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The Gators host No. 2-ranked Florida State in their regular-season finale on Saturday.

Friday November 29, 2013The Opening Kickoff: Florida vs. Florida State -- #UFvsFSU

The Gators host No. 2-ranked Florida State in their regular-season finale on Saturday.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

The Opening Kickoff

No. 2 Florida State vs. Florida
#UFvsFSU
Saturday, Noon
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Broadcast Info Game Notes

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- One game to go.

That hasn't been said about the Gators prior to their annual matchup against Florida State since 1990, the last season Florida did not play in a bowl game.

Florida's final game: No. 2-ranked Florida State.

Considering the way the season has gone for the Gators, the end sounds about right.

The Gators are coming off a 26-20 loss to FCS opponent Georgia Southern, the program's first loss to an FCS foe. They lost more players to injury against the Eagles. They have lost six consecutive games to secure a losing season for the first time since 1979.

And their one shot at finishing on a positive note comes against FSU.

The No. 2-ranked Seminoles are 11-0 and averaging an eye-popping 55.2 points a game. Redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston is a Heisman Trophy candidate. FSU's defense isn't too bad either, ranked fifth in the country.

At least the game is at The Swamp. That is one thing the Gators have going for them as they close the regular season and start looking ahead to 2014.

Gators sideline

"Our bowl game,'' senior offensive lineman Jon Halapio said. "We have a chance to go out there and resolve our whole season playing against the No. 2 team in the nation. And they're a very good team."

Both teams entered this matchup last year in Tallahassee with 10-1 records and ranked in the top 10. The Gators used a second-half surge to score 24 consecutive points in a 37-26 victory, clinching a trip to the Sugar Bowl (and setting off a sideline celebration in photo, left).

A year later only the Seminoles are making bowl plans. Florida State is in line to play for the BCS national championship if it beats Florida and then wins the ACC Championship Game.

Do the Gators have any chance to make it two in a row over the Seminoles? Few expect this one to be close, but the Gators rarely get blown out.

Four of the Gators' seven losses are by six or fewer points. While Florida's offense is ranked 111th in the country, the defense is ranked seventh overall.

That's how the Gators usually keep it close.

Fore more on the Florida State-Florida matchup, here is a look at The Opening Kickoff:

 

FIVE STORYLINES TO WATCH

  • FSU quarterback Jameis Winston is a leading candidate to win the Heisman Trophy and the most exciting player in the Gators-Seminoles rivalry since Tim Tebow. If the Gators expect to come away with a victory, they must find a way to slow down Winston and force him into mistakes.
  • The Gators are not going to a bowl game for the first time in 23 years. This is their bowl game. Florida is playing for pride and a victory over the Seminoles would be a loud closing statement on a forgettable season. Meanwhile, FSU is playing to keep their national title hopes alive.
  • The Gators will be without their two leading tacklers in linebackers Michael Taylor and Antonio Morrison. Reserve Alex Anzalone is also out due to injury. True freshman Jarrad Davis and walk-on Daniel Campbell have moved up the depth chart and must help fill the void.
  • With redshirt freshman quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg set to make his third consecutive start if Tyler Murphy (shoulder) can't play, the Gators have to be creative offensively against an FSU defense that allows less than 300 yards per game.
  • If the Gators are able to keep it close, they will have to cash in every scoring opportunity they get. Florida is 116th in the country on red-zone offense and can't have many empty drives.

 

CAST OF CHARACTERS

  • Gators freshman running back Kelvin Taylor has flirted with his first career 100-yard game the past two games. If Taylor could reach that mark against the Seminoles that would be a good sign for Florida's offense.
  • Jameis Winston is that rare talent that can change the fortunes of a program or franchise in one season. Winston can pass, run and lead. The Seminoles have followed his lead the past two weeks to stay loose and focused as Winston's off-the-field issues cloud his future.
  • Florida receiver Solomon Patton has had a breakout season. Patton has six touchdown receptions and leads the Gators with 554 receiving yards. He caught two touchdowns in the loss to Georgia Southern and has been a bright spot for Florida's offense.
  • Florida's defense allowed Georgia Southern to rush for 429 yards, the fourth-highest total allowed in school history. The Gators' defense was bruised and battered physically and emotionally afterward. How will UF's defense respond to their most difficult challenge of the season -- minus several key players?
  • FSU receivers Kelvin Benjamin, Kenny Shaw and Rashad Greene give Winston a talented trio to throw to. They will be a good matchup for Florida corners Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Roberson and Vernon Hargreaves III.

