Florida State fans may not fully understand this, but the Florida Gators do NOT fear the spear. Why should they? They won in Tallahassee two years ago and think they can repeat that feat Saturday. And Florida has had great success at Doak Campbell Stadium in recent years, winning four of the last five games there, starting with Ron Zook’s upset in his last UF game in 2004.
Well, Will Muschamp is in the same position Zook was in 10 years ago. He’s down to his last game, the Gators are everybody’s underdog going into the game and FSU fans may be thinking about bigger games beyond this one — the ACC title game and the College Football Playoff.
The Gators have absolutely nothing to lose. Muschamp is gone no matter what, so the pressure is off everybody, just like in 2004. All the pressure is on the Seminoles, who know if they lose one game, they’re out of the playoff, based on their relatively weak schedule.
FSU, obviously, is a very good team and Jameis Winston is a great player, especially in the fourth quarter this season. But this is not the same dominant FSU team of a year ago. This one has been vulnerable at times, trailing big at North Carolina State, Louisville and Miami before pulling out victories in the second half.
My thought is that if Boston College can stay with the Seminoles for most of four quarters a week ago, the Gators can do the same, especially if Muschamp’s defense continues to show improvement like it has over the second half of the season.
The key for the Gators is to get off to a quick start and avoid falling behind early. If the Seminoles jump on the Gators from the start, the game could get ugly. The Gators somehow need to get this game to the fourth quarter, put themselves in a position several other FSU opponents have been in — and then close the game, unlike Miami, Louisville and others.
The way he threw the ball last Saturday, I think we might see an expanded role for Jeff Driskel in the offense. Hey, do whatever you have to do to give yourself the best chance to win.
I think the Gators have a chance to pull off the upset and send Muschamp out a winner.
The biggest problem is Winston. He always finds a way to win, and he will again Saturday. He’ll be the difference, like he usually is for the Seminoles, who are 24-0 under their resilient starting quarterback.
Prediction: Florida State 31, Florida 20.