There’s a lot on the line for the Gators in this season’s edition of the Florida-Florida State rivalry.
Numbers to know:
* The Gators hold a turnover margin of minus-three over the past three games. Quarterback Treon Harris has accounted for six turnovers with four interceptions and two lost fumbles during that time.
* Florida is ranked sixth nationally in total defense, allowing 281.7 yards per game this season.
* Gators sophomore cornerback Jalen Tabor is ranked fourth nationally, averaging 1.8 passes defended this season. Tabor also has 14 pass breakups, which is just one short of the program record for a sophomore that Bennie Alexander set in 1999.
* The Seminoles have won four of their past five meetings with the Gators. Those four wins have been lopsided, coming by a combined score of 113-40.
* Florida State is 13-1 against in-state opponents under head coach Jimbo Fisher.
Story lines to watch:
* Can Gators offense turn things around?: This is the big question surrounding this matchup. It’s been painful to watch Florida’s offense over the past few weeks. The unit has scored 18 points per contest, turned the ball over eight times and put together just four touchdown drives that have gone for more than 45 yards over the past three games. Want to know what’s worse? Two of the three games came against weak defenses in South Carolina (ranked 90th nationally in total defense) and FAU (78th). If that trend continues, things could get ugly against FSU. The Seminoles enter ranked 20th nationally in total defense. Keep an eye on Florida’s offensive line. If the Gators can hold their own up front, the offense could have the turnaround game they’re looking for. Oh, and don’t forget about Treon Harris. The sophomore quarterback has thrown four picks over his past three games. Harris will need to turn in an efficient performance to give the Gators a chance against FSU.
* Stopping the Cook: Good luck trying to contain FSU running back Dalvin Cook. The sophomore is one of the most explosive players in the country, as he enters ranked second nationally averaging 7.97 yards per carry. Cook already broke the FSU single-season rushing record this season and enters Saturday’s game with 1,475 yards. Out of the 43 touchdowns FSU’s offense has scored this season, Cook is responsible for 17 of them (16 rushing TDs, 1 TD catch). But Florida’s defense has put up its own impressive numbers. The Gators’ rushing defense ranks eighth nationally, allowing 108.3 rushing yards per game this season. Florida has allowed three running backs to surpass the 100-yard mark — Tennessee’s Jalen Hurd, LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Vanderbilt’s Ralph Webb. Florida will try to keep Cook out of that club Saturday.
* The walking wounded: The Gators will limp into their matchup against the Seminoles. Florida’s latest injury report included 12 players. The biggest name on the report is star defensive tackle Jon Bullard. The senior is listed as doubtful for the FSU game with a knee injury he suffered Saturday against Florida Atlantic on the Owls’ first offensive possession of the game. If Bullard can’t play, the Gators will have to try to contain Cook without the player Pro Football Focus rates as the top run-stopping defender in the country. Other notable names on the report include defensive ends Alex McCalister (doubtful-foot) and Jordan Sherit (questionable-hamstring), and defensive tackle Joey Ivie (questionable-leg). Florida’s offensive line could be without three starters against Florida State. Center Cameron Dillard (leg), left guard Martez Ivey (shoulder) are listed as questionable. Left tackle David Sharpe (foot) is probable. We’ll see how many of these players actually sit out Saturday. Don’t expect too many to miss this big game.
My prediction: Florida State 24, Florida 21.
Anthony’s season picks record: 9-2