 

TALKING POINTS

GatorZone.com senior writers Scott Carter and Chris Harry discuss Saturday's game ... 

 

 

THE QUOTE FILE

  • "I'd like all of us to go out and compete this game and show Gator Nation we are still here and we're going to keep playing no matter what." -- Gators cornerback Jaylen Watkins
  • "Fifty-five points is a lot. I honestly think they haven't seen our type of defense all year in their league. We'll be able to cut that down." -- Gators defensive tackle Damien Jacobs
  • "That's kind of a slap in the face, when somebody runs the ball up and down the field on you. They just came in and beat us at home. That really hurt." -- FSU defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan on last year's loss to Gators
  • "I didn’t even know we called them the team down south and they call us the team out west. At least in Alabama we can still call them Alabama and Auburn." -- Jameis Winston, an Alabama native playing in his first Florida-Florida State game
  • "The thing that jumps out at you is 23 interceptions and eight scores on defense. They do a good job o attacking the football." -- Will Muschamp on FSU's opportunistic defense

 

OPPONENT SPOTLIGHT

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston can play football. We all know that. But in case you didn't know it, he's an excellent baseball player, too. Here is a proof ... 

 

 

10 QUICK HITTERS 

  • The last time FSU visited The Swamp ranked second in the national polls, the Gators upset them 32-29 in 1997, spoiling FSU's bid to play for a national title.
  • Gators freshman running back Kelvin Taylor (483 yards) is closing in on Mack Brown (527 yards) for the team rushing title. Taylor has taken on a more prominent role since starting halfback Matt Jones suffered a season-ending knee injury.
  • FSU is averaging 55.2 points per game. The most points the Seminoles have ever scored against the Gators came in a 52-17 win in Tallahassee in 1988.
  • This is the 58th meeting between the schools. The Gators own a 35-21-2 series lead, including a 20-9-1 edge in Gainesville.
  • Gators receiver Quinton Dunbar has caught a pass in a school-record 27 consecutive games. Dunbar broke former UF receiver Carlos Alvarez's school record (25) two weeks ago at South Carolina.
  • Florida State has scored a touchdown on 53.8 percent of its offensive possessions (71 touchdowns in 132 possessions). That leads the nation.
  • The Gators were 15-0 under head coach Will Muschamp when rushing for 150 or more yards. However, the Gators have lost two consecutive games (South Carolina and Georgia Southern) when reaching the 150-yard mark on the ground.
  • The Gators are honoring 17 seniors on Senior Day: Cody Adams, Jeremy Brown, Trey Burton, David Campbell, Tim Clark, Dominique Easley, Jon Halapio, Jon Harrison, Damien Jacobs, Darrin Kitchens, Kyle Koehne, Chris Maignan, Solomon Patton, Brad Phillips, Christian Provancha, Ryan Parrish and Jaylen Watkins.
  • Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston leads the nation in pass efficiency rating (194.5). The single-season FBS record is 191.8 by Russell Wilson at Wisconsin in 2011.
  • Former Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster is Florida State's tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator. Brewster hired Gators tight ends coach Derek Lewis as a Gophers assistant. 

 

WHAT THEY’RE WRITING

--Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald writes sticking with Muschamp is right move for the Gators.

--Solomon Patton a bright spot in down year for Gators writes Zach Abolverdi of The Gainesville Sun.

--Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease addresses his future in this story by Antonya English of The Tampa Bay Times.

--FSU's defense remembers last year's loss to the Gators writes Corey Clark of The Tallahassee Democrat.

--Gators confident they can slow down Winston, FSU's offense writes Joe Morgan of The Orlando Sentinel.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

Few give the Gators much of a chance in this one.

FSU is winning by an average of 44 points and the Gators haven't scored more than 20 points since a 30-10 win against Arkansas Oct. 5, their last victory.

But the Gators know all about the unexpected. Remember last week? Florida lost to Georgia Southern at home to clinch the program's first losing season since 1979.

This is an emotionally charged game because of all the connections between the players and the rivalry. Stranger things have certainly happened than should the Gators pull off the upset.

If the Gators have any magic left, they will need to empty their bag to upset FSU's most talented team in years.

 

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