Jelani Jenkins Readies for Rivalry

There have been some classics and some duds in the rivalry series between Florida and Florida State. One thing is for sure, the emotions will run high on both sidelines in a game the players and fans get up for no matter what situation the teams are in. The scenario for this game is a little different than it has been lately with Florida being an underdog, but not to Jelani Jenkins.

The Florida Gators are 7-4 in a season that hasn't gone the way anyone anticipated. Starting off in the top 10, the Gators have slowly slid down the polls during the season and are currently out of the top 25. They have yet to beat a ranked team in 2010.

Florida State is probably a notch below where they anticipated being to start the season. At 8-3, it has been a good season, but not the great one they were looking for. Ranked No. 22 in the nation, the Seminoles come in with a little more swagger than the Gators.

The odds-makers have also given the home team three points and the Seminoles are favored to beat the Gators in the game. According to freshman starting linebacker Jelani Jenkins, none of that matters.

"I'm not looking at it like we are the underdog," Jenkins told the media on Monday. "I don't see us as the underdog coming in."

Heading to a stadium that will be filled for the first time since Florida played there in 2008 is exciting for Jenkins and he believes his team will be ready.

"It's a great rivalry and I am looking forward to playing in it," Jenkins said. "This is the first time I have been up there. I am just excited to see the atmosphere and looking forward to a great week of practice. I know it's going to be a great game and fun."

From a defensive standpoint, the Gators will have their hands full facing a multi-dimensional offense that hasn't been outstanding, but really balanced and can hurt you with big plays. The Seminoles have 33 plays of 25 yards or more on the season and balanced with the big plays with 17 runs and 16 passes among them.

"There are different things we have to prepare for and adjust on the fly," Jenkins said. "They are another one of those teams that can beat you with the run or the pass. We have to stop them running so we can stop them and keep them one dimensional."

Quarterback Christian Ponder is another thing to worry about. He can hurt you with his arm or his feet. He is 4th all-time at FSU with 6,645 passing yards. He is also close to eclipsing the 1,000-yard rushing mark for his career with 812 yards to his name.

"That always is another thing we have to work on," Jenkins said. "With a mobile quarterback we have to be more gap (responsible) and cool with your assignments. He will be able to pass and run and we have to be ready for it."

Rivalries like this one were big for the recruitment of Jenkins. From Maryland, the teams in his home area didn't play in games like this and didn't win them.

"That played a big role, that they win the big games," Jenkins said in why he chose Florida to play his collegiate ball. "They mentioned the rivalries and that they were able to overcome and win the big rivalries.

"A big thing for me was the feeling I had here and the family atmosphere and the ability to win big games. There weren't many schools up there that were able to win those big games."

Florida's defense is ranked 10th in the country statistically. It is a testament to the hard work some of the young guys like Jenkins have put in this season. They have had to overcome an offense that has kept them on the field way too much. This defense will be the highest ranked defense FSU will face all season and Jenkins believes it is just getting better.

"We had a lot of new guys and a new group of guys we had to get comfortable with throughout the year," he said. "We are a lot more comfortable and playing for each other than we were in the beginning."
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