"Both were the fastest teams in college football," Urban Meyer said of the rivalry in the 1990s. "Everybody watched that game. You wouldn't miss it. You couldn't miss it. If you had to do something at the time like coach another game, you'd always check the score afterwards. It was off the charts. I just remember the great athletes, and the speed of the game was second to none."
This year, Meyer doesn't see many differences from the Seminoles' teams that were ranked among the top in the country. Meyer calls the Seminoles "very, very talented," while the added improvement starts on defense.
Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews retired after last season, ending his 26-year career. The Seminoles hired Mark Stoops away from Arizona, where he has added more complex looks for the opposing offense.
"It's a little different scheme without Coach Andrews there," Meyer said. "Mickey Andrews was a lot of man coverage with a few standard blitzes and you knew exactly what they were doing. This group is similar to his brother, Bob Stoops. It's a very sound defense like the one we faced in the (2008) national championship game.
"It's not a blitzathon as much as it's execution of the defense. They'll play man coverage, but it was every snap in the past."
The Florida offensive line has struggled to protect the quarterback this season, and the Seminoles lead the country with 41 sacks this year. Meyer called his line's play "average," but he continued to insist there are multiple factors involved. Running backs must pick up blitzers, the pass has to get out quickly and the offensive linemen must adjust to pick up extra defenders.
"At times we've protected well, but this is a problem this week," Meyer said. "Those guys are real. They're not a big blitz team. They play sound defense with really good players."
In the past, Meyer has had veteran teams going into this rivalry game. They didn't need to hear of the importance of the rivalry to help them focus. This year's team could be different.
"It's all team-to-team," Meyer said. "The '08 team didn't need to be told it was a rivalry. The '08 team executed at an extremely high level, so the focus was on that. The '09 team, I would say the same. This one is a little different, so there might be more of an emphasis on the rivalry than in the last two years."
CHAMPIONS: Champions on offense were Marcus Gilbert, Maurice Hurt, John Brantley, Mike Gillislee, Steve Wilks, Jon Halapio, Chris Rainey, Jordan Reed, Carl Johnson, Frankie Hammond, Deonte Thompson and Trey Burton. Mike Pouncey was the offensive player of the game.
Champions on defense were Moses Jenkins, Ahmad Black, Duke Lemmens, Terron Sanders and Shariff Floyd. The defensive player of the game was Brandon Hicks.
INJURY REPORT: Janoris Jenkins left Saturday's game with a concussion. Meyer only said, "I'll know more today."
Andre Debose ran at Sunday's practice and is probable. Jeremy Brown and AJ Jones didn't play last week because of hamstring injuries, but they are both probable. Earl Okine had a concussion and is doubtful. Dominique Easley is questionable with a sprained ankle.
STEALING THE POUNCEYS: The Pouncey twins grew up Florida State fans and were considered locks to be Seminoles during the recruiting process. Meyer made them a focus and got them to instead be Gators.
"If you think about what the Pounceys have done for this program… To see their mom out there (Saturday) as emotional as she was with what Florida has meant to their lives, it's an amazing deal," Meyer said.
Meyer wouldn't take full credit for flipping the Pounceys. Instead, he credited another Gator.
"Rainey was the lead nut in that whole deal," Meyer said. "I first met him at an FCA banquet down in Tampa. We developed a great relationship. From there, the Pounceys jumped. Ahmad Black jumped. Steve Wilks jumped. That high school team will go down as one of the best ever."
RECRUITING AGAINST FSU: The importance of this game isn't only centered on the Gators trying to extend a six-game winning streak over Florida State. It also effects recruiting. The two face off against each other for many recruits in the state each year.
"The last few years we've done well," Meyer said. "Make no mistake about it, the quality of athlete on that team is as good as anybody in the country. There is so much to putting a team together. They get theirs, we get ours. There are a lot of guys on the fence right now."
Meyer said the way he sells each recruit "depends on what kind of season we're having." In a year like this with the Gators struggling, Meyer sells playing time and the opportunity to return Florida to a championship level. However, it's made a lot easier when he recruits high school players who grew up rooting for the Gators.
"You've got your Canes, you've got your Noles and you've got your Gators," Meyer said. "I was told that when we got here. It's a terrible thing to hear when you pick up the phone and hear, "I've always been a Nole," or, "I've always been a Cane." Then you call Chris Rainey and hear, "I've always been a Gator." That's kind of cool."
HOPING FOR OFFENSIVE PROGRESS: Meyer believes the key for the offense this week is to stay on schedule. They can't get into obvious passing downs with the Seminoles pass rush can pin their ears back and go after Brantley.
However, a media member informed Meyer of an interesting stat Monday morning. The Gators had ten possessions against Appalachian State Saturday, scoring on seven of them. During all seven scoring drives, there was a dual-threat quarterback involved in the drive. During the three drives where the Gators didn't get any points, no dual-threat quarterback was involved.
"I guess we've got to get some dual threat in there," Meyer said. "That threat is real, especially the quality of player they are and the threat they give you."
The offense continues to struggle with Brantley at quarterback, and the offense is fighting things they did early in the season.
"The issue when John is playing is you need that guy at tailback that can do it all," Meyer said. "When you have a quarterback like that, he's got to be able to hand it off. It's been that way for 100 years. When you're limited at tight end and fullback, you go through a period of time where you're in quick sand. You have to hand the ball off, play action pass and execute the drop back passing game. When we do that, we operate at a high level."
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