If Florida fans were ever looking for a reason to be hopeful as a double-digit underdog Friday night they only needed to look at a fellow SEC East team – South Carolina.
After scoring six points in Gainesville, the Gamecocks scored 63 against a team that appeared headed for the College Football Playoffs.
At this point, you reach for anything, right?
Billy Napier believes in what he is doing even if a percentage – and what that percentage is depends on who you are talking to either in person or online – disagrees with what happened Saturday.
At any rate, Florida plays its fourth game in five weeks away from home (it will be five once the bowl is announced) and it’s another opportunity for revenge for a team that lost to the Gators last year (running count has opponents up 2-1 this season).
This week’s Dooley’s Dozen tells you 12 things you need to know about… Florida State (8-3, 5-3 in ACC).
The HBC made it a more intense rivalry
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Steve Spurrier was all about beating Georgia when he started at Florida in 1990. But after a few years facing FSU, he certainly added another level to the vitriol felt on both sides. After a scandal that involved FSU players receiving free merchandise from a Tallahassee store he started calling the school “Free Shoes University.”
In the summer of 1994, he told boosters and the media that FSU was recruiting better than Florida because it was cheating. “We’ve always heard rumors about them,” he said. And he refused to call the team by its nickname “the ‘Noles” and instead started calling them “the Semis.”
But he struggled with them until the big one
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Yes, there is even a beer named “52-20” after the score of the national championship win over FSU in the 1997 Sugar Bowl. But before that game, Spurrier’s record at Florida against the Semis (you can’t help it) was 1-5-1. He split his last six games against FSU, but never won in Tallahassee.
Florida leads the all-time series, which did not begin until the state legislature ordered Florida to play Florida State in 1958, at 37-26-2. [autotag]Dan Mullen[/autotag] went 2-0 against the Seminoles with one game being lost to COVID and another Florida win coming after he was fired last year.
Charley Pell did a nice turnaround
In 1980, No. 3 FSU beat unranked Florida 17-13 in Tallahassee. Florida’s second-year coach told his team in the locker room that “we won’t lose to that team again.” And they didn’t.
Pell went 3-0 before being fired, but [autotag]Galen Hall[/autotag] picked up and won his first three games as well. [autotag]Urban Meyer[/autotag] won five in a row in the series before losing his last game, a loss so bad he quit for the second time and declared the program broken.
In a series of streaks, this is the best one
The first time Florida and FSU faced off when both teams were ranked was 1984 when the Gators won 27-17 in Tallahassee. They only met one more time when both were ranked. Then, it got crazy.
Florida and FSU played 16 straight games when both teams were ranked including a run of 13 straight games when both teams were ranked in the top 10. That includes two Sugar Bowls. Both teams have not been ranked (FSU is this year at No. 16 in the Coaches Poll) since the 2016 game.
The Seminoles rallied from a tough stretch
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FSU lost three straight games in the middle of the season to Clemson, Wake Forest and N.C. State by a total of 18 points. The competition dropped and the Seminoles got better.
In the last four games, they have outscored the opposition, 173-39.
Mike Norvell (here’s a tidbit – he’s the all-time receptions leader at Central Arkansas) is in his seventh year as a head coach and third at FSU. His career record is 16-16 in Tally.
He is an example of how to use the transfer portal
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Maybe it is because Norvell is in his third year and knew what the deficiencies were on his roster, but FSU went to the portal to get 13 players. That includes their leading rusher (Trey Benson, Oregon) and leading receiver (Johnny Wilson, Arizona State) and certainly Jordan Verse.
Verse played at Albany as a freshman and didn’t do much, but FSU saw something in his 6-foot-4-inch frame. He has 7.5 sacks this year and is a major disrupter.
The stats are the opposite of last week
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A week ago, Florida fans looked at Vanderbilt’s year-long statistics and felt there was no way Florida could lose. This week is a different story.
FSU is 13th in the country and first in the ACC in points allowed per game (18). They are 11th in the country in total defense, first in the ACC in pass defense and first in rushing. Oh, and ninth in the country in kickoff returns.
Jordan Travis is a problem
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The junior quarterback has completed 40 of 49 passes in November, which is going to make him a challenge to Florida’s secondary. He has thrown for 2,526 yards this season with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions.
And he came into the league known as a running quarterback. He doesn’t run as much as his passing accuracy has improved, but with 284 yards and five touchdowns he is still dangerous.
They can really run the ball
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I said this early that FSU leads the ACC in rushing. The Seminoles are 14th in the country, one spot ahead of the mighty Gators, who took last Saturday off from trying to run the ball (don’t get me started).
Benson leads the way with 854 yards and a 7.1-yard average per attempt, which puts him third in the country. Treshaun Ward is another weapon with 538 rushing yards and five touchdowns. And with [autotag]Ventrell Miller[/autotag] out for the first half, you would think FSU would attack on the ground.
Statistically, this is an elite defense
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The numbers have been padded during this four-game winning streak against three middle-of-the-pack ACC opponents and what is left of Louisiana, but we mentioned FSU is 13th in the country in points allowed, fourth in passing defense and 13th in sacks.
Teams have had some success running the ball as they are 52nd against the run at 138 yards per game allowed.
It will be an unusual quick turnaround
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The guys who played in the 1960s and 70s that used to have to play Miami on Friday nights every other year might argue, but it does mess up your usual schedule playing on a Friday night.
Nobody is allowed to use it as an excuse. The stadium will be electric, but Florida has played in front of just about every crowd imaginable this season.
FSU is 4-2 at home this season with losses to Wake Forest and Clemson.
Two very interesting stats to know
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We know that games can come down to a handful of plays. Do you get the breaks or do you make your breaks? Or do you give away points as Florida did in Nashville? So, we bring up these two stats.
The first is turnover margin. FSU is at plus 2 with seven picks and seven fumble recoveries against six of each on offense. (Florida, by contrast, has 23 gained turnovers and NCAA leader Western Kentucky 30.)
Penalties are the second stat as FSU ranks 113th in the country with 78 for 705 yards, 227 yards more than Florida. Just food for thought.
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