"I think it is an advantage that I've played in a couple big games," Rix said. "I definitely think about the Florida game a lot from last year. They beat us very convincingly. I'm excited about this game and I hope my teammates are just as excited.
"I hope to use that big-game experience to my advantage. I'm not tentative at all. I'm probably more anxious to get back on that field than I ever have been. Hopefully, everybody can rally and come out and finish the season strong."
The Seminoles' (8-4) tumultuous season reached a new level this week after the dismisal and arrest of former quarterback Adrian McPherson, who replaced Rix in the starting lineup for three games. FSU will try to rebound emotionally from that shock – and more.
The Seminoles likely will play without senior center Antoine Mirambeau (knee), guard Montrae Holland (ankle), defensive tackle Jeff Womble (Achilles) and tailback Nick Maddox (ankle). Holland might be the most likely to play. Without Maddox, the Seminoles will start freshman Leon Washington for the third consecutive game.
In the big picture, the game is staged with neither team ranked in the Top 10 for the first time in 16 years. From 1990 through 2000, both of these teams annually met while ranked in the Top 10. Each time, the winner either had a direct shot or an outside chance of getting into the national title game. The Gators (8-3), meanwhile, have not won in Tallahassee since 1986. They can claim a rare sweep of main rivals Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State by winning tonight.
The game also marks the final appearance for FSU's 25 seniors.
The class has endured the best and worst of times at FSU.
A national championship (1999 season) followed by an inexplicable meltdown the following year at the Orange Bowl (against Oklahoma) that could have been dual titles. Two months after the Orange Bowl loss, the Seminoles experienced the tragic death of linebacker Devaughn Darling. Last year, virtually every streak of success was ended. Ten-win seasons, top four finishes, home unbeaten record. Now, FSU is in the midst of another four-loss season, at least to this point, has been further strained by McPherson's arrest and dismissal.
Senior tackle Brett Williams believes the Seminoles will be ready for the Gators. He says it's easy to put the distractions behind you once you step on the field.
"I think it's pretty easy. We had a player die on this team," Williams said. "So nothing compares to that. This is not a big deal to us, really. Especially when you got Florida coming in. This is such a rivalry, a pride game for guys that it doesn't matter who's playing in the game. You just go in there and try to kill the guy in front of you. It will be very emotional (game). My whole life, I've always dreamed about playing on this field, even when I barely knew what football was. It seems like it happened so fast. It will be an emotional game."
No matter what happens tonight, the Seminoles are in a Bowl Championship Series game. They won the Atlantic Coast Conference title last week, even in defeat. They likely will play in the Sugar Bowl against the SEC champion, even though they could have their most losses (five) in 21 years, if they stumble against the Gators.
FSU's success is expected to be once again in the hands of Rix, who says he has learned plenty since being demoted.
"The past month has been very humbling, just sitting and watching the team and having a different role," Rix said. "I think, fortunately, other teammates have notice that... that I've been working harder, putting more effort in, watching more film, just going that extra mile. You don't realize what you have until it's gone. I miss the game, I miss the guys. Just being in the huddle with them, and going to war with them.
"I am ready and you guys will see it (today)."