Florida/Florida State is About Pride

There are a lot of opinions about what is at stake Saturday as the Gators play Florida State. Some talk about the importance of boosting the team's stock for a better bowl game, while others talk about taking momentum into the offseason. For the current Florida players, Saturday's rivalry game is about one thing.

"If you'd ask 99% of the team, it's about pride," defensive tackle Terron Sanders said. "Yeah, we want to get to a better bowl game, but for the most part it's about pride. We don't want to lose, especially the last game of the season to a big rival like this."

Coach Meyer said on Monday that in recent years, there hasn't been a need to speak much about the rivalry. The coaches talked to the players about it during the past two seasons, but the veteran team didn't need any extra motivation.

This year is different. The Gators are now depending on multiple young players who will be experiencing this rivalry for the first time. The coaches have added different parts to this week to educate the younger players on how important this rivalry is for both.

"There are a lot of bragging rights at stake," Sanders said. "They're having a good season, better than they have in the past. They feel like they can do everything with this new coach they have. We're just trying to keep the tradition alive around here, and that's just winning games."

Even with four losses already, Sanders still feels like they will get the best from any team they play. The success of the program since Meyer took over in 2005 elevated the program to one of the top in the country.

"With us being Florida, we still have a target on our back, even if the record doesn't show it," Sanders said. "Everybody is going to give us everything they've got."

That includes Saturday, when most people give the Seminoles their best chance to beat Florida since Meyer the job at Florida. Their offense has slowed down in recent weeks, but a new defensive scheme has given juice to that side of the ball, helping the Seminoles to lead the country with 41 sacks this season.

The rivalry is different from the ones Florida has with Georgia and Tennessee because players on both sidelines played against each other while growing up and in high school. The familiarity is much higher because both sides have players that became friends during their recruiting visits, only to attend different schools.

The intensity is still in the rivalry, despite Florida winning six-straight, and there is a respect between the two teams, too.

"We hate each other, but at the same time, we have respect for each other," Sanders said. "There's some talk on the field, but I don't think it'll ever turn into a huge brawl between us. Cheap shots are in every game. Are they amped up this week? Probably. But they're in every week, they just don't get seen."

The Florida State offensive line is a group that Sanders said has stayed together for the majority of the last three years. Players like Andrew Datko and Rodney Hudson are staples to that line, and Sanders has seen steady improvement each year.

"They're real good," Sanders said. "They've gotten better every year. It's a unit that has the chemistry that a team wants. They can hurt us if we're not there."

If the offensive line can take over against the Gators, it could be a long day. The Seminoles want to run the ball to open up the passing game for quarterback Christian Ponder. However, if the Gators can shut down the run and make Ponder one-dimensional, the defense's job becomes much easier.

"That's every game," Sanders said. "If they don't establish a run game, it makes them one-dimensional. If the defensive line can do that this weekend, we have a chance."
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