On Saturday when the Florida State offense takes the field against Florida, it will be lined up across from its toughest challenge of the year.
|Florida State vs. Florida|
When: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Records: FSU 10-1, 7-1 ACC
Florida 10-1, 7-1 SEC.
Where: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.
Series: UF leads 33-21-2.
The Gators' defense ranks fourth in the country in total defense, allowing an average of just 281 yards of total offense per game. UF hasn't allowed more than 20 points in a game this season, and ranks third in the country in scoring defense, allowing an average of just 11.7 points per game.
With the exception of Maryland last weekend, which ranks 15th in the country, Florida will be the first top-30 defense FSU has faced this season.
"They do a lot of things," FSU fullback Lonnie Pryor said of UF. "They jump into a 4-3 and then they do okie (3-4). It's not going to be easy, they're going to bring their A-game. It's going to be a tough game, but it's something we've been waiting for though."
Last season FSU defeated Florida 21-7, despite amassing just 95 yards of total offense in the game. Quarterback EJ Manuel was 6 of 13 for 65 yards, and was sacked four times in the game.
FSU took advantage of four Gators' turnovers, including a 29-yard interception returned for a touchdown by Terrance Parks, as the defense carried it to victory.
"Definitely don't want that to happen again this year," Manuel said. "Granted our defense played lights out, but I feel like we didn't do our part on offense. So I think this year we have to do our part in helping those guys out and get scores on the board. Not having three-and-outs and things like that, because it could have been different if they didn't stop those guys. They could have got a touchdown here, or a touchdown there, and then you're looking at a different ball game so we have to do our part this year."
Part of what makes the Florida defense so tough is its ability to show different looks. FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said it's a product of having so many athletic guys on that side of the ball.
"Scheme-wise they do a great job and physically they're big and strong, they're athletic, they're long, they can cover, they can rush, play the run extremely well," he said. "Great linebackers, great front guys, they're by far-well I wouldn't say by far-but they're a really good defense, a really good defensive football team."
The last two weeks FSU has faced its two toughest defensive opponents of the season in Maryland and Virginia Tech. Maryland ranks 15th in the country in total defense allowing 322.5 yards per game of total offense, while VT is 33rd with an average of 356.18 yards allowed per game.
Against VT, FSU scored 28 points with 311 yards of total offense, while it put up 41 points behind 397 yards of total offense on the Terrapins. Manuel said both teams were good preparation for UF because they both brought a heavy amount of blitzes, just like he expects on Saturday.
"This week we're really going to have to emphasis focusing on the blitz," he said. "Picking up the blitzes and then myself have my eyes in the right areas if and when they do blitz and be able to get the ball out quick so they don't get me in the backfield."
While Manuel won't lose any sleep if FSU comes out victorious in another defensive slug-fest, he does want to make sure the defense doesn't have to carry the load all by itself again.
"We thought we didn't play our best game against Florida and like I said our defense did a great job, a tremendous job getting turnovers and stops and things like that," Manuel said. "Putting us in good field position where we could just run the ball into the endzone. This year we want to take it into our own hands. We want those guys on defense to have a good game too, but do our part as offense as well."
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