GAINESVILLE — Florida State and the Florida Gators find themselves in mirrored situations after unfortunate confirmations Monday.
Tate Rodemaker will start at quarterback for the No. 4 Seminoles after Jordan Travis suffered a gruesome leg injury that will end his FSU career. Gators starter Graham Mertz is officially out, too, after sustaining a nondisplaced fracture of his collarbone in Saturday’s 33-31 loss at Missouri. He’ll be replaced by Max Brown.
That means FSU’s shot at the College Football Playoff and the Gators’ hopes of a bowl bid hinge on the performance of two backup quarterbacks in one of the biggest rivalries in the country.
The schematic impact is significant; the ’Noles will move from one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country to one who is more of a traditional pocket passer, while Florida must shift from a traditional pocket passer to one who is a better runner.
“It’s like we flipped,” Florida edge rusher Princely Umanmielen said.
The adjustment is bigger at FSU because of how much Travis has meant to this team and the program as a whole before being carted off the field against North Alabama. No one in Seminoles history was responsible for more touchdowns (97). Travis also broke school records in total offense (10,554 yards), and only Chris Weinke led FSU to more wins than Travis (28).
If FSU makes the playoff and sustains its current level of success — a 21-4 record since the start of 2022 — Travis will go down as one of the most significant players in program history.
“It was devastating just for him, for who he is, for what he’s meant to this program,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said during Monday’s news conference. “The impact that he’s made on and off the field, to know that his last play at Florida State has happened, it’s hard.”
Travis said in a social media post that he has been “overwhelmed” by the support he has received. Norvell said most ACC coaches have reached out to him to share their respect and support for Travis.
“Being the quarterback here at Florida State University has been a dream come true,” Travis said. “I am humbled, honored and forever grateful. The journey this team set out on is not over yet as our goals still lie just ahead. I am excited to be by my brothers’ sides every day as we continue our attack.”
That attack will be led by Rodemaker, a Valdosta, Georgia, native who was a part of Norvell’s first FSU signing class. He has completed 56 of his 93 career passes for 767 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions. He came off the bench to lead FSU to a win at Louisville last season and helped the ‘Noles come back to crush North Alabama on Saturday.
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The Gators’ situation is slightly different.
Mertz’s Florida future is uncertain. Gators coach Billy Napier said they’ll monitor the fracture’s progress over the next two weeks to see how it heals and determine the next steps from there after researching similar cases in the NFL and college football. Mertz, eventually, will have to make a decision about remaining for another year at Florida or pursuing the NFL.
In the meantime, the Gators are turning to Brown, a Tulsa, Oklahoma, native who was a part of Napier’s first UF signing class. He has completed 10 of his 12 career passes for 106 yards and rushed eight times for 42 yards.
“There’s an element of change for both teams,” Napier said, “and certainly that’s part of the strategy relative to the game.”
Tim Tebow to be honored
Florida, The National Football Foundation and the College Football Hall of Fame will jointly honor Gators legend Tim Tebow during Saturday’s game. Tebow is regarded as one of the best players in college football history after helping Florida win national titles in 2006 and 2008 and winning the 2007 Heisman Trophy.
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