When: 12:00 p.m. (ET) Saturday Nov.30, 2013; ESPN
Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium; Gainesville, Florida
The Florida State offense is led by Heisman Trophy candidate and red-shirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston. Winston is completing nearly 70% of his passes for 3,123 yards, 32 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions. He's big and mobile, but he has a great sense of awareness in the pocket that has allowed him not to make too many mistakes. He's athletic and can get away from the rush and run, but has only netted 126 yards in 2013. He has played through the distractions of an ongoing criminal investigation where h hasn't been charged with anything but the media circus has been incredible.
Winston will be joined in the backfield by a terrific trio of backs in juniors in Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams, and James Wilder. The three have amassed 1898 yards and 29 touchdowns. All three average 6.2 yards or more per carry. The Noles have been terrific running the ball this year.
Rashad Greene is the big play maker at receiver and he has 57 catches for 889 yards and nine touchdowns with a long play of 72 yards. Kenny Shaw is a speedster with 828 yards of his own and Kelvin Benjamin is their big target that they like to use in the red zone and has nine touchdowns of his own. Tight end Nick O'Leary is one of the nation's best and has seven touchdowns while amassing 457 yards.
The offensive line is a place the Seminoles have improved a great deal. They have been opening up big running lanes for the backs and allowed 26 sacks, which is a pretty low number for as much as Florida State passes the ball.
Defensively the Noles are ranked fifth in the country in total defense allowing just 278.1 yards per game. They rank 17th in the country in rushing defense giving up just 121.6 yards per game on the ground. They are even better through the air ranking second nationally and giving up 156.5 yards per game. The Seminoles are tied for second in the nation in allowing just 11.2 points per game.
The Seminoles are very fast all the way around on defense. They are second in the country in turnover margin and have gained 23 interceptions and six fumble recoveries.
The Noles do have 30 sacks on the year and rank 24th in the country in that category. They love to bring cornerback Lamarcus Joyner off the edge and he leads the team in sacks with five followed by defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (4.5). Nobody else has more than two on the year. Jernigan is their plqy maker up front but they certainly have recruiting star power up front with names like Eddie Goldman, Jacobbi McDaniel, and Mario Edwards starting up front along the side of Jernigan.
The strength, like Florida may come in the secondary, where Joyner is second on the team in tackles. Backup defensive back Nate Andrews leads the team with four interceptions while starters Joyner, Jalen Ramsey, P.J. Williams, Ronald Darby, and Terrance Brooks have seven among them.
THE MATCH UP
I am going to start where SU has the ball, because this is the place where Florida has a chance. Even with the high flying antics of the Seminoles, teams have not wanted to throw on the Gators this year, even if they are a throwing team.
Florida absolutely has the ability to take the pass out of the ball for the Noles, but that will not be an easy task. They have to generate a pass rush up front and as stated FSU has been pretty good at protecting Winston. If they can get a pass rush, they can cause things to happen.
They of course have to stop the running game and the Noles have been better here, but they aren't a power team or tricky in the run game, I think this is good for Florida.
On offense this is the game where we should want to see Florida control the clock. The Gators may need a defensive touchdown to keep it close or win, but I see no way they can go through the air on this Florida State team.
The Noles are ranked high nationally in kick coverage and return teams, but the gators rank even higher. Florida State is 115th in net punting, but they don't do it very often. They have a decided advantage at the field goal kicker spot.
In the end, it appears the Noles have too much firepower on offense and too much speed on defense. I will have to go with Florida State here and say 27-10.