Breaking down the Florida vs. Florida State matchup

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Florida wide receiver Trevon Grimes makes a touchdown catch against Florida State during last year's game at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Wayne McGahee III, Tallahassee Democrat

The Gators are an 18-point favorite by Vegas Insider to beat the Seminoles this year, but how do the two teams stack up statistically?

FSU offense vs. UF Defense

Points per game: FSU: 30.2 | UF: 14.2

Yards per play: FSU: 5.94 | UF: 4.83

Yards per pass attempt: FSU: 8.1 | UF: 6.6

Yards per carry: FSU: 3.89 | UF: 3.31

Sacks per game: FSU: 3.27 | UF: 3.46

Tackles for loss per game: FSU: 8.09 | UF: 7.73

Redzone TD %: FSU: 73.53 | UF: 35.71

3rd down %: FSU: 37.65 | UF: 36.31

Turnovers lost/gained: FSU: 15 | UF: 22

Analysis: UF is one of the two best defenses FSU will face this season along with Clemson. The Gators are seventh in points allowed per game this year and have allowed more than 24 points just twice all season. 

FSU’s offense has struggled against teams with good defensive fronts and the Gators’ front-four fit that description.

The Seminoles have struggled to run the ball consistently despite the effort of junior running back Cam Akers and UF does a good job of stopping the run.

UF’s pass defense is also among the best in the country with five more interceptions than passing touchdowns allowed and the 26th best yards per attempt allowed average in college football.

FSU’s offense is built around hitting big plays in the passing game. The Seminoles are second in the country with 11 passes of 50 yards or more. UF has only allowed 10 30-plus yard passes all season.

FSU defense vs. UF offense

Points per game: FSU: 27.5 | UF: 32.4

Yards per play: FSU: 5.29 | UF: 6.37

Yards per pass attempt: FSU: 7 | UF: 8.5

Yards per carry: FSU 3.71 | UF: 4.03

Sacks per game: FSU: 2.64 | UF: 2.18

Tackles for loss per game: FSU: 6 | UF: 5.36

Redzone TD %: FSU: 47.27 | UF: 68.89

3rd down %: FSU: 41.15 | UF: 39.53

Turnovers gained/lost: FSU: 16 | UF: 17

Analysis: UF head coach Dan Mullen has turned around the Gators’ offense in a very short time, but it does have its weaknesses.

The Gators haven’t run the ball very well this season and have only averaged more than four yards per carry three times against Power Five opponents. Those opponents are Kentucky, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt, which have all struggled this season.

FSU’s run defense has been good this season, but as the injuries piled up — including to star junior defensive tackle Marvin Wilson — that’s become a bit of a struggle. Still, FSU should be able to keep the Gators in check on the ground.

Keeping UF in check in the passing game is going to be a much tougher challenge. The Gators have one of the best intermediate passing attacks in the country. They’ve completed 130 passes of 10 yards or more, which is 14th in college football this season.

FSU has allowed 116 (113th) pass plays of 10 yards or more this season. The Seminoles’ secondary has struggled to stop opposing offenses all season long through the air, and that includes Alabama State, who found success throwing the football.

Special Teams

Field goal %: FSU: 54.5 | UF: 85.7

Yards per punt: FSU: 38.52 | UF: 44.82

Yards per kickoff return: FSU: 25.94 | UF: 20.5

Yards per punt return: FSU: 6.71 | UF: 4.15

Yards per punt return allowed: FSU: 5.4 | UF: 1.29

Yards per kickoff return allowed: FSU: 22.67 | UF: 20.38

Analysis: The only area on special teams where FSU may have an advantage is when the Seminoles are returning kickoffs. Redshirt freshman return man Isaiah Bolden has found a lot of success since taking over the role against Boston College.

But UF has the better kicker, punter, and punt return defense. 

Senior FSU kicker Ricky Aguayo has struggled mightily this season. He has made his last two attempts, but had missed five of his six attempts prior to that. Punter Tommy Martin hasn’t averaged more than 38.5 yards per punt in a game since Oct. 19. 

UF punter Tommy Townsend is a weapon and is one of the top punters in the country. 

Reach Wayne McGahee III at wmcgahee@tallahassee.com.

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