FSU, Florida Prep for Sunshine State Showdown
By Carlos Pineda
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Florida and Florida State will face off in a game with massive national implications in Tallahassee on Saturday.
It was after Florida lost to in-state rival Florida State last year that Will Muschamp ripped into his team.
Muschamp, then in his first year, called the Gators "soft", although he says the remark was more based on a lot of things that happened throughout the year, but culminated that night at Florida Field.
That Florida team finished the season 7-6 — which included a not so flattering 21-7 loss to the Seminoles.
"We're looking forward to going to Tallahassee," Muschamp said. "We didn't play very well in this game last year."
Despite holding FSU's offense to 95 yards, it was the Gators' four interceptions that did them in.
Unlike last year, No. 6 Florida (10-1) is playing for much more when it meets up with the 10th-ranked Seminoles (10-1) this Saturday for the 57th meeting of this rivalry. Ranked fourth in the latest BCS standings and with an outside chance at playing for the BCS National Championship in Miami, this game carries more weight than recent years.
Both teams enter the matchup ranked in the AP Top 10 for the first time since 2000. A win would likely send the Gators to the Sugar Bowl if they don't make the title game.
Florida has lost two-straight games in the series by a combined 52-14 margin, but received positive news this week.
Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel will return to the starting lineup, Muschamp said Wednesday.
"Jeff Driskel looked very good at practice (Tuesday) and he'll be ready to go," Muschamp said.
Driskel sat out last Saturday's 23-0 win over Jacksonville State after spraining his right ankle on Nov. 10 against Louisiana-Lafayette. He was cleared to practice Tuesday.
Driskel has passed for 1,324 yards, completing 65 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. In addition to his passing ability, it's his scrambling capabilities that have been clutch, rushing for 424 yards and four touchdowns this season.
Struggling offensively, the Gators have done just enough to scrape by several times this season, but face the nation's No. 1 ranked defense — which allows 236.3 yards per game.
"They do a nice job of creating some problems for you, and they're very fast and athletic," Muschamp said. "They cover extremely well, they've had an outstanding year."
Offensively, the Noles rank 14th in total offense, averaging 493.6 yards per game. Florida's defense ranks fourth, allowing 281 yards per game.
It's a game for bragging rights, but also a chance for FSU to shake the negativity associated with a weak ACC this season. Despite having just one loss this season — a 17-16 loss to North Carolina State on Oct. 6 — the Seminoles rank behind three two-loss teams in the BCS standings.
With a berth in the ACC Championship Game already secured, the focus for the Noles isn't the polls, the computers or next week's opponent, Georgia Tech.
It's on the fierce rivalry at hand.
"This is a Florida game," FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "We're going to play Florida and it's nothing about the BCS or rankings or anything else. We know the importance of this game because it's Florida.
"That's why you're here at Florida State — to play, compete and do well against Florida and that's our sole purpose."
Florida @ Florida State, Nov. 24
When: 3:30 p.m.
Where: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.
Series: Florida leads 33-21-2
Streak: Florida State has won two in a row