Seminoles vs. Gators - Who has the edge?

Renegade Report staff writer Brandon Mellor and Gator Country senior columnist Mark McLeod pulled themselves away from the Thanksgiving dinner table to provide a final analysis on Saturday's big game between the Seminoles and the Gators.

Hey Gator fans! It's the last weekend in November, signaling bitter rivalry week. Tradition reigns supreme and the Seminoles return to "The Swamp", which can only mean one thing; a glorious opportunity to pick-up the binoculars and secure the latest count on Bobby's liver spots.

We kid because, we love. Sure. If that fits your belief system and carries you though the day, terrific. But, I think it in the true spirit of the game to have some fun this time of the year.

Last summer, the NCAA sent notice to the Indian warmongers that a name change was in order. While I totally disagreed with their lame assessment, help was immediately needed. After polishing off a plate of Grouper and shrimp at one of Bobby Bowden's favorite restaurants, Capt. Anderson's on Panama City Beach and signing his name to the IOU, I took matters into my own hands. Hence, the Florida State Featherdusters was born.

Cheesy, absolutely, but we are talking Florida State University. This is the former women's school that went co-ed, began a football program, and constructed The World's Largest Erector Set in which to play their games. Years later they saddled the taxpayers with the bill to give the place a fresh look. Sounds like the perfect use for a featherduster to me.

Keep the two dollar Indian headdress (feathers) and the horse that it rode in on. Hire one of the many airbrush artists from the beach to initiate the slight change of the helmet logo- from a spear to a Garnet and 24k Gold Featherduster. They can hold their featherdusters proudly when they do the Chop, which is hereby renamed the Tallahassee Tickle.

Holding a featherduster should be a general practice at Florida State. It's not as if they'll be qualified to do anything else after graduation anyway.

Florida State offensive line vs Florida defensive front

Brandon's Analysis: Luckily for all you Swamp Things, the FSU offensive line is perhaps the thinnest it has been in anyone's memory. Three veteran starters are out of the lineup and a walk-on by the name of Cory Brookins may see his first collegiate action on Florida Field Saturday. That's pretty scary no matter how you slice it. Senior center David Castillo is the guy that the ‘Noles will lean on against the Gators Saturday (if your memory serves you correctly, he was the young man that hoisted the Gator head in to the air after the 2003 game).

But the Palm Bay native's veteran savvy is not going to be enough this weekend. The emergence of Joe Cohen, who did his part to help lure Reggie Nelson away from the Seminoles, only helps a Florida unit with some big, fast, nasty athletes up front. If the Florida front seven simply shows up to the game they will have an advantage over the maligned Seminole O-Line. Obviously, you can see I don't have much faith in the unit that has seen it's luck run out this year.

Mark's Analysis: Clemson racked up six sacks. N.C. State collected three. The Seminoles have lost Matt Meinrod, John Frady, and most recently, Cory Niblock. Three injuries to a group that coaches were already holding their collective breathes' about. Just for kicks, toss in a struggling redshirt freshman quarterback and a road trip in a hostile environment and Bobby just aged three more years.

Marcus Thomas, Jarvis Moss, and Joe Cohen are playing the best football of their Florida careers. The defensive front as a whole was solid until the past couple of weeks. However, they allowed far too many rushing yards against South Carolina. They'll have to do a better job of controlling the line of scrimmage, especially on first down.

Brandon gives the edge to the…Gators
Mark gives the edge to the …Gators

Florida State skills positions vs Florida secondary

Brandon's Analysis: While he has been missing from the previous two games with a bum ankle, FSU senior tailback Leon Washington will be in the lineup for the Noles Saturday. The Jacksonville native, who grew up a Gator fan, has made it a habit of playing his best games against the Orange and Blue. And, despite a season-long struggle to generate a steady run game, I still think that Washington can make some things happen if offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden sticks to the gameplan. But again, that offensive line is going to have to pull off a miracle and open some holes for a change. Veteran receivers Chris Davis and Willie Reid know what it's like to have to play in the Swamp and their leadership should help a very young FSU receiving corps. Standout freshman Greg Carr, who has struggled as of late, grew up in Gator country and is eager to perform well for family and friends.

As for the Gators, Nelson is a guy that could prove to provide the Seminoles fits all day. The guy is an emerging star and I am sure he will be playing just that much harder to show FSU fans what they missed out on. I truly think, however, that if Nelson can have his national coming out party on CBS Saturday, the Tribe may be in some trouble but I still like the immense offensive talent that FSU suits up for every ballgame.

Mark's Analysis: Jeff Bowden has to get this one right. Execute a ground game ala Steve Spurrier mixed with a few passes to keep things honest, and Drew Weatherford from throwing his 16th interception of the season and rely on your defense to make something happen.

The ‘Noles have some skills position players who can hurt you. Greg Carr (6-6) was a wonderful receiver at North Marion High School. Leon Washington has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield too. We'll see just how strong the ankle is on Saturday. Lorenzo Booker finally had a positive against Clemson, running for 112 yards. Bowden will test Dee Webb and see if he gets flagged for a pass interference penalty or struggles in coverage. The key in this one will be Florida's ability to stop the Seminoles running game and create turnovers. The Gators enter plus 16.

