FSU vs Florida: Preview and Prediction

Florida State ADVANTAGES Florida
PUSH FSU Run Game vs Florida Defense

Florida State has been excellent on the ground this year thanks to the dynamic running of Dalvin Cook. Cook is averaging nearly 8 yards per carry and 150 yards per game.  In addition, Jacques Patrick has emerged as a viable backup to Cook who provides a more bruising style.  The offensive line has been a mixed bag, playing well enough to allow Cook to set the single season rushing record at FSU, but also giving up lots of stuffed runs. The Noles have the 6th ranked rushing attack in the nation according to S&P+ and have already faced some of the top run defenses in the nation with mixed results.

Florida has the 3rd ranked rush defense in the nation and is led by a stout defensive line.  The Gators are giving up just 3.18 yards per carry and is 10th in the nation with 85 tackles for loss. Jonathan Bullard and Caleb Brantley have been beasts in the middle.  Bullard and defensive end, Alex McCalister are both listed doubtful for the game this weekend and Brantley has been hobbled by injury, but is listed as probable.  Those players are key to the Gators dominating the middle and making for tough sledding for Cook.

With a healthy defensive line, I’d give the edge to Florida here, but Dalvin Cook and FSU have had success against good defensive front this year.  A less than full strength Gator front changes this to a push in my mind as I don’t see a clear advantage one way or another heading in.  This will be tough task for the Noles, but one I think they can have success with.

FSU Passing Game vs Florida Defense

Florida State has the 29th ranked passing attack in the nation, but this team has been night and day on the road versus being at home.  Pass protection has been an issue most of the year, quarterback play has been spotty at times, and wide receivers have struggled to get separation and make big plays.  That’s a recipe for an average passing attack and that’s just what Florida State has been.  With Sean Maguire, however, the chances for big plays do increase and that has to be the Noles hope – that Maguire can hit some big plays and have success with play action if FSU is able to establish any threat of a run game.

Florida boasts one of the top cornerback tandems in the nation and that’s reflected by their 7th ranked pass defense by S&P+.  Vernon Hargreaves III is a top 5 corner and a true shutdown type guy.  The Gators get after the quarterback, too, with a nations 5th best 36 sacks on the season.  That pressure is obtained without the need to blitz too often as 5 of the top 6 on the sack list are from the defensive line.

While the rushing matchup is close, the passing matchup is not.  Florida State will struggle to get separation from the wide receivers and Maguire should be under duress most of the evening.  The wild card, in my mind, will be the ability to get Dalvin Cook the ball in the flats and on screens and get Ryan Izzo involved in the pass game.

 gators logo
fsu_seminoles_logo_detail Florida Run Game vs FSU Defense

Florida has the 87th ranked rushing attack in the nation based on S&P+ ratings.  In short, they’ve been pretty bad running the football and average just 3.59 yards per carry.  Kelvin Taylor has been the workhorse getting 217 carries on the year (almost 7 times the next closest running back).  He’s not even averaging 4 yards per carry, though.  Treon Harris does give them a bit of a threat running from the quarterback position.

FSU has the 31st ranked rush defense by S&P+. The Noles are allowing 3.94 yards per carry on the season.  They’ve been dominant at times against the run, particularly against Miami and NC State, but have also given up over 5 yards per carry to Clemson and Georgia Tech.  Clemson was really the only non-option team to have a lot of success and that was in large part due to the running of Deshaun Watson.

Florida will struggle to move the ball on the ground against the Noles and this is a clear advantage going in for Florida State.

 fsu_seminoles_logo_detail Florida Pass Game vs FSU Defense

Florida has the 32nd ranked passing attack.  That includes the Florida that had Will Grier at quarterback, though.  Without Grier, the Florida passing attack has struggled.  Since taking over against LSU, Treon Harris hasn’t completed more than 57% of his passes in any game, less than 50% twice, and over the last four games has as many interceptions as touchdowns thrown. Antonio Calloway is a big play threat outside for the Gators averaging over 20 yards a catch. Demarcus Robinson leads the team by a large margin in catches, but he averages just over 10 yards a catch.

Florida State 13th best pass defense in the nation.  The Noles also boast one of the top cornerback tandems in the nation and one of the top 5 corners in the game in Jalen Ramsey.  The Noles don’t get to the quarterback with quite the effectiveness of Florida, but they have done a much better job this season.  Despite only 25 sacks on the year, the pressure on the quarterback has effected opposing teams passing games.

FSU has a clear advantage in this matchup as well.  Florida has a shot to maybe hit a big play, but they shouldn’t be able to routinely march down the field completing a high percentage of passes.

fsu_seminoles_logo_detail Special Teams

Special teams becomes huge in a game that could be a low scoring defensive slugfest.  Both teams feature very good punters who are averaging 43+ yards per punt which might play a large part in the field position battle.  Florida has done a much better job in punt returns, but Cason Beatty hasn’t allowed a lot of returns this year.  Florida State has the advantage in the kickoff game averaging almost 5 more yards per return with one of the most electric returners in the game.  The Noles also are 5th in the nation averaging just over 16 yards per kick return.  Where FSU has the biggest advantage though is a field goal kicker.  Roberto Aguayo is one of the top kickers in the nation and has made 18 of 22 field goals this year and has the leg to hit from distance.  Florida has struggled hitting just 7 of 14 field goals this year.

17 Prediction

Florida State and Florida both feature excellent defenses with offenses that leave much to be desired at times.  Florida State has been a little better on offense due to the talents of Dalvin Cook.  I’ll take the Noles in a close, ugly, low scoring game because of Cook and special teams play.


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