A lot on the line Saturday

Saturday in college football changed the importance of Florida's trip to Tallahassee this weekend. It was always going to be a top-ten matchup with bragging rights on the line for the next year. After the top two teams in the country lost on Saturday, the Gators are still alive to play in the national championship game. Florida coach Will Muschamp sees plenty at stake on Saturday.

"This game is important for a lot of reasons beside any ranking that's involved or anything outside of that," Will Muschamp said. "It's an important game for the University of Florida. It's important for your state to win this football game. There are a lot of other reasons that come first and foremost in my mind as opposed to the external situation out there."

Muschamp always addresses the BCS rankings and the bowl situation with his team. His theory is that it's better to address it and be open with what everyone thinks than to hide it and pretend like they're not aware of it.

However, Muschamp didn't want to look too far into the future with the media on Monday. After Saturday's games ended, the Gators look likely to play in the national title game if Florida beats Florida State and Notre Dame loses to USC.

"Huge if," Muschamp said when asked about getting in the national title picture. "We've got to take care of business Saturday. Let's understand what's at stake and what's important, and that's focusing on the game."

Florida's play on offense this year hasn't mimicked what's expected for a team in the hunt for a national championship. It hasn't produced blowout wins, but the Gators just continue to win.

"You play in our league and you play in some of the venues we've gone and played in," said Muschamp, not that it wasn't pretty on the field. "My wife told me I was sexy after the game. We don't win sexy, but she said you're sexy. That's a positive. She was kidding."

The Seminoles bring challenges on both sides of the football. Florida State is the top-ranked defense in the country, allowing just 236.3 yards per game. The Seminoles allow 70.6 rushing yards per game to lead the country while giving up the fifth-fewest with just 165.6 passing yards.

Muschamp raved about defensive coordinator Mark Stoops and the job he has done at Florida State. The entire unit can run and has size at each position.

It all starts with the defensive line. Ends Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner can create havoc off the edge and get into the backfield at will. Even after losing senior Brandon Jenkins, who was expected to be a first-round pick, the Seminoles haven't lost much on the edge.

"They are very athletic. They've got girth, they've got size, and they've got speed," Muschamp said. "They've recruited and have a lot of depth, and they throw a lot guys in there to play and play well. When you lose a guy like Brandon Jenkins to start the season and you're able to still play at a high level and rush the passer well with four guys rushing, it says a lot about your recruiting. They do a good job."

Muschamp called the Florida State linebackers "fast and athletic with size" and saying the secondary can "cover extremely well," but there's no doubt what makes the Florida State defense work. It's the defensive line.

On offense, the Seminoles have a senior quarterback at the helm in E.J. Manuel. The offense doesn't get as many headlines because of the dominant play by the Florida State defense, but it has been a strong unit. The Seminoles are 24th in the country with 212.1 rushing yards per game and 32nd in the country with 281.45 passing yards per game.

"E.J. Manuel is playing like a senior quarterback should play," Muschamp said. "He's completing close to 70 percent of his passes, directing the offense, getting them in and out of the right runs versus the looks they want to do. It's very obvious to see on film he directs this football team. It is his football team."

Rashad Greene leads the Florida State offense with 549 yards and five touchdowns through the air. The Seminoles also have Rodney Smith (464 yards, 3 TDs) and Kelvin Benjamin (479 yards, 4 TDs) as weapons for Manuel.

With Chris Thompson out for the year with an injury, freshman Devonta Freeman and sophomore James Wilder are leading the charge at running back.

"Rashad Greene is a very talented receiver, leads a very talented and deep receiving corps,. A lot of guys, Benjamin and Smith, are bigger guys, tough matchup guys, especially in the red zone," Muschamp said. "They do a nice job of utilizing Wilder and Freeman and Pryor, nice rotation they have at running back.

"Nick O'Leary's a really good tight end and a guy that does a really good job in the passing game. They've got everybody back up front offensively and a year older, which they were very young on the offensive line a year ago."


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