The Florida vs. Florida State (also known as the Florida State–Florida Game) is one of the most popular rivalry games in the Southeastern United States. The annual game, which is scheduled for November 23rd this year, pits the Florida Gators against the Florida State Seminoles, both of which are members of the Southeastern Conference (SEC).
The rivalry between these two schools is not new. In fact, the games between them date back to 1905 and have always been very competitive. Since that year, the two teams have met every season except for World War II, which ended in 1941. During that time, the Gators went on an Olympic-length hiatus and the Seminoles didn’t field a football team.
The last time these two teams met was in 2018. The Seminoles defeated the Gators 24–20 in an exciting game that went down to the wire. Many experts think that this year’s edition will be even more competitive. After all, the betting lines for the game have already been posted and the betting markets are currently projecting a very close game.
Key Matchups To Keep An Eye On
Here are some key matchups to keep an eye on as the Florida vs Florida State game approaches:
In 2018, Justin Fields took the reins at QB for the No. 18 Florida State Seminoles. He is coming off an injury-plagued sophomore year in which he started just three games. However, prior to his sophomore year, Fields was a record-breaking quarterback for the Seminoles. He passed for 3,776 yards and 48 touchdowns in 2019. He also added another 744 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground. Even though his numbers decreased in his sophomore year, Fields still managed to pull off one of the most impressive seasons by a quarterback in FBS history. Many expect him to improve as a sophomore and lead the Seminoles to another undefeated season.
While the Seminoles’ offense looked very impressive when Fields replaced Ryan Finley as the starter, the team’s running back position took a major hit. Finley started the season as the No. 1 running back for the Seminoles, but suffered an injury in the second game and was lost for the season. Brandon Aiyue, who started two games at RB before suffering a collarbone injury, had a modest 694 yards and 6 touchdowns on 68 carries. Injuries plagued the Seminoles’ running back position all year long and they were forced to start John Diggins, who was drafted in the sixth round, at RB. Diggins had just 53 yards on 11 carries. For now, the team is hoping Jarren Jackson’s health improves as he recovers from a foot injury he suffered in the Spring.
The FSU passing game, which gets a significant number of its yards and touchdowns through the air, was hit hard by injuries. Leading receiver Travis Rudolph (31 catches for 450 yards and 4 TDs) was lost for the year in the fifth game. He was followed by wideout Andre Russell (18 catches for 311 yards and 4 TDs), who missed two games and was slowed by an injury in another. FSU was also without starting left wideout Cameron Latu for the entire season. The Seminoles’ receiving corps took another hit when sophomore Brian Blades was suspended for the first three games of the season for violations of team rules. Once again, Diggins stepped in to fill the void and he had a role in every game, catching passes from Dickey and often leading the team in receiving yards, though that was not the case for the last two games of the season. The Seminoles will need to find replacements for the departed stars, Rudolph and Russell, as they look to bounce back in 2020.
FSU found a bit of a spark at tight end when they decided to go with Jay Prosch, a graduate transfer from Central Florida, instead of going with an underclassmen as previously planned. Prosch caught 7 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown in his first season with the Seminoles. However, the injuries at the position mounted throughout the year and the Seminoles had to start Evan Sharin in his place. Sharin caught just 4 passes for 31 yards in his only season with FSU. The Seminoles will need to find a new starter at the position as they look to get back on track in 2020. Prosch and Sharin will have to prove themselves if they are to continue playing TE for the Seminoles in the coming years.
In the middle of the field, the linebackers will be key to stopping the run game and defending the pass. A pair of JUCO transfers, neither of whom played football before, will be relied on to provide help at this position. One of the JUCOs, Jeremiah George, had 14 solo tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss in 2019. He also forced two fumbles and recovered one. The other, Jacob Brown, had 22.5 tackles, 15 of which were solo, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery in 2019. While it is very difficult to predict how well these two will fare in the SEC, fans can rest assured that they will provide adequate depth at a position plagued by injuries in the past.
The Seminoles’ defense, which gave up more than 200 yards passing, averaged nine points per game in 2019. However, the unit, which is now led by new defensive coordinator Nevelle Mays, played some of the best football they have ever produced. Despite the score, the defense did limit Fields to just six completions in 13 attempts for 72 yards. The unit also intercepted four passes, including three by safety Kenny Bell, who had 8.5 tackles, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery in 2019. Safety Braylon Hill, who was also expected to play a bigger role in the secondary this season, missed the entire year with an injury. The defensive line and linebackers both shored up their play a bit, but it will still be difficult for the Seminoles, who are now led by an interim coach, to replicate their stellar play of 2019.
The over/under for the Florida vs Florida State game is currently set at 7.5 points for the entire season. Experts agree that this year’s game will be a lot closer than usual because of the injuries that befell many of the key players on both teams. The betting lines for this year’s game will be more favorable to the underdogs. If you look at the betting odds for just the last three games, you will see that the underdogs are currently favored in all of them. If you are looking for an easy way to bet, the underdogs are the way to go.
The key matchups for the Florida vs Florida State game are definitely there for everyone to see. However, what is important for football fans to keep in mind is that even though the injuries are a big reason for the closeness of the game, the teams are still far from being equals. Florida has a completely different set of challenges this season as they look to get back on track and prove that last year was no fluke. Florida State has a lot of talent and, as long as everything stays healthy, they are still a dangerous opponent. With both teams dealing with injuries and suspensions on a yearly basis, this could be the longest football season in history. Nevertheless, it will still be extremely exciting to see how the game turns out.