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For the first time in a long time, the battle of Florida has some significance. Each school finds themselves in the Top 10 and fighting for a BCS bowl. The Gators are coming off two creampuff matches against Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State while Florida State has really only faced one good team this year in Clemson as the rest of the ACC is not very good. This will be the best defense the Seminoles have faced all season so they will have their hands full.
Last year's game in Gainesville was a defensive battle. The two offenses combined for just 279 total yards on offense. The Seminoles won 21-7, but only had 95 yards on offense. The difference was the three interceptions John Brantley tossed to Florida State. While each defense is still very tough, their offenses have been a lot better this season. EJ Manuel shouldn't have a problem surpassing his 6-for-13, 65-yard performance. At least, that's what Florida State hopes.
The Seminoles have had close to no competition at home this year as the combined score for six games is 324 to 54. Clemson gave them a fight, but they were still able to grab an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter. Manuel is putting together the best numbers of his career in his senior season. He's completing 68.8% of his passed to go with 21 TDs and only six interceptions. He's been helped largely by a solid running attack. Unfortunately, former starting RB Chris Thompson tore his ACL a month ago and now they aren't running as well with a slew of young RBs. Devonta Freeman has been the best of them notching 100 yards in two of his last three games. However, in a last minute win at Virginia Tech, their RBs totaled only 27 rushing yards with -5 yards from Freeman. FSU will need better numbers than that or a flawless game from Manuel if they want to move the ball more than they did last season. Manuel spreads the ball plenty in the passing game with six receivers having at least 20 receptions and seven receivers having at least two TDs.
The Gators allow 11.7 points per game which is third best in the nation. They have yet to allow more than 20 points all season. As this will be a close, grind it out game, it's their offense that will need to step up. In their only loss all year, they allowed 17 points, but scored just nine.
Jeff Driskel is currently listed as probable after initially being listed as OUT. (As a result, only betonline currently has a line posted on this one, favoring Florida State by 6). Driskel has had a solid Tebow-like season, but again, they aren't scoring a ton of points. Driskel has 14 total TDs this year to go with three interceptions. He missed last week's game against Jacksonville St., but will likely suit up against the Seminoles. Running back Mike Gillislee has been the key component in Florida's offense all season. He has 964 rushing yards and eight TDs to go with 124 and one TD through the air. If Gillislee can repeat his 146-yard performance he had against LSU earlier in the season, the Gators will be set, but he hasn't repeated the feat since, getting shutdown by both South Carolina and Georgia.
This is a game where schedule strength should come into play. Sometimes you'll see games where a team looks like the better team on paper, but when you dig a little deeper you find that perhaps they look like the better team due to padding their stats against weaker opposition. But in this game, Florida looks like the better team on paper and that's with having played a schedule that is roughly 10 points more difficult than the Seminoles have played. Florida has beaten Texas AM, LSU and South Carolina on their way to a 9-1 record. Florida State played just one ranked team all year, Clemson. The schedules these two have played are night and day.
Florida also has a double revenge motive working in their favor having lost the last two in this series and by wide margins. Our model still likes Florida State to win when using season to date stats, but just by 1 with roughly 30 total points being scored. We disagree with our model only as far as the outright winner is concerned as we see Florida winning this one, with or without Driskel. In a low scoring game, we'll take any points available. Florida +8
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