How Florida State can win
After some real struggles early in the season, the FSU offense has started to come around with Drew Weatherford back as the starting quarterback. Weatherford is the kind of passer who has given the young Florida secondary nightmares all season. The second quarter against Florida Atlantic a week ago may have been the worst stretch of the season for the young cornerbacks, and now Joe Haden is nursing a high ankle sprain.
If Weatherford gets time to throw, he has a chance to have a career day against the Florida defense. He’s got a big-time playmaker at wide receiver in Preston Parker (who also gained 133 yards rushing as a tailback a week ago) and reliable big receivers in DeCody Fagg and 6-foot-6 Greg Carr, the Seminoles jump-ball expert. Obviously, the Seminoles are going to have a chance to put up lots of points, especially if the fast and physical FSU defense gets some quick three-and-outs.
FSU’s defense likes to get after quarterbacks and they’ve said that will be the plan in this game. They’re going to come after Tebow and try to put the same kind of pressure on him Georgia did. The Bulldogs sacked Tebow six times and knocked the UF offense out of its rhythm. Tebow has his mobility back now that his sore right shoulder is better, but it’s still going to be difficult for him to run on this defense.
If the defense can shut down Tebow on the ground and come up with some turnovers, and the FSU offense lights up the UF defense with the passing game, the Seminoles will escape The Swamp with a big victory that would salvage their season.
Why Florida will win
The Gators, of course, will spread the field and try to put a lot of stress on the FSU defense by spreading the ball around to the playmakers, including Percy Harvin, who returns after missing the past two games with a sinus infection and migraine headaches. FSU is concerned about stopping Tebow on the ground and will make it a priority. Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen know that, so I think the Gators are going to be wide-open in the passing game from the start.
If Tebow has a hot hand early spreading the ball around in the passing game, the opportunities will then be there for him to make something happen with his legs and keep the aggressive Seminoles off balance.
Defensively, the Gators are going to have a tough time stopping FSU’s passing game. The goal will be to put steady heat on Weatherford, who has problems when his protection is shaky. The problem is UF’s front has not been very good all season getting to the quarterback. It’s a tough call to blitz because that would leave a vulnerable secondary even more vulnerable. But that may be what UF has to do to get to Weatherford and get some stops.
The defense needs to break FSU’s serve and prevent the Seminoles from controlling the ball.
The feeling here is the Gators will find a way to come up with enough defensive stops, the offense will hit some big plays and UF will ride the momentum to a very nervous victory in The Swamp.
Prediction: Florida 31, Florida State 30