So, does the streak live on Saturday? Or does it die with a big, fat flaming spear in its back?
When Ron Zook beat the Seminoles on Bobby Bowden Field (the night it was named) in 2004, it started a Gator winning streak in the rivalry that has stretched to six games. The last three games haven’t even been close, with the Gators winning by a combined score of 127-37.
But this one is going to be close (at least the Gators hope so) in Tallahassee on Saturday.
The Seminoles have shown some improvement this season, while the Gators have regressed. That’s not to say the Seminoles are any better than the Gators at this stage. In fact, the teams are pretty similar. Both look pretty good at times. Both show some warts at other times.
The feeling here is that if the Gators come out on offense and have some early success (especially on the ground), it’s going to be a good day. But if they repeat what they did against South Carolina, when the offense went completely in the tank in the first half, this could turn into an embarrassing rout (and one very sweet win for the Seminoles, who desperately want this game to end the streak).
The FSU defense will offer a tough, fast, physical challenge. These guys are second in the nation in sacks (41) and they’ll put a real hurtin’ on John Brantley if the Gators find themselves in too many obvious passing situations. If UF can stay out of those third-and-longs, and protect Brantley (this has been a big problem all season), the Gators will have a chance to exploit an FSU pass defense that has given up two 400-yard passing games this season. But if Brantley gets harassed and sacked all day, UF will not be able to get to that FSU soft spot (this is what happened in the South Carolina game).
On defense, UF will try to shut down the run and force the Seminoles to be one-dimensional with quarterback Christian Ponder forced to go the air route. FSU’s running game has been very potent at times, and very dangerous with some big plays (like a 70-yard TD run against Maryland last Saturday). If the Gators can prevent the big play on the ground, it will give UF a tremendous advantage in this chess match.
So, does the streak live? Or does it die?
My predictions have been way off this season, so take this one for what it’s worth (probably not much).
I have a strong feeling the Seminoles are going to win this game, maybe by a comfortable margin. The Florida defense has not been very good this season and I see FSU going up and down the field and converting a lot of third-down plays (some on Ponder scrambles). I see the Florida offense struggling early, like it does against every decent team. But I’m reluctant to pull the trigger here and pick the Seminoles.
For one reason.
Urban Meyer. You can’t ignore his record in rivalry games (16-1 against FSU, Georgia and Tennessee). And I sense that his intensity is back and he really wants this one.
Based on that, here’s the pick: Florida 24, FSU 22.