jimbo Fisher. "It is a big factor. We're very fortunate to be 3-0 in the ones we've been in. We've had some hard-fought victories, and hopefully we can bounce back this week and play a good game in this one."

Hard to believe the fall of this rivalry. During the Bobby Bowden vs. Steve Spurrier era of the 1990s, these teams met 12 consecutive times, including twice in bowl games, when both teams were ranked in the top 10. But this is the first time neither team has been ranked since 1986 and the first time these teams had a combined nine losses since 1976.

It's been a downcast week in Tallahassee among the Seminoles' supporters. Two weeks ago, they were talking of a 10-win season and momentum into the offseason.

That all has been changed by the concern this team could fall to 7-5 and get pushed into one of the ACC's lower-tier bowl games.

The Seminoles do not have a win over a team with a winning record and won't have a signature victory, even if they do beat Florida, all season.

NOTES AND QUOTES

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and Florida coach Will Muschamp forged a friendship when they were assistants under Nick Saban at LSU. That relationship led to the duo sharing the cost of purchasing a beach condo in Panama City, Florida. The two used the condo, though not at the same time, for family vacations.

"We both wanted a place at the beach," Fisher said. "We didn't want to spend all that money to get a place... so you divided it and you split your time when you were there. So we were never, ever, ever there [together]. Ever."

Fisher said his wife, Candi, and Muschamp's wife, Carol, might have spent some time there together with their children as well.

"I like the beach," Fisher said with a laugh. "But I don't love it." ...

One area where both teams resemble their past is defense. Florida State is ranked seventh nationally in total defense, holding opponents to 282.2 yards per game. UF is 17th nationally in total defense, limiting opponents to 318.2 yards per game. FSU held Virginia to its lowest output in the run game (78 yards) and moved up to No. 3 nationally in rush defense (84.4 yards per game), just behind Alabama and Georgia.

SERIES HISTORY: Florida leads 33-20-2.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Offensive line coach Rick Trickett, who is catching plenty of criticism from fans, made his players run wind sprints Sunday as punishment for their struggles in the Virginia loss. Short-yardage situations have become a point of emphasis during the early week of FSU practices. But one major issue against Florida is whether the pass-blocking will be good enough for QB E.J. Manuel to see downfield and hit receivers. Florida has been a tough run defense all season, so the Seminoles must throw and catch a lot better than they did against Virginia.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Seminoles have played good enough defense to win nine of their 11 games this season. But their two worst performances came on the road. That will be one of the concerns this week. The Seminoles will have to contain the Gators' top weapons, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, and try to get pressure on John Brantley and force some mistakes. The Seminoles should like this matchup. They are one of the top run defenses in the country, and that has been Florida's main strength.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've got to continue to grow with this youth and get over these humps. We'll get better at it, and the key is going to be attention to detail. This is one game where we didn't do that. We'll have a very tough football game this week. Florida is a very tough defensive team. Florida's defense is 17th in the country. They have a very good front." -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher on Saturday's game against Florida.


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