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Week 13 - Florida at Florida State
Posted Nov 21, 2012

Week 13 Fearless Prediction – Florida at Florida State

Florida (10-1) at Florida State (10-1) Nov. 24, 3:30, CBS

Here’s The Deal: Not to put too fine a point on it, but you owe us, Florida and Florida State.

Last year, the two managed to put together the ugliest big-name matchup of the season with the Seminoles winning 21-7 despite gaining a grand total of 95 yards. The two teams combined to convert 4-of-30 third down chances, the Gators threw four picks, and FSU committed nine penalties. With the talent and production of the two defenses coming into this year’s game, it might not be a whole lot prettier, but the potential is there to set the stage for the big closing act on Saturday night.

No. 4 in the BCS rankings, Florida might not be playing all that well with close calls against Missouri and Louisiana-Lafayette coming off the loss to Georgia, followed up by a go-through-the-motions win over Jacksonville State, but the computers don’t care. The BCS formulas adore the schedule with wins over Texas A&M, LSU and South Carolina, and beating No. 10 Florida State would only cement a high spot. If No. 1 Notre Dame loses to USC, and depending on if Oregon is able to win the Pac-12 title, there’s a terrific chance that the Gators could slide on into the No. 2 spot after No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia – no matter what happens in their respective games this week – play in the SEC championship two weeks from now. If the Irish beat the Trojans, then a Florida win would all but cement an at-large BCS spot, likely in the Sugar Bowl.

On the flip side of the BCS computer love is Florida State, who can’t seem to shake the stigma of gagging in the final moments in a tough loss to NC State. Considering they’re No. 5 in the Coaches’ Poll and sixth in the Harris, the Seminoles should be in a prime position to fly on up the charts with a win over the Gators and a few big losses up top, but the computers have them ranked 17th, with the Massey formula not putting them in the top 25 and with none of the six formulas putting them higher than 16th. Even so, a convincing win this week and a blowout over Georgia Tech in the ACC championship could get more respect from the humans to make things interesting late in the BCS game.

But first, these two need to give college football an interesting game again after last year’s debacle and with four straight brutal blowouts before it.

There have been a few classics over the years, like the Choke at the Doak, with Florida State mounting an epic fourth quarter comeback to tie the Gators 31-31 in 1994. There was the pounding of Danny Wuerffel in FSU’s 24-21 win in 1996, followed up by Wuerffel’s revenge in the rematch to win the national title in a 52-20 blowout in the Sugar Bowl, but even with both programs playing at the highest of levels throughout the 1990s, and despite meeting 57 times – starting with a 23-0 Florida win in 1904 - the rivalry has never really latched on to America’s college football consciousness.

Part of the reason is because Florida has played so many huge games against fellow SEC rivals. Part of the reason is because Florida State-Miami was so epic during its heyday. Part of the reason is because the game is usually lost in the shuffle of huge rivalries in late November.

This week, the game takes center stage – until Notre Dame and USC kickoff.

Why Florida Might Win: There’s a reason the BCS computers have no interest in the Seminoles. They might look the part, and they might have gaudy defensive statistics, but their best win came against a good Clemson team that will finally be pushed again against South Carolina this week. Florida State has just one other win over a team that has already earned bowl eligibility – Duke. And it’s not like the Noles are blowing all of the bad teams out of the water, struggling to get by a mediocre Virginia Tech and getting pushed a little too hard by South Florida and Miami. The offense has the balance and the stats, but it hasn’t faced a defensive front seven anywhere near the same stratosphere as Florida’s, and outside of practices, it hasn’t dealt with the speed in the loaded Gator secondary.

In a game that should be a battle of field position, FSU has a problem in the punting game. Cason Beatty is averaging 37.6 yards per kick, but Florida has been fantastic on punt returns averaging 11.71 yards per try. The biggest advantage and the MVP could be Kyle Christy, a Ray Guy finalist who’s averaging over 46 yards a boot while becoming a master at putting the ball inside the 20. The FSU returners are phenomenal, but the Gator kickers won’t give them a chance to work.

Why Florida State Might Win: The Florida offense has regressed in a huge, painful way. It wasn’t always a thing of beauty over the first half of the season, but scoring wasn’t a problem. The running game bludgeoned defenses, the passing game hit on the third down throws it needed to make, and the defense and special teams were nearly flawless. The D and the special teams are still solid, but the running game has stopped working, failing to come up with more than 170 yards in the four games up until last week’s date against Jacksonville State. Florida State is No. 1 in the nation against the run; the Florida ground attack isn’t going to start rolling again this week.

So the Gators have to start throwing, right? That’s going to be an issue with an offensive line that’s having a disastrous time keeping the quarterbacks upright, allowing 32 sacks on the season and struggling now after working well in the clutch early in the year. FSU doesn’t get beaten deep, so this is going to be a fight in a phone booth. Forget about the Gators stretching the field, even with the return of …

What To Watch Out For: Jeff Driskel. The Florida sophomore threw two picks against Georgia, but his only other interception this year came in the blowout over Kentucky. That, and the occasional third down throw, has been the main positive this year for the passing game that isn’t coming up with too many big plays. Out last week with an ankle injury, now he’s back, and he has to at least play Florida State veteran E.J. Manuel to a draw. The Seminole senior hasn’t been the Heisman-caliber superstar he probably should’ve become, but he has had a strong year throwing 21 touchdown passes and just six picks. Last year he completed 6-of-13 passes for 65 yards in the win over the Gators, but that’s not going to work this week. If he comes up with a nice game and a win, and leads the Noles to the ACC championship, he’ll end his career on a terrific high note.

What Will Happen: Don’t expect a fun and wild shootout. It’s going to be like pulling teeth to come up with points, and the two star kickers are going to be on center stage. Florida State’s Dustin Hopkins and Florida’s Caleb Sturgis are among the best in the nation and each will do their jobs. Sturgis will nail a clutch kick in the final seconds to keep the Gators alive in the BCS title chase.

CFN Prediction: Florida 19 … Florida State 17
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Florida State -6 O/U: 38
Must Watch Rating (5 – Beware of Mr. Baker, 1 – Life of Pi): 5