The Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles are both off this week before meeting next Saturday in Gainesville. We’ll have plenty more on that matchup in the coming days. In the meantime, here are five early, random thoughts on their regular-season finale:
1. If FSU is going to upset UF (or at least keep it close), the Seminoles’ defense is going to have to find a way to slow down the Gators’ passing offense. I don’t see that happening. FSU’s pass defense has middle-of-the-pack numbers but gave up 308 yards to Wake Forest’s backup quarterback and 313 yards to Miami. With an extra week of preparation, I think Dan Mullen’s offense and top-tier receiving corps will poke holes in FSU’s secondary.
2. I touched on this over the weekend, but I see some similarities between FSU’s Jordan Travis and UF’s Emory Jones. Both are talented redshirt freshmen quarterbacks who only see a few snaps a game. Both are dynamic runners who haven’t thrown much, either because of their limited playing time or the fact that they’re not ready to throw much yet. Both will be critical to their programs’ success in 2020 and beyond. And both will also benefit from an extra week of prep time for one game. I’m curious to see how many snaps they get and how their coaches use them.
3. FSU interim coach Odell Haggins definitely has a lot of locker-room support to be promoted to full-time head coach. I saw a Hire Odell sign in the stands Saturday, too, and I think he has some internal support within the administration and boosters. Among the people he hugged after last week’s win: President John Thrasher, athletic director David Coburn and Glenn Sugiyama, who’s spearheading the search with outside firm DHR International. If Haggins beats UF to go from 4-Odell to 5-Odell, I think there will be a very, very strong push to make him the permanent coach. Maybe keeping the game competitive would be enough to boost his candidacy, although that depends on what happens with other external candidates, too.
4. FSU star running back Cam Akers didn’t play last week as he recovers from an injury. Neither did Gators standout edge rusher Jabari Zuniga. I think both will play next week in what would probably be their final regular-season college games. I can’t see FSU beating (or hanging with) UF without Akers, and Zuniga would be a big help in the Gators’ attempts to slow Akers down. How limited will they be?
5. I haven’t seen a line yet, but I expect the Gators to be favored by double digits. If UF wins, it would put Mullen in rare category. The last Gators coach to start 2-0 against FSU was Urban Meyer. Only three UF coaches have also accomplished that feat: Galen Hall (1984-85), Doug Dickey (1970-71) and Bob Woodruff (1958-59, in the first two games of the series).