The No. 10-ranked Florida Gators (10-1, 7-1) have already locked up the SEC East and a spot in the conference title game. But before they get to play any postseason football, they welcome intrastate rival No. 14 Florida State (9-2, 6-2) into the swamp for the regular-season finale in Gainesville.
Jim McElwain’s Gators have won four in a row and still have a shot, albeit an unlikely won, to make the College Football Playoff. They’d have to beat the Seminoles this week and hope Alabama clinches the SEC West (which they in all likelihood will) so they would be given a chance to dramatically improve their resume with a potential win over the Crimson Tide in the conference championship game. Florida is currently No. 8 in the CFP rankings with the newest installment set to be released on Tuesday.
The Gators enter the annual rivalry game limping a bit after needing overtime to beat Florida Atlantic, a 2-9 Conference USA team. Florida managed to escape with 20-14 victory over the heavy underdog. Quarterback Treon Harris threw two touchdowns including the game winner to bring his total to eight but has completed just 54.6 percent of his passes this season. Harris took over the starting job for good after Will Grier was suspended in October following a positive drug test.
Florida ran for 131 yards behind 105 and a score form Kelvin Taylor, who has rushed for over a hundred yards four times this season and scored a touchdown in every game but one. The Gators average 137.9 yards on the ground each game and have rushed for 19 scores with 13 coming from Taylor. Florida State allows 144 rushing yards per game but last week surrendered 165 and a score to Chattanooga, an FCS team. The FSU defense did cause two turnovers and limit the Mocs to 273 yards of total offense.
After losing to No. 1 Clemson earlier this month, Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles defeated NC State and ended up beating Chattanooga 52-13 on Saturday behind 428 yards of offense. Dalvin Cook ran for 106 yards and two scores, eclipsing a hundred yards for the seventh time. His 1,475 rushing yards put him at No. 6 in the country while his 16 rushing scores are tied for seventh nationally. Florida State faces a Gator defense that allows the eighth-fewest rush yards per game (108.3) and has only given up seven rushing scores all season.
Sean Maguire went into the Chattanooga game as the starter for the first time in his career. After Everett Golson suffered a concussion in the Oct. 24 loss at Georgia Tech, Maguire got the start the following week against Syracuse. He also played against Clemson but struggled. Maguire then replaced an ineffective Everett Golson and rallied the Seminoles past NC State before finally being named the starter before Saturday, when he threw for 152 yards and two scores. In total, McGuire has thrown eight touchdowns and two interceptions while completing 65 percent of his passes.
Prediction: Florida should bounce back from an unimpressive effort on Saturday. With Alabama likely waiting in the SEC Championship, Doug Nussmeier's Gator offense is expected to run more efficiently, against the Seminoles steady defense. Florida State may need a huge effort from the offensive line to pull off a win. Expect a tight battle, and for the Gators to squeak out a victory.