The time has come for the Noles and Gators to square off yet again and while this game may lack the national attention it normally garners, it is still incredibly important to both teams and fanbases. It’s almost safe to say that the team who loses this game will feel worse than the team that wins this game feels better. Winning this game will not completely save either the Seminoles or the Gators from the disappointment that was 2011, but losing is simply pouring more salt into an already gaping wound. There a few key things to take notice of while watching this game, which is always emotional and has several storylines to watch for.
The Explosive play: Whether on special teams or offense, Florida State or Florida, there are bound to be a few big time plays made in this ball game. There are simply too many incredible athletes on the field for it not to happen. Even in the event that neither offense is able to string together consistent drives and move the ball at will, someone will break loose and make a play eventually.
Special Teams Battle: Between these two teams, Florida State has the better offense overall, but that matters very little when your offensive line has been performing the way it has of late. This is why special teams will play a gigantic role in this game. Who will win the field position battle and which return men will put their respective offense in the best position to score points? When you have two strong defenses going against each other, the special teams play is usually the difference maker.
Penalties: The two teams are a couple of the most heavily penalized teams in the nation and when you put them in a rivalry game, chances are more will occur. Florida State and Florida are tied for 117th in the nation with 89 penalties apiece. To say this game may get ugly is to say that water is wet.
QB Play: The quarterback who plays the better game will come away victorious in this one. This doesn’t have to be the guy who makes the most plays, but rather the one who eliminates mistakes. Florida State’s EJ Manuel has the edge in overall production and also has a better group of receivers, but UF’s John Brantley has a more reliable running game and offensive line (although neither are exactly outstanding).
Defense: Both groups are generally very good and stingy, but which of these two units will actually force a big negative play? Whichever one makes it happen could change the entire complexion of an otherwise uneventful game. A big turnover or defensive score will be huge in tomorrow’s game.
Coach Sideline Demeanor: Both Jimbo Fisher and Will Muschamp have been noted for very animated antics on the sideline this season. Depending on how this game plays out, with so much on the line for each program, it would not be a surprise to see one or the other lose a bit of composure in such an emotional game.
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