Gator Gameday: Storylines, question marks and key matchup for Florida State at Florida

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports

Things to watch in Florida’s regular season finale against FSU.

Storylines for Florida-FSU

1. For the third time in the past four Florida-Florida State games, one team will be led by an interim coach. It was Randy Shannon for the Gators in 2017, which is their last loss in this series. When the rivalry was last played in 2019, longtime FSU assistant Odell Haggins was serving as the interim coach for the second time in three years. And now UF running backs coach/special teams coordinator Greg Knox has replaced Dan Mullen, who was fired last Sunday. Knox is 1-0 as an interim coach, leading Mississippi State to a 31-27 win in the TaxSlayer Bowl after Mullen left for the Florida job. 

More:Rivalry Renewed: Gators fighting for seniors, bowl bid in first FSU game since 2019

2. The rivalry will be renewed today after Florida and FSU didn’t play last year for the first time since 1957. In addition to state bragging rights, bowl eligibility is also on the line for both 5-6 teams. After making three consecutive New Year’s Six bowls under Mullen, the Gators are at risk of missing postseason play for the first time since 2017 and third time in nine years (2013). Florida State’s NCAA-record, 36-year consecutive bowl streak was snapped in 2018, and the Seminoles failed to make a bowl again last year in Mike Norvell’s first season. 

Whitley's take: Beating FSU depends on what's in the Gators' heads

3. Florida quarterback Emory Jones has started the last three weeks since losing his job to Anthony Richardson for the Georgia game, but Jones may be sidelined today with an injury. Jones hurt his ankle in Monday’s practice and was out Tuesday, as Richardson ran with the starters in his place. Jones returned to practice Wednesday with his ankle heavily taped, but it’s unknown if he was limited or how/if first-team reps were split between him and Richardson. Jones is expected to be available against FSU, but Richardson could make his second career start against another rival. 

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Today's game questions

1. Will it be Emory Jones or Anthony Richardson making the start?

2. How productive is the offense with Garrick McGee calling plays?

3. How does Florida fare against FSU quarterback Jordan Travis? 

4. Will the Seminoles have success against UF’s run defense? 

5. Can the Gators get some takeaways and win the turnover battle?

Click back Sunday for Abolverdi's answers.

Abolverdi’s pick: Florida State 27, Florida 24

Florida defensive lineman Zachary Carter (17) sacks Florida State quarterback James Blackman in the first half of the Nov. 30, 2019 game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Key matchup 

Florida’s red-zone production vs. FSU’s red-zone production:

The Seminoles have one of the best red-zone defenses in the country. They’ve allowed opponents to score on 70 percent of trips inside the 20, which ranks ninth nationally. The Gators’ offense ranks No. 9 in the FBS for red-zone touchdown percentage (72.7 percent), but had to settle for three field goals last week after reaching the Missouri 25-yard line. FSU is scoring on 89.7 percent of its red-zone trips (No. 22 nationally), while Florida ranks No. 62 in red-zone defense and has allowed opposing offenses to score 82.3 percent of the time.