This should not feel like a normal Florida-Florida State showdown. Yet, somehow it does.
Noon kickoff. Two unranked teams with losing records. One coach gone. Both offenses struggling. One team with no chance to become bowl eligible.
All this, of course, seems foreign to this great and intense rivalry.
This isn’t typical Florida-Florida State stuff, for sure.
But when you wade through all the reasons that maybe some of the luster is off this game, it all comes down to one thing:
It’s the Gators vs. the Seminoles, and the intensity and the big-time feel and the hostile atmosphere are always present when these two schools go at it in football.
Today should be no different.
“One of the great rivalries in college football,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Very blessed to be part of this rivalry here at Florida State. Got a heck of a challenge going down there to play. It’s always an extremely tough place to play, one of the toughest in the country. They’ll be ready to play. It will be their Senior Day. There will be a lot of emotions and things going on.
“We’ll have to play a super game to have a chance to be successful. Very blessed to be able to play in this series.”
Despite the injuries and the other struggles both the Gators and Seminoles have had to endure this season, Florida interim coach Randy Shannon said this will be a typical Florida-Florida State game.
“Both teams are going to challenge each other,” Shannon said. “This is a rivalry game. This is a state game. These teams always challenge each other no matter what. So no matter what the record is and what the talent level is on both sides of the football, it’s going to be a very hard, physical game that you want to be a part of.
“And the fans will be here. The Florida State fans will sneak into the stadium, they’ll have their fans here. So it will be good. It will be good. It will be good for a good holiday, coming off of Thanksgiving, Saturday game, first game out of the box, which will be great.”
The Gators and Seminoles come into today’s game feeling a little better about themselves.
FSU played Clemson on even terms for much of that game two weeks ago. And now the Seminoles are coming off a 77-6 destruction of Delaware State and confidence is rising.
As for the Gators, they’re coming off a feel-good 36-7 win over a bowl-eligible UAB team that ended the misery of a five-game losing streak.
Now, it’s an opportunity for one of these two teams to end the season in a positive way.
“Definitely a huge rivalry, definitely always a lot of great guys playing in this rivalry,” sophomore Florida middle linebacker David Reese said. “I’m not too big at looking at the records, looking at things like that, because both of our seasons could have gone either way this year.
“We have a rebuilding year, we have a young team and things like that. I feel like these two programs probably will never have a year like this ever again in the next couple years. So we’ll be fine and we’ll get back.”
The Gators are trying to end their season on a two-game winning streak in The Swamp. And they’ve asked their fans to help by showing up and creating the atmosphere the UF has traditionally fed off of. What’s encouraging is the way the fans showed up a week ago.
Given this is Florida-Florida State, The Swamp figures to be alive and loud today.
“I feel like since it’s FSU and this is a rivalry week, we’ll have a packed stadium,” Reese said.
Playing in The Swamp is usually a big advantage for the Gators. But it hasn’t been against the Seminoles lately. FSU has won the last three games at Florida Field by a combined score of 85-16.
But, this being a rivalry game, the Seminoles are wary of their surroundings.
“A lot of teams feel much more comfortable in their own venue,” Fisher said. “Obviously, it seems like that with Florida. They’ve got a great home crowd. Always got great crowds, great environment, great atmosphere. So makes it good to play in. That’s for sure. They have played well there.”
It should be interesting. But then it always is. It’s Florida-Florida State.
“It doesn’t change. It’s Florida-Florida State,” Shannon said. “They’re going to be very competitive. They take a lot of pride in what they do at Florida State, just like at Florida, we take a lot of pride in what we do.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.