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Colleges

'Expect A Real Fight' With Gators, Noles

melliott@tampatrib.com
Published:   |   Updated: May 20, 2013 at 07:26 PM
TALLAHASSEE -

You look at the series - an annual meeting since 1958 that over the years has been dotted with big talk and even bigger deeds - and all things imaginable on a football field seem possible during today's Florida-Florida State game at Doak Campbell Stadium.

The 10-1 Florida Gators are ranked No. 2 in the nation with next week's Southeastern Conference title game against Alabama on their dance card and a possible national championship on their minds, even if no one will fess up to the latter.

The Seminoles are 8-3, ranked No. 23, without a victory over Florida since 2003 and extremely aware of the misery a regionally televised upset would cause those hated reptiles from Gainesville.

"What can we do greater this year than beat them?" FSU coach Bobby Bowden asked. "They are No. 2 in the nation. They are an excellent football team that has been wearing us out lately. I think the greatest stride would be if we could win that game."

Which begs the next question: How?

"I couldn't tell you," answers Miami coach Randy Shannon, whose Hurricanes have the distinction of losing to both teams. "I would expect a real fight."

The Seminoles, 15-point underdogs, are pretty certain how not to go about it. Rule No. 1: Never tug on Superman's cape.

"Nobody in the country wants to get into a shootout with them," Bowden said. "They just got so much skill and such a good offense. And they don't get enough publicity for their defense.

"They have a heck of a defense that scores a lot of points. They got a great kicking game. They got the whole package."

The result is the Gators rank third nationally in scoring, averaging 46.5 points per game.

Behind quarterback Tim Tebow, playmaker Percy Harvin and speedy freshmen running backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, they also average 445 yards per game - an almost-even balance of 230 rushing and 215 passing. With a quick-strike attack, Florida has outscored opponents 276-32 in the first half.

That leaves the Seminoles with the task of finding a way to keep Florida in check; and, this is why it's interesting, they just might.

FSU ranks seventh nationally in total defense. Defensive end Everette Brown leads the nation in tackles for loss and is second in sacks.

With an assured boost by an expected capacity and rabid home crowd, plus a steadily improving offense under the direction of run-savvy quarterback Christian Ponder, the Seminoles are optimistic.

"We're talking about coming out strong," Ponder said. "Against every team it's important, but yeah, against those guys it will be big."

The Seminoles have lost four consecutive games to Florida and have not defeated a top-10 ranked Gators team since 2000. Last year's 45-12 shellacking still hurts, particularly because of former linebacker Geno Hayes' prediction that the Seminoles would "take down" Tebow.

The Florida quarterback ended up throwing for three TDs and running for two more.

But this is a new year and in a hot-wired rivalry game with FSU's homefield advantage, all things are possible.

Florida coach Urban Meyer says the Gators are preparing for all possibilities.

"They are not a surprise on defense at all," Meyer said. "It's an FSU defense. Schematically very similar to what they have been in the past. Talent-wise they are very similar. It's who they are. Very well coached; a tough outfit that runs well.

"On offense, it's where they are completely different. It's single-wing style, direct-snap runs, option football. It's a little bit like we do. So we've got a problem here and have to be sure we are very sound on defense."

Or anything might happen.

INJURY REPORT
FLORIDA - DT Lawrence Marsh (sprained knee) questionable; LB A.J. Jones (sprained knee) probable; DT Matt Patchan (sprained knee) out.
FSU - Safety Darius McClure (knee) questionable.

PREDICTION
Florida 33, Florida State 20


Reporter Mick Elliott can be reached at (813) 281-2534.

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