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Gainesville (SportsDirect Inc.) — Florida has put itself in position to make a case for a spot in the College Football Playoff despite some unimpressive performances over the last three weeks.
The ninth-ranked Gators will try to find their best form on both sides of the ball over the next two weeks, starting with a visit from No. 14 Florida State on Saturday night.
“We’ve had some lulls, but it’s your rivalry game with a lot on the line,” Gators tight end Jake McGee told reporters. “… There should be a lot of fired-up guys in the locker room.”
Coach Jim McElwain’s team dropped four spots to No. 12 in the latest CFP rankings after edging Florida Atlantic 20-14 in overtime last week, but Florida could face No. 2 Alabama in the SEC title game.
Florida must re-ignite its offense, which has produced 53 points and turned the ball over eight times the last three games, while finding a way to contain Florida State’s Dalvin Cook. The sophomore tailback has recorded a school-record 1,475 yards and scored 17 times – 16 on the ground – this season.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Florida State -2.5
ABOUT FLORIDA STATE (9-2): Sean Maguire has connected on 65 percent of his passes and thrown for seven scores the last four games, completing 12-of-17 attempts for 152 yards in last week’s victory over Chattanooga. Coach Jimbo Fisher told reporters Maguire has shown he is ready for the challenge, especially with his performance against No. 1 Clemson Oct. 7 when, “That whole day was not too big for him.” Travis Rudolph (51 catches, 693 yards), Kermit Whitfield (51, 690) and Jesus Wilson (45, 516) give Maguire three dangerous targets.
ABOUT FLORIDA (10-1): The Gators’ defense likely will have to go without ends Alex McCalister (ankle) and Jordan Sherit (hamstring) along with talented tackle Jonathan Bullard (knee) among others, but they have plenty of depth. The key will be finding answers on offense after managing just 252 yards last week against a two-win Owls team. Quarterback Treon Harris, who has completed only 54.6 percent of his passes, must raise his game while tailback Kelvin Taylor (841 yards, 13 TDs) has to be a major factor the next two weeks.
1. Florida has limited opponents to 14 or fewer points eight times and is tied for third in the nation at 14.5 per game against.
2. Cook has 2,483 rushing yards in less than two seasons and needs 57 to pass Greg Jones and Sammie Smith for fifth on the school’s all-time list
3. Florida State has won four of the last five meetings, but the Gators lead the series 34-23-2 overall.