Fason and Washington (121yards vs NC State) are big home run threats who seem to be able to take pressure off each team's quarterback. The team that has out rushed the other has gone 13-1-1 since 1990. The Gator five game winning streak under Ron Zook is one of the nation's longest such streaks. Only six other teams have such streak alive presently.
The quarterback position will also be a major focus in this matchup as well. Chris Rix of the Seminoles, who is a 57% passer, struggles with decision making under pressure against Chris Leak, who is trying to become the first Gator freshman QB to defeat the Noles since 1984. Rix has not been totally accepted by his teammates as one of them, yet he remains the best option for Bobby Bowden. In his last game Rix was able to stave off being benched by going 9-15 and two touchdowns in the second half for the win over the Wolfpack.
This game is significantly important on many levels for each program. Both teams want to get to ten wins, which gives them "elite status". Recruits will be lining the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium end zone in which both schools will battle for through February. But more importantly someone will leave this game with some satisfaction and vindication from it's own fans. An FSU victory gives Chris Rix a win over a ranked opponent, the Noles are back in the top ten and most importantly complete control of the recent series in this rivalry. A UF win adds to the remarkable resurgence of the Gator Coach Ron Zook and his team. In year two under Zook his team will have improved by one win with the bowl game still to be played. It will have beaten its hated rival with a team littered with young playmakers. But most importantly it will recreate the home field advantage that is the Swamp for Ron Zook's team. That is something that has been lost in his two years.
Snippetts and Tidbits
The much maligned senior class of UF will play it's final home game Saturday. While it won't be remembered as one of the most dominant classes or one with the most SEC's (only 2000 title) it should be remembered as one of the toughest. This class had to overcome transfers, transition and turmoil during it's year's and has kept it together enough to get a piece of the SEC East and maybe a 10 win season. One stat that stands out to me about this class is their record versus Top 25 teams away from home. They are 12-5 on the road and that is big time resiliency. The senior class was 26-6 in SEC play, and 16-9 overall versus Top 25 opponents. They most likely will go to there fourth straight January Bowl Game. The class is led by Max Starks, Shannon Snell, Keiwan Ratliff, Guss Scott and Ben Troupe. These guys have showed true leadership and guts through some difficult times. UF went undefeated away from home in the SEC for the eight time in school history (1999,1996,1995,1994,1991,1984,and 1960)
During the five game winning streak UF has not allowed a touchdown in the third quarter. They have not allowed a passing touchdown in the quarter since Miami. Zook is now 15-2 when leading after three quarters. This year UF does not have a go-to threat like year's past but it does have multiple reliable options. Three guys have caught over 30 passes and Carlos Perez needs six receptions in the FSU game and the bowl game to join OJ Small, Kelvin Kight and Ben Troupe. Only three times in school history have four guys had 30 or more receptions in a season (1993,1994 and 2001). Chris Leak continues his efficient play in the winning streak. Against South Carolina seven of Leak's twelve completions were for first downs. Combine that with two rushing first downs and Leak was directly responsible for nine total first downs which was half of the Gators total. Leak averaged 12 yards per completion in the second half. I think Leak will have to throw for at least 200 yards if the Gators are going to beat FSU. Finally Keiwan Ratliff should have plenty of opportunities this week against Chris Rix and the Seminole passing game. Ratliff needs one more interception to enter the SEC single season charts. The SEC record is 12 held by Terry Hoage of Georgia in 1982.
(Florida State) 9-2 ACC Champs
The Noles average 33 points per game and only give up 15.2 points per game. FSU throws for 286 yards per game while Chris Rix has thrown for 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. With the injury to Craphonso Thorpe the Noles leading receiver PK Sam. He will become the main target and he has 46 receptions on the season. Greg Jones leads the Noles in rushing with 538 yards but Leon Washington averages 6.0 yards per carry. Defensively the Noles have given up six touchdowns rushing and are led by defensive lineman Darnell Dockett and linebackers Kendyll Pope and Michael Boulware. The Seminoles biggest road win of the season was at Virginia on October 18th 19-14. They lost there last road game at Clemson 26-10.
Stat of the Week: 17
OJ Small and Kelvin Kight have had a reception in each of the last 17 games for UF.