The No. 11 Florida Gators (9-2, 6-2) will take on the Florida State Seminoles (6-5) this evening, looking for a chance to notch their first 10 win regular season since 2015. The Gators are also looking for their first win in the Swamp over FSU since Tim Tebow’s senior day in 2009.
Before kickoff, let’s take a quick look at a few last things to remember.
ONE THING TO REMEMBER
As mentioned, the Gators haven’t beaten the Noles in the Swamp in a decade. There were the Jameis Winston years and the Jim McElwain years, neither of which were particularly good news for Florida’s ability to defeat FSU. But during those years, Florida more often than not found themselves with offenses that ranked below 100 in the FBS, with more questions than answers at a majority of the positions; and twice, with a head coach that was fired before making it to the regular season finale.
This is now the position the Noles find themselves in after going 6-5 (thus far) and seeing Willie Taggart fired. The Gator players spoke this week about remembering that mindset and how dejecting it can be. While they don’t expect Florida State to come in and just lay down, these older Gators do know first hand the difficulty that comes with playing in this situation.
Said senior receiver Josh Hammond, “It definitely sucks. You never want to lose your coach, especially halfway through the season and then have to go through that change, and you know, a bunch of questions going through your head because you don’t know what’s next, what’s going to happen after the season. I definitely know how they are feeling. They are definitely kind of just wanting to get over with it. I think we were kinda getting to that point, wanting to get it over with and see what was next for our future.”
ONE FSU PLAYER TO WATCH
Cam Akers is the Noles entire offense. The junior has over a thousand yards rushing already (1,042) with 13 touchdowns and averages 4.87 yards per carry. For comparison, the next closest rusher has 297 yards. That rusher—Khalan Laborn—is now suspended for today’s game for a violation of teams rules.
The Gators defense—which effectively stopped Georgia’s D’Andre Swift earlier in the season—know that keeping a helmet on Akers is key.
“Cam Akers is an unbelievable back. That's a guy we're going to have to stop, stop the run with, make them beat us passing,” says linebacker David Reese.
Adds BUCK Jon Greenard, “Cam, that's a ballplayer. I have nothing bad to say about him or the running backs they got over there. They've got some really good players over there despite the season they're having…it's kind of hard for one person to tackle him. But if we get there, you've got to wrap him and everybody rally to the ball. But we've got to be physical. He's a good back. We're ready for him, though. We're ready."
ONE LAST PREDICTION
The saying goes—and players mentioned several times this week—that all the record books are thrown out for rivalry games…but that was supposed to be the case last season as well and Florida ran roughshod over the Noles. Every time Florida has hyped up a game the last two season, the Gators have capitalized and won (LSU, Auburn, etc). With Percy Harvin serving as Mr. Two Bits, the Noles scrambling to find any sort of offensive groove and the Gators looking to send out a senior class that has meant everything with a win, I don’t see Kyle Trask, Jon Greenard or the Gators letting this one slip away.