GAINESVILLE (CBSMiami) – Despite a rash of injuries, devastating losses including a humiliating loss to Georgia Southern; the University of Florida can still end the season on a high-note on Saturday. They just have to do what no one else has been able to do, slow down the Florida State Seminoles.
Still, if the Gators are able to pull off the historic upset; it would be, to say the least, epic. The Gators are four touchdown home underdogs to the Seminoles’ juggernaut and the game has the makings of the largest margin of victory ever in the series.
“It’s hard to believe the gap is so huge between us two,” Gators guard Jon Halapio said.
It’s even harder to believe how quickly the Gators have fallen. Last year, Florida ran all over the Seminoles before pulling away for a 37-26 victory. Since then, the FSU program hasn’t lost a game and Florida has lost eight of 12.
“It’s something that has driven us this whole season, something that we fed off of going into the summer,” FSU linebacker Telvin Smith said. “We’ve been using it as drive, but we’ve got to understand this is a new team and we’ve got our own purpose, our own life to live.”
Florida’s been decimated by injuries, especially at the quarterback position. Starter Jeff Driskel was on shaky ground at the beginning of the season and was lost early in the season. Backup Tyler Murphy struggled, including a blowout to Missouri, and was lost for a few games due to a sprained shoulder.
That left third-string quarterback Skyler Monrhinweg as the starter against South Carolina and Georgia Southern. Florida was competitive in both games, but having a third-stringer start against the Florida State defense is a recipe for disaster.
The Seminoles are tied for the second-best scoring defense in the country allowing just 11.4 points per game, according to cfbstats.com. The run defense of the Noles allows just 121.6 yards per game while the pass defense is the second-best in the country allowing 156.5 yards per game.
Not only does the pass defense not allow many yards, but they take it away at a ridiculous rate. The Noles have pulled in 23 interceptions this season, which is tops in the nation. FSU also spends plenty of time in the opponents’ backfield, recording 7.2 tackles for loss per game.
Florida State’s receivers will be key for Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston. FSU’s three-headed beast at receiver of Rashad Green, Kenny Shaw, and Kelvin Benjamin have combined to catch 140 passes for 2,343 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Florida’s corners will give the Noles’ receivers a stiff challenge, but FSU’s group feels they’re up to the challenge.
“Where we do have the upper hand is that we go against a better defense every day,” Shaw said. “I like the challenge.”
The game could also be the final game Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease coaches at the school. The anemic Florida offense has been targeted by head coach Will Muschamp as ripe for changes in the offseason.
The largest margin of victory for the Seminoles came in 1988 when the Noles beat the Gators 52-17 in Tallahassee.
Florida and Florida State will kick off at noon on ESPN.
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