Record Against FSU: 34-23-2
Head Coach Jim McElwain
First Year At UF
Career Record: 32-17
A complete breakdown of the stats between the two can be found HERE
Players To Watch
DT Jon Bullard: 53 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 6 QB hurries, and 2 pass breakups.
Bullard is easily Florida's best defensive lineman, but the question is how healthy he will be for this game. Coach McElwain said Bullard was doubtful to play in his final game as a Gator, but Florida State has prepared as though he will play. Bullard is a nightmare to try and block, and, if he plays, will cause a lot of issues for the Florida State interior.
CB Vernon Hargreaves III: 24 tackles, 4 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble.
Hargreaves is considered one of the top cornerbacks in the entire country, and will be a top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He's a lockdown corner that teams rarely throw at, and when they do he makes them pay for it.
QB Treon Harris: 83-152 for 1,231 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. 62 rushes for 198 yards.
Harris took over the starting quarterback job halfway through the season for the Gators after Will Grier was suspended for PEDs. Harris has been erratic throwing the ball, but has a penchant for making big throws when he needs too. He is also Florida's second leading rusher behind Kelvin Taylor.
WR Antonio Callaway: 27 receptions for 541 yards and 4 touchdowns. 23 punt returns for 343 yards and 1 touchdown.
Callaway is the biggest offensive threat for the Gators. He's their leading receiver as a true freshman, and also their star punt returner. Callaway has struggled the last three games, but is still someone that the Seminoles will need to watch.
Wayne McGahee III:
This won't be a pretty game by any stretch of the imagination. Both teams field very good defenses and offenses that leave something to be desired. Florida State has the trump card with running back Dalvin Cook. Cook is one of the best running backs in the entire country, and if he can get going that will be a big boost for the Florida State offense. The Florida State offensive line should finally have some continuity with the same starting five for the last 3 games. It will also help the Seminoles cause that the Gator defensive line has been banged up for the latter part of the season.
On defense the Seminoles will need to contain Antonio Callaway, and limit Treon Harris' impact with his legs. If Florida State is able to do that it will be a long day for the Florida offense. The Gators are banged up on the offensive line as well, and lack depth there. The Florida State defensive line has been fantastic this year giving the Seminoles the edge in the trenches. Florida State's special teams are also far superior to Florida's, especially at the kicker position. If this turns into a field goal game, Florida State will have a massive edge there.
At the end of the day I think Dalvin Cook and Roberto Aguayo will be the difference in the game for the Seminoles. I think that both offenses will have trouble scoring, but Dalvin Cook seems to break at least one big one per game. I have Florida State winning ugly 19-10.
Expect an ugly game in which each coach is content to run the football and play for field position rather than taking risks by putting the ball in the air. Both teams have excellent-to-elite defenses with outstanding defensive lines, and the collection of cornerbacks in this game is as good as you’ll see in the college game. Florida State may have the best pair of cornerbacks in the country (Jalen Ramsey and Marquez White), but Florida almost certainly has the best trio of cornerbacks (Vernon Hargreaves III, Jalen Tabor, Brian Poole) in the country, making the passing game a risky proposition for each offense. But all told, this is a bad matchup for the Gators because of FSU’s ability to run the football and stop the run, while Florida has struggled running the football and hasn’t been as dominant against the run defensively as against the pass.
Florida is simply not as potent on offense without Will Grier at quarterback since Treon Harris is unable to make the tight-window anticipation throws Grier had begun to make by midseason. This has allowed defenses to focus on stopping Kelvin Taylor and the UF running game, and the Gators' banged-up (and already below-average) offensive line has struggled to create space against defenses nowhere near as good as the one they’ll face on Saturday. Expect FSU’s defensive line to dominate the line of scrimmage and hold the Gators to 3 YPC or less, forcing UF to throw in order to move the football. FSU’s corners should also largely take away WRs Antonio Callaway and Demarcus Robinson on the outside, with the matchups to watch on the inside as UF tries to get advantageous one-on-one matchups against explosive slot receiver Brandon Powell and a series of tight ends led by Jake McGee. Absent a big play by Powell or a blown coverage at some point, it’s hard to imagine Florida moving the football in this game.
On the flip side, Florida State has Dalvin Cook, and although the Florida defense has terrific stats against the run on the year, they did give up big numbers to the only two good rushing teams they have faced in Tennessee and LSU. The Gators are banged up on the defensive line, but they should still be among the better units FSU has faced—basically comparable with Clemson’s outstanding front. But Cook ran for 195 yards against the Tigers, a good sign given that FSU will not want Sean Maguire taking risks against UF’s ball-hawking secondary. Despite far too many motion penalties (particularly on the road), FSU’s offensive line has been among the best run blocking units in the nation, giving the Noles some hope for success in Gainesville.
The bottom line is that Florida State is the more complete team in this matchup as UF is limping toward the finish line at this point. Both teams have outstanding defensive lines, but FSU has more depth up front and is significantly better than the Gators on the offensive line. And most importantly: Florida State has Dalvin Cook; Florida does not. Absent a few turnovers or a major special teams play (e.g., a blocked punt or a long return by Callaway), Florida is likely to have trouble scoring in double digits, while Cook is likely to create at least a couple explosive plays and at least give FSU field position leverage, where FSU’s advantage at placekicker provides yet another edge. I think this game winds up resembling the 2011 matchup between these two teams, with FSU taking an early lead and playing it safe from there in an offensively challenged game. Florida State wins, 23-6.