By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The No. 6 Florida Gators look to keep alive an outside shot at a BCS National Championship Game appearance when they travel to Tallahassee, Fla., for their final regular-season game of 2012. They take on No. 10 Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ABC, marking Florida’s third top-10 opponent of the season.
The Gators (10-1) currently sit at No. 4 in the latest BCS Standings and, according to the NCAA, have the toughest schedule in the nation this season. Should both Alabama and Florida win out and Notre Dame suffer a loss, the Gators could put themselves in a position to vie for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.
Saturday’s meeting marks the first time in 12 years that both Florida and Florida State have been ranked among the nation’s top 10 at the time of the game.
Florida is coming off a 23-0 victory against Jacksonville State last Saturday that moved the Gators to 10-1 on the season for just the seventh time in program history. UF completed its Southeastern Conference slate with a 7-1 mark, which signified a four-win improvement from a year ago, tying for the best in school history.
“We’ve got to take care of business Saturday, and really any clutter outside of just focusing on the game Saturday doesn’t really matter to me,” Florida head coach Will Muschamp said. “That’s really going to be my message to our football team. Let’s understand what’s at stake and what’s important, and that’s focusing on the game.”
The Seminoles (10-1) have won five consecutive games since dropping a 17-16 decision at N.C. State on Oct. 6. With its 7-1 league record, Florida State clinched the Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division title for the second time in the last three years and will compete in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, N.C., next weekend.
“You have great programs, you have great availability of players, both groups have gotten good players and they’ve got a great staff and I feel we’ve got a great staff,” FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Things are never as good as they seem, they’re never as bad as they seem. We knew we would be back, and it doesn’t surprise me one bit they’re back.”
The Gators and Seminoles are meeting for the 57th time in the history of the two schools with Florida holding a 33-21-2 advantage in the all-time series … Florida State has won two consecutive meetings, including a 21-7 victory in Gainesville last season, but the Gators have claimed seven of the last 10 games between the intra-state rivals … When the game has been played in Tallahassee, Florida holds a 12-11-1 advantage in the series … UF’s last win in the capital city came in 2008, when the No. 2 Gators downed the No. 23 Seminoles 45-15.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
2011 – Florida State 21, Florida 7 (Gainesville, Fla.)
2010 – Florida State 31, Florida 7 (Tallahassee, Fla.)
2009 – Florida 37, Florida State 10 (Gainesville, Fla.)
2008 – Florida 45, Florida State 15 (Tallahassee, Fla.)
2007 – Florida 45, Florida State 12 (Gainesville, Fla.)
A LOOK AT THE LAST MEETING
Despite gaining just 95 yards of total offense, Florida State captured a 21-7 victory against Florida to mark its first win at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium since the 2003 season. The Seminoles picked off four passes and each of Florida State’s 21 points came as a result of miscues by the Gators. Two FSU interceptions led to short touchdown drives and a third was returned for a score. Jacoby Brissett found Quinton Dunbar for a 6-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to mark Florida’s only points in the game. FSU’s defense gave up just 184 yards.
PLAYMAKERS – OFFENSE
Florida State – E.J. Manuel, Senior, Quarterback
In just his second season as FSU’s full-time starter, Manuel is FSU’s career leader for completion percentage at 67.0 percent, which ranks well ahead of current No. 2 Charlie Ward (62.3 pct.). He has recorded 18 200-yard passing games and has 45 career touchdown passes. This season, Manuel ranks second in the ACC and is seventh in the nation at passing efficiency (167.54).
Florida – Mike Gillislee, Senior, Running Back
Gillislee leads his team and ranks fourth in the SEC in rushing with 87.6 yards per game. He also is ninth in the SEC in all-purpose yards at 99.9 yards per game. Gillislee has tallied four 100-yard rushing games this season, including 122 in his team’s last outing against Jacksonville State. He has charted the 13th and 14th best rushing performances in the SEC this season with 148 yards against Bowling Green and 146 yards vs. LSU. For his career, Gillislee has appeared in 47 games with 18 rushing touchdowns.
PLAYMAKERS – DEFENSE
Florida State – Tank Carradine, Senior, Defensive End
Carradine currently leads the ACC in sacks with 10.5 and currently ranks 10th nationally in that category. A two-time ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week this season, Carradine leads his team and ranks seventh in the ACC with 69 total tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss. In two seasons with the Seminoles, Carradine has totaled 107 tackles and 16.0 sacks.
Florida – Matt Elam, Junior, Defensive Back
Elam currently ranks fifth in the SEC and among the top-60 nationally with three interceptions on the year. He sits at 14th in the SEC in passes defended and is 16th in tackles for loss. Elam has charted 58 tackles on the year, including 9.0 for loss, with four pass breakups and a forced fumble. For his career, Elam has made 24 starts and has logged five interceptions.
• In Florida school history, just seven teams (including the 2012 edition) have boasted a record of 10-1 or better through 11 games, with the last such occurrence coming in 2009. Three of those teams have gone on to win the national championship.
• Through 11 games, Florida State has held opponents to just a 25 percent (43-of-172) third-down conversion rate. The Seminoles lead the nation in not allowing opponents to convert on third down.
• Florida is coming off a 23-0 victory against Jacksonville State which made the 2012 Gators just the third team in program history to go 7-0 at home in a single season.
• FSU is the only team in the nation to rank in the top 14 in 10 different statistical categories nationally and the only team to rank in the top 14 in both total offense and total defense.
• Florida has posted six games this season without a turnover and currently has just 11 miscues on the season, which ties for the 10th fewest turnovers in the nation this year.
• The Seminoles lead the nation in total defense, allowing just 236.3 yards per game.
• Florida has given up just 11.7 points per game this season to rank third nationally in scoring defense, while also checking in at fourth nationally in total defense (281.0 yards per game). The Gators also are tops nationally in pass efficiency defense (91.8).
• Florida State senior kicker Dustin Hopkins is the NCAA FBS all-time leading kick scorer with 448 career points. He is the ninth kicker in FBS history to total 400 points.