Friday, November 28, 2008

Gators vs. Noles - We Don't Like Them, They Don't Like Us

By JC De La Torre

I'm a Florida Gator fan. I never attended the University of Florida but most of my family did. My uncle coached the offensive line for the Gators in the 1980's during the Charley Pell-Galen Hall years, most of my cousins went to UF. I was the black sheep, deciding to stay close to home and go to school here in Tampa (not that I could have got into UF. My rambunctious childhood was more in tune for FSU, but I digress). I grew up raised a Gator and when I was very little was taught to love the Orange and Blue and hate anything Garnet and Gold.

Sure, Florida has plenty of rivals – Miami, Tennessee, and Georgia come quickly to mind - but no school seems to pull the hatred out of me like the Seminoles. Perhaps its simply the arrogance of their fans, the “dadgumit” nature of their coach, that annoying-assed Seminole War Chant, or the erector set they call a stadium – for whatever the reason there's no hate like the one for Florida State. (I do admit that when playing EA Sports NCAA 09, I have added the Seminole War Chant and other music for the Noles into the game, so when I go on the road at Florida State – it feels like I’m really there).

Keep that in mind as we break down the UF-FSU matchup that could decide who takes this year’s Governor’s Cup. Interestingly enough, if Florida wins, it would be the first time they earned the Seminole War Canoe (for beating Miami) and the Governor’s Cup (for beating Florida State) in the same season since 1985.

The Series

Florida leads the overall series 31-19-2 and has won 4 straight against Florida State, including last year’s 45-12 woodshed whuppin’. Florida coach Urban Meyer has never lost to Florida State 3-0. Before Meyer, Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles won 13 of 16 contests with 1 tie (the infamous Choke at Doak).

Florida’s Offense vs. Florida State’s defense

By now you know Florida’s cavalcade of stars. Tebow, Harvin, the triple headed monster at running back (Rainey, Demps, Moody). Florida’s #3 in the country in scoring, #5 in passing, 18th in total yds and 11th in rushing. However, the strength of the Florida State football team is their defense. While they’re 19th in scoring defense, FSU is 7th in the nation in yds allowed, 20th against the run but 4th against the pass. Florida State is tied for 61st in the nation with turnover margin of 0.

For the Seminoles to have a chance, their defense will need to slow the Gators down and force turnovers. In the Gators only loss this season, Florida turned the ball over three times in their upset loss to Mississippi. It allowed the Rebels to stay in the game and steal it at the end. This is where FSU needs to be. Keep the Gator offensive machine in check, stay in the game, take a lead late. Florida is 0-5 when trailing in the second half with Tim Tebow at QB.

Since the loss to Mississippi, Florida has outscored their opponents 369-82. Florida has outscored its opponents 122-0 in the first quarter of its past six games. Florida State has fallen behind in the opening quarter in four of its past six, usually by double digits, weathering the early barrage by the Gators and staying in the game early will be paramount for Florida State.

Florida State’s Offense vs. Florida’s Defense

While the Noles lack the firepower of the Florida offense, they can score. FSU 22nd in the Nation in scoring, averaging 34.3 points per game. The Noles are 47th in total offense, 30th in rushing and a dreadful 85th in passing. Those numbers must improve if the Noles hope to win this football game. Florida State needs to hold on the to football and limit the Gators opportunities with the ball. Unfortunately for the Seminoles, the Florida defense is the best is been in quite some time and the most improved part of the football team under the direction of Coach Charlie Strong. The Gators are 3rd in the nation in scoring defense, 9th in total yds allowed, 13th against the run, 20th against the pass. What really makes this Gator defense go are the splash plays. The Gators are 3rd in the nation in interceptions, and #1 in the nation at turnover ratio as a +10. Florida also leads the nation with 5 interception returns for touchdowns.

The Seminoles offense will need to protect the football, grind out yards on the ground and find some big plays from Antone Smith and Jermaine Thomas at the running back position.

Florida’s Special Teams vs. Florida State’s Special Teams

Both teams return kickoffs and cover kick returns fairly well, but the difference may be in the punt return game. Florida is 6th in the nation in return yardage for punt returns, including 2 touchdown returns by Florida’s Brandon James (Florida State ranks 59th in punt return yardage). Florida is also 4th in the nation in punt coverage while the Noles struggle at 59th in coverage. The Gators are also 3rd in the nation with 7 blocked kicks/punts this season. Florida State is 45th with 2.


Urban Meyer has the Gators primed for another National championship run, while Bobby Bowden appears to be winding down his career at Florida State. Bowden’s Seminoles definitely are a better squad this season then they’ve been the last few years but they are not an elite level program that they were in Bowden’s heyday in the 90’s. Jimbo Fisher has been named the successor-in-waiting for Florida State but Bobby seems to be hanging on as long as he can, hoping to outlast Penn State’s Joe Paterno and take the most victories mantel. That’s not going to better FSU as a program and that’s not going to help them out recruit Urban Meyer.

The Spread

Urban Meyer knows that Florida football alumni enjoy their small term investments and Florida is typically a very good bet to cover. Most betting services have Florida favored by 16.5-17 pts.

Final Score Prediction

In rivalries, you never know what you’re going to get. Many times you can simply throw out the records as they don’t matter in these types of games. However, adrenalin and intensity because you’re playing your hated rival will only get you so far – you have to have the talent to be able to compete. Florida State is on the upswing, they’re definitely getting better – but they are not in Florida’s class right now. I think the Noles will have plenty of fight in them but in the end the Gators will be just too much.

My Pick: Florida 42, Florida State 24

I will say this, though, Florida State fans sure know how to remind you they were once an all girls school!

1 comment:

The Bull Gator said...


I agree, FSU is definitely improving, but I can't see them scoring 24. Maybe I'm being overconfident, but Florida's first team defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in 6 games. I'm thinking more along the lines of 17 for the Noles.