Game Day Headquarters: Florida vs FSU

For some Gator fans, they would be happy if this was the only game the Gators won in any given year. That is how important this Florida – Florida State game is and what kind of rivalry it is. Luckily for the Gators, they have more to play for, but that doesn’t lessen what is on tap Saturday in Tallahassee. The Gators have their hands full.

#13 Florida Gators (8-2) vs.  #14 Florida State Seminoles (8-3)

Saturday November 26, 2016; 8:00 p.m. (EST)

Tallahassee, Florida; Doak Campbell Stadium

TV: ABC

Florida head coach Jim McElwain understands the rivalry. He knows that the fans of the winner get bragging rights in every corner of the state. He also knows that Florida State is a loaded ball club capable of doing big things and the Gators have to try and do their own.

"This is a special week… against a team that our players know well and their players know our guys,” McElwain said earlier this week. “We both recruited a bunch of the same guys, so there (aren’t) a lot of secrets there.  This is obviously an opponent (that has) good players and Jimbo (Fisher) can really coach. He’s done an outstanding job there. He’s built a program that believes in what they do. They play really good defense. They lead the country in sacks. They’ve got really good cover guys. I think one of the things that really stands out there is their sudden change defense. When there has been a turnover, they’ve held the opponent to not getting points a lot of times. That’s really, really a sign of a good defense.

“It’s going to be a fun week. That’s what rivalries are all about. It should be good.”

The Gators are looking to do something they haven’t really done much of in recent memory. That is putting two strong performances back-to-back. Last week against LSU they seemed to defy all the odds and came away with an improbable 16-10 win on the road, showing grit and determination against a very good team. This week they will need the same effort.

“I’m not sure we’ve had a decent win like (LSU) was and actually followed it up,” McElwain said.  You know what I mean? But whether you go win the game or not it’s about the effort and the emotion and the way you attack the week of preparation…. But that’s part of the growth of an organization and a program… understanding that. So here’s another opportunity for us to learn, and we’ve got a lot of good, young players that’re playing their tail off. Now, can they keep putting it back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back, you know? The sign of consistency is what helps you be successful in whatever you’re doing.”

Florida’s offensive line had one of their best games of the season last week, especially in the run game. When it mattered, Florida saddled up sophomore running back Jordan Scarlett and freshman Lamical Perine and decided to run the ball. The result was 108 yards for Scarlett and a hard core 39 yards for Perine. The biggest take away from that however, may have been the play of the offensive line. The young, banged up, and often scrutinized group really created some creases and running lanes for Scarlett and Perine against a vaunted LSU defense.

That offensive line has their work cut out for them this weekend.

“They’ve got to go against the team that leads the country in sacks with Florida State so there’s no real time to enjoy it,” McElwain said of their play up front. “What I tried to do was let them know – reflect back on how and why, enjoy it and let’s get back to work (Monday) and move on. There were a lot of really good performances in that game by some guys, and yet it was truly a team effort.

The Seminoles have big time talent all over the field on defense, but they probably have more on the offensive side of the ball. Redshirt freshman Deondre Francois has had a stellar year and is just on the cusp of throwing for 3,000 yards this season. Junior running back Dalvin Cook is an All-American and many believe the best back in the country.

McElwain recruited Francois and thought he had him for the 2015 class, Cook he knows all too well from a big time effort against the Gators a year ago.

USA Today Sports Images

“Offensively, the quarterback is playing lights out, throwing it to the right colored jerseys,” McElwain said. “They’ve done a really good job with him and have the weapons around. This Dalvin Cook guy is the most explosive player in all of college football. You can just look at his plays, both running and catching. He’s a special, special player who is going to play a long time at the next level.  And they’ve got some guys around him as well. Just talking as a guy who enjoys watching good things on film, this guy is awful fun to watch. He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played. We have our work cut out for us.

“Here's what I like… the guy can run behind his pads the way he's built, and yet, he can give you that side-to-side jump cut and get to top speed so quickly. You can't blink. You gotta keep your head up and you gotta wrap this guy up. The big thing is we gotta get people around the ball because he's going to make some guys miss and that's what makes him so special."

FIVE WAYS TO VICTORY

If the Gators are going to pull of another upset this week, there are things that are going to have to happen. I named five last week and they did all five, and squeaked away with a six point win on a goal line stand. This week, they need these things to go their way.

Hold Cook to under 100 yards… Cook is a guy that gets his yards in big chunks. He isn’t a grinder, but has eight runs of over 40 yards this year, that is more than the Gator team as a whole has either by run or pass. He averages (133.4 ypg), and keeping him under 100 means he likely gets just one or so of those big chunk yardage plays.

Win turnover battle by (+2)… The Gators didn’t turn the ball over against LSU and forced two of their own.  They need the same from this team simply because the FSU offense is too explosive. The Noles are (+5) on the year and Gators are (+3) in turnover margin. They need to end this game even or better with the Noles to win it in this man’s opinion.

Rush for 180+ yards… The Gators need to be able to pound the ball in this game much like they did against LSU. FSU is very talented, maybe quicker than LSU on defense, but probably not quite as stout. It certainly can be done. FSU is allowing (137.1 ypg) sacks?

Control the clock… This goes with the running the ball for 180 yards. The Gators need to keep the ball out of the Noles hands. They are too explosive. If the guys in orange and blue can get in that grind it out groove they were able to against LSU, good things can happen.

At least six explosive plays… Three, that is the number of explosive plays they had against LSU. That was the lowest of the year. The overall defense isn’t as good as LSU, especially the secondary. Florida should be able to get six explosive plays which means 10-yard runs or 15-yard pass plays. Doing so moves the sticks and helps accomplish the things written above as well.

PREDICTED SCORE… These Gators have gotten off the mat twice in row now, but here they are again on the road and needing a third. The Noles are very talented offensively and they don’t make a ton of mistakes. The home field advantage is also big in this one with ACC officials on the call. In the end, there is a lot to overcome and I will say GATORS 23   FSU 23.

 

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