No. 15 Florida State's senior class seeks unprecedented sweep
Something other than instate pride is on the line when No. 15 Florida State hosts No. 13 Florida.
Florida State seniors are trying to accomplish a feat that no other class in program history has been able to do: Finish their careers with an 8-0 sweep of rivals Florida and Miami.
They already won their four meetings with Miami to stretch the Seminoles' winning streak to seven over the Hurricanes, and go for the sweep against the Gators on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ABC).
“I think it means a lot to the seniors' legacy here, and the foundation that we set,” Seminoles' senior cornerback Marquez White said of the possibility of going 8-0 against their two rivals. “This is my last time playing in this stadium. Last home game.
“This is the way I want to go out. This is the way I want to be remembered. So, it means a lot to have this opportunity.”
All told, Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher is 12-1 against Miami and Florida since taking over the program in 2010. He is the first Florida State coach to have wins over Florida and Miami in three consecutive years.
“It's important to us,” Fisher said. “It's part of our goal. We always say that. The state of Florida is a dynamic football state. If you can play with Miami and Florida, you're usually in the national title hunt.”
Of course, that isn't quite the case this season. Miami isn't ranked, and though Florida (8-2) has the opportunity to create a little chaos by beating Alabama in the SEC championship game Dec. 3, the Gators aren't in College Football Playoff consideration.
That situation could been more likely had their offense matched their defense this year, but that hasn't been the case. The Gators produced an average of just under 355 yards in total offense, in part because coach Jim McElwain has had to replace his starting quarterback twice this fall.
Luke Del Rio, a transfer from Oregon State, started the season, but was hurt in the third game and gave way to Purdue transfer Austin Appleby. Del Rio returned after a three-game absence and started three games but went out injured again. Appleby started the last two games and will do so again at Florida State. He led the Gators to wins over South Carolina and LSU in their last two games.
The latter victory last week gave the Gators the SEC East title.
It was Florida's defense that sealed that win over the Tigers, however. The Gators stopped the Tigers on two plays from their own 1-yard in the closing seconds to preserve the 16-10 victory.
For the season, the Gators are fifth in the country in total defense in limiting opponents to just over 282 yards a game with just 160 of that coming through the air.
“This is a very impressive team when you turn the film on,” Fisher said. “Defensively, they jump off the screen at you.”
The game in Tallahassee features two game-breakers, one for each team.
Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway has 37 receptions for 545 yards and two touchdowns and has returned 23 punts for 175 yards, including a 39-yarder. He has had two games with 125-plus yard receiving.
Florida State running back Dalvin Cook has put himself at least on the fringe of the Heisman conversation with yet another outstanding season. The school's all-time leading rusher with 4,166 yards, Cook rushed for 1,467 yards this season with 17 touchdowns and a 6.1 per-carry average. He also boasts 400 yards receiving on 27 catches.
“This guy is the most explosive player in college football,” McElwain said. “You look at his running and his catching the ball out of the backfield, he's going to play at the next level for a long time.”
The Gators lead the series 34-24-1, but the Seminoles can match their longest winning streak against Florida with a victory.