Brandon gives the edge to the…‘Noles
Mark gives the edge to the…"Noles

Florida offensive line vs Florida State defensive front

Brandon's Analysis: The Florida offensive line has battled with injuries this season but nothing like its counterparts on the Garnet and Gold side. The overall health of the unit is a plus going up against a Seminole front seven that prides itself on knocking opponents in the mouth. But despite increasingly strong showings in each of the two games leading up to the showdown with Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks, Florida gave up five sacks to South Carolina. It's game footage that surely FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews has studied thoroughly.

As for the Seminole players, missing from action is standout pass rusher and senior leader Kamerion Wimbley, who is listed as doubtful with an MCL injury. The Kansas native leads the teams in sacks and has been missed sorely in the Tribe's two-consecutive losses – two games that have featured several defensive breakdowns. But despite a few injuries across the line and some very inexperienced backups, I still believe that FSU's talented trio of linebackers can counteract any potential miscues across the D-Line. Also, watch out for senior defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley. The guy is slowly, but surely working his way into a potential first-day NFL Draft selection.

Mark's Analysis: The Florida offensive line gave up a couple of sacks against South Carolina. The other three sacks came courtesy of quarterback Chris Leak holding the ball too long, and a missed assignment on a block by a running back. Leak is only hurting the team when he fails to make quick, sound decisions. The O-line will have to bring their "A" game against the Seminoles, who are in serious need of some momentum, as they prepare for their conference championship. The big nasties have opened some holes for running backs DeShawn Wynn, Markus Manson, and Kestahn Moore. They'll need to provide some solid pass protection and assume a leadership role in the game just after that first whistle blows.

Based on the Florida passing game's inability to cause a real concern going deep, Florida State defensive coordinator would be foolish not to send one or two of his talented linebackers early after Leak. Besides, Andrews is genetically incapable of playing conservative defense. The Gators have hit only one pass beyond 21 yards in the past four games. They did try a couple of deep balls against Carolina, but they were overthrown. The Seminoles' secondary is in need of some help, and that's spelled pressure.

Brandon gives the edge to the…‘Noles
Mark gives the edge to the…‘Noles

Florida skills positions vs Florida State secondary

Brandon's Analysis: The Florida State secondary is battered and bruised and that surely doesn't bode well for a "Crocodile" squad that features so many talented athletes. Redshirt freshman cornerback Tony Carter, who has been a solid player all season long, is still battling with a shoulder injury but hasn't let that bother him in recent weeks. But with senior Gerard Ross done for the year, the Noles will only have four healthy cornerbacks and the most experienced is true sophomore J.R. Bryant. If Chris Leak can get some time in the pocket, he may find it easy to pick on the young FSU corners with guys like Chad Jackson and Dallas Baker at his disposal.

Mark's Analysis: Andrews is so frustrated with the ‘Noles secondary that he could just spit, and if you watch him for more than three seconds, he will. Two weeks ago, Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst carved up a few turkeys' himself. Whitehurst hit 21 of 33 for 269 yards and three scores in the Tigers 35-14 pasting of the ‘Noles. Spit.

The Gators get Dallas Baker back, who has been their most improved receiver since the start of the season. He won't be 100%, but he will certainly provide a challenge for the Seminoles defensive backs. Spit. Florida hopes to have Chad Jackson excited about this opportunity as well.

Brandon gives the edge to the…Gators (Agh, Spit)
Mark gives the edge to the…Gators

Final Analysis Brandon: The recurring theme of all my pre-game thoughts has been the play of each squad's playmakers and the counteracting of injury problems.

When it comes to playmakers on the Florida side of the ball, I know that FSU coaches have the utmost respect for Leak despite his relatively disappointing season thus far. The junior signal caller can make things happen and the Tribe has been susceptible to the mobile quarterback this season. The best way to stop Leak is to pressure him and pressure him some more with hopes of forcing a bad decision. If the Seminoles can do that and their defense can quit giving up the occasional big play I think they can pull it out even if the offense becomes one-dimensional.

The Gators, on the other hand, have two great games to look at for a blueprint on how to defeat FSU. N.C. State gave the Noles fits a few weeks back and Clemson made them looks ridiculous on several occasions in the last outing. The thing about this game is that there are just so many similarities between the two schools and I think that will be a huge factor.

The only reason that I am picking FSU to pull it out in this very equal matchup is because it's virtually unimaginable to think that a Bobby Bowden-coached squad could drop three games in a row. FSU quarterback Drew Weatherford (or maybe even Xavier Lee) is going to have to shake off the first-time-in-the-Swamp jitters for that to happen, however.

Final Analysis Mark: Defensively, the Gators have to limit the Seminoles from making something happen early. They have to make a big play themselves and get the crowd into it. They should bring plenty of emotion.

Offensively, Leak has to make sound decisions and much quicker than he did in Columbia. The offensive line has to take charge of things and lead. But, the real difference in this one should be special teams. Florida has to perform better on special teams. Eric Wilbur needs to have one of his better games and force the Seminoles to go the distance of the field. Chris Hetland needs to hit them when he's called upon. And the blocking must improve!!

Brandon's Pick: ‘Noles 17 Gators 14

Mark's Pick: Gators win

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