2012 Record: 10-1 (7-1 SEC)
Starters returning: 18 total, seven offensive, nine defensive and two specialists
For the first time since 2000, both Florida and Florida State enter its season finale showdown ranked in the top 10. The No. 4 Gators haven’t looked dominate all season long, but have found ways to win en route to a 10-1 record, with its lone loss coming to Georgia.
Florida has struggled to find much offensive success under new offensive coordinator Brent Pease. UF averages just 332.9 yards of total offense per game, and 25.8 points per game (FSU averages 42.9). While the offense has struggled, the Gators’ defense has been dominant. Florida ranks fourth in the country in total defense, allowing just 281 total yards of offense per game, and just 11.73 points per game (third in the nation).
“They believe and they compete,” FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said of Florida. “They compete in the game and that’s what good teams do. When the running game isn’t going, find a way to pass it. When the passing game isn’t doing it, find a way to do it on defense, find a way to do it on special teams. You’re very well-rounded and very-well coached and you find different diversions to find explosive plays, or enough plays to win the game.”
Florida leads the all-time series 33-21 (with two ties), but FSU has won the last two meetings. The Gators are 11-12-1 all-time in Tallahassee.
Through the air
Player to watch:
QB Jeff Driskel (So.)
2012 Passing: 125-193 for 1,324 yards, 10 TDs and three interceptions
Florida’s passing game has been mostly grounded in 2012. UF averages just 143.3 yards per game through the air, which ranks 114th in the country. Sophomore Jeff Driskel is completing 64.8 percent of his passes. The most yards Florida has thrown for this season is 219 against Tennessee.
Driskel sat out last week against Jacksonville State after an ankle injury knocked him out against Louisiana-Lafytte. Fellow sophomore Jacoby Brissett took over the reigns at QB. Brissett is 23 of 35 for 249 yards and a touchdown in five games this season. Muschamp said he expects Driskel to play against FSU.
“If Driskel plays he’s dynamic and had a great year,” Fisher said. “Brissett’s come in and brought them back to victory also. Very big arm and we recruited all those guys so we know them all. Very good players.”
Redshirt junior tight end, and one-time QB, Jordan Reed leads the team in receptions with 40 grabs for 498 yards and three touchdowns. Quinton Dunbar is closet to Reed with 27 catches for 281 yards and three touchdowns.
Redshirt senior Frankie Hammond Jr. has shown he can make big plays at time this season, including a 75-yard touchdown catch against the Volunteers. Hammond has 17 receptions for 247 yards, three TDs, and a team-high average of 14.5 yards a catch.
Pounding the ground
Player to watch:
RB Mike Gillislee (Sr.)
2012 Rushing: 211 rushes for 964 yards and eight TDs
Despite no passing attack to keep defenses off-balance, Florida has had plenty of success running the ball this season. UF averages 189.5 yards per game rushing, and 4.5 yards per carry. The Gators have rushed for 200 yards or more in five games this season, and twice have run for more than 300 yards.
5-foot-11, 209-pound senior Mike Gillislee has carried the load with a team-high 211 carries for 964 yards. Gillislee averages 4.6 yards per carry.
“They’re a physical team first,” said FSU defensive tackle Everett Dawkins. “Everybody knows they like to run the ball so if you don’t come to the table ready to play it’s going to be a bad day, because they’re going to try and stick it down your throat so you have to be ready up front.”
Driskel has been a big part of the Florida rushing attack as well. The signal caller has 97 rushing attempts for 424 yards and four touchdowns this season.
Utility-man Trey Burton has also been a big part of the UF run game, whether he’s lined up at tailback or taking direct snaps. Burton has 23 carries for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Burton is averaging 6.2 yards per carry, thanks in large part to an 80-yard touchdown run against Tennessee.
Player to watch:
S Matt Elam (Jr.)
2012 Stats: 58 tackles, nine for loss, three interceptions and a forced fumble
Florida’s defense will certainly be the most stout that FSU has faced this season. UF gives up just 95.2 yards rushing per game, and 185.8 yards passing. It has forced 24 turnovers this season, recorded 23 sacks, and allowed 20 points or less in every game this season.
Junior Matt Elam is playing as well as perhaps any defensive back in the country this season. Elam has 42 solo tackles, nine for loss, three interceptions, and defended five passes this season. Fellow safety Josh Evans leads the team with 74 tackles this season. He has 4.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 of which are sacks, and two interceptions. Junior cornerback Jaylen Watkins is also having a solid season with three interceptions of his own, to go along with eight pass breakups.
Much of Florida’s success is predicated on pressure up front. Defensive end Dominique Easley leads the team with four sacks. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd has also done a nice job creating a push up front with 10 tackles for loss on the season (none of which are sacks).
Senior middle linebacker Jonathan Bostic has been fantastic as well, with 58 tackles, 6.5 for loss, three sacks and a pair of interceptions.
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