TALLAHASSEE — In a rivalry game like Florida-Florida State, just playing one another is motivation enough. But the Gators and Seminoles have a little extra incentive to really want to get after each other today.
For the Gators, it’s all about continuing the momentum that’s been building in Dan Mullen’s first season, ending a five-game losing streak to the Seminoles and possibly earning a berth in a New Year’s 6 bowl game.
For FSU, it’s a desperate desire to become bowl eligible with a victory today and extend the Seminoles bowl streak to 37 consecutive years, the longest in the nation. FSU also owns a 41-year streak of winning seasons.
The Gators are clearly motivated by the opportunity to possibly make it to a New Year’s 6 game and the chance to end the losing streak against the Seminoles.
UF climbed into the top 12 (No. 11) in the College Football Playoff standings earlier this week. If the Gators can stay there with a win today, they’ll be eligible for a New Year’s 6 bowl game.
“Who wouldn’t want to be in a New Year’s 6 bowl after going 4-7 last year?” junior running back Lamical Perine said. “It’s just something we’re striving for just to get back on track and get Florida where it used to be. Everybody is going to be looking at that, of course. If they say they’re not looking at it, they’re lying. Yeah, they’re lying.”
Making to a New Year’s 6 bowl game would be a significant accomplishment in Mullen’s first season and would give the Gators a chance to possibly finish the year in the top 10.
“It would be a whole reverse from last season,” junior middle linebacker David Reese said. “Just the opposite feeling, having a chance to finish in the top 10.
“It would be great for us, great for the fans, great for everybody. We’ve got to finish strong and hope the (bowl) committee picks us.”
Standing between the Gators and a New Year’s 6 bowl game are the Seminoles, who haven’t lost to Florida since 2012 and come into today’s game with some momentum and a chance to become bowl eligible after a come-from-behind win over Boston College last Saturday.
The Gators are well-aware of their five-game losing streak to the Seminoles.
“I haven’t beaten them since I’ve been here,” Perine said. “That’s something I’ve got on my to-do list. Before I leave here I definitely need a win over Florida State. Big to-do list (item).
“(The five-game losing streak) is something you really should just have in your head, ‘Dang, I’m tired of getting whupped.’ You feel me? It’s either you’re going to man up and try to fight back or you’re just going to keep being beat up on the ground. What do you want to choose?”
Florida is facing an FSU team that has struggled through coach Willie Taggart’s first season. The Seminoles are 5-6 and have shown deficiencies on both sides of the ball.
But the Gators are well aware that the Seminoles are better than their record might indicate.
“Absolutely,” UF defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “I think they’ve gotten better. Any time you’ve got a transition, that’s tough. Sometimes you can adapt quicker than others. If you go watch their games in continuity, over the last little bit they’ve gotten better. They’ve got skill guys and they’ve got guys that can make plays one-on-one. We understand that. We know we’re going to have to play well.”
While the Gators are playing with a specific bowl in mind — a New Year’s 6 bowl — the Seminoles are playing for a bowl of any kind. With a win, they become bowl eligible for the 37th consecutive year.
Keeping that streak alive is motivation for FSU.
“You want every game to be that way for your players, not just the last game or just a rivalry game,” Taggart said. “It’s the most important game because it’s the next game, it’s the last regular-season game. … I guess you can say it’s important for a lot of reasons, different reasons, and our guys understand that